Until Now: Bill Edwards Shares Personal Tales of Life and Love on "So Far" Album


Bill Edwards leans against a brick wall wearing a navy blue T-shirt and blue jeans.

Bill Edwards reflects on a life filled with optimism, love, gratitude, loss, and wisdom on So Far. Photo by Chasing Light Photos.

As an accomplished songwriter, Bill Edwards often tells stories from multiple perspectives across an astonishing catalog of songs.

This time, the prolific Ann Arbor singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist opted to share his own stories on his new Americana album, So Far.

“The songs are all, without exception, autobiographical, making this the most personal record I’ve ever released. I’ve reached an age where it seemed like it was time to look both backward and forward,” Edwards said.

“The future is never guaranteed, and I wanted some of these feelings captured. There’s a lot of emotional territory covered on the album, and it all feels true to me.”

On So Far, Edwards features 14 tracks that collectively reflect on a life filled with optimism, love, gratitude, loss, wisdom, and nostalgia. The album’s honest sentiment, introspective lyrics, and earnest instrumentation invite listeners to contemplate their own lives alongside Edwards.

“I wrote probably 50 songs that may have been candidates for this record over the past year or so,” he said. “I’m always writing, and these tunes got swapped in and out as new material came to be.”

I recently spoke with Edwards about opening for Rodney Crowell, writing tracks for So Far, recording his new album, hosting an October 18 album release show at The Ark, and working on new material.

Q: How has your fall been so far? What was it like to open for Rodney Crowell at The Ark in September?
A: Fall’s been great so far. Very busy with promotion for the new album and for The Ark concert coming up [on Oct. 18]. Rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. Rodney Crowell has been so generous in his support for me—from inviting me to be an honorary instructor at his song camp in August to asking me to pitch songs for an artist he’s producing to letting me play a couple of songs before his show in Ann Arbor. It’s so validating to have someone of his stature believe in me. It was such a thrill to play for his audience and the reception was thrilling.

Q: How long did you spend recording the 14 tracks for So Far? What was your recording process like for the album? 
A: I still do all the recording in my home studio. I sing the leads and harmonies, and I play the acoustic guitars, the electric guitars, the bass VI [a baritone-voiced guitar somewhere between a bass and a standard guitar], lap steel, dobro, and fiddle. In addition, I program the drums, bass, and keyboards. I mix and master it all myself. I love the control this gives me over the finished product, and it allows me to go in and make changes even after I think it’s “done.”

The lyrics were revised right up to sending the digital masters off for manufacturing! The good thing about putting songs into an album format is that it forces me to come to conclusions. Of course, I’ll probably look back next year and wish I’d done that one thing a little differently.

Q: “A Whole Lotta Hell Left to Raise” celebrates having a sense of adventure, growth, and wisdom. How did writing this track remind you to keep living life to the fullest? How do you hope it motivates others to have more fun in life and keep taking risks?
A: With age, we hope comes a little wisdom. What I think this song is saying is that the kind of joy and delight you take from life changes as you age, but that doesn’t make it any less valid. Just because you’re not tearing down the highway or closing down the bars doesn’t mean that you aren’t raising your own more refined kind of hell. At a certain age, you become somewhat invisible, especially to young people. I hope this song can be a little anthem saying, “Hey, I ain’t done yet!” Maybe there are others of my generation who feel similarly.

Q: “No Time Like the Past” spotlights longing for a relationship and a life that could have been. What inspired you to write this track about looking wistfully at the past? How did the track also come to reflect on the importance of living in the present?
A: I’ve been very blessed in my marriage of 44 years [this month]. What this song talks about is that moment when you’re reminded of something or someone from long ago, and you can’t help looking back wistfully. Even if you know it would have never worked out and even though you couldn’t be happier, your mind and heart cast back to those days, and for a moment, you relive them. I expect a lot of people experience these little moments of nostalgia. You wouldn’t change the way things worked out, but you wouldn’t change the memories either.

Q: “Please Cheat” is a fun tale about seeking revenge on a former love interest. What brought about such a crafty storyline about giving a past love “a taste of her own medicine?” Was this track as much fun for you to write as it is for people to listen to?
A: It was fun to write! The title came from something someone posted on Facebook, and I thought, “That needs to be a song!” I said all of the songs are autobiographical and there is one relationship in my dim, distant past that gives this song personal meaning for me. The reaction to this song when played live is a lot of fun. The little bluesy lick that runs through it I wrote about the time of that particular failed relationship, so that has a special little meaning for me!

Q: “Too Much Sayin’ Goodbye” acknowledges the grief of losing too many friends over time, yet highlights the importance of being grateful for the time we still have left. How did past losses inspire this track? How did writing this track also help remind you about being grateful for today?
A: This year brought a couple of personal, stunning losses for me: a friend from when my wife and I lived in Buffalo and a friend I worked with here in Ann Arbor. Of course, I’m so grateful for this wonderful and precious time, but as the song says, “I could do with fewer tears.” It’s a hard fact of growing older—the losses contrast sharply with one of the best times of life.

Q: “Time for You to Go” is a creative take on kicking negative thoughts and self-doubt out of your mind and life for good. How did writing this track allow you to “reject that power?” What did it take for you to finally tell negativity to take a hike?
A: When I was young, my family moved to new towns frequently. As the new kid, I was often bullied. Even though those experiences are long in the past, the effect lingers. I think anyone who’s gone through that knows that it works on your self-confidence even years and years on. The song makes a decided effort to cast those misgivings and doubts away. If it helps anyone listening to make that decision to let those tormentors go, [then] that would be wonderful.

Q: “So Far” looks back on the life a husband and wife have built together over the years and the journey they still have left. How did your own marriage inspire this track? How does “So Far” help end the album on a hopeful note?
A: In writing this song, I stumbled on the dual idea of having come so far and that this is the only where we’ve come so far. It’s an autobiographical remembrance of our life together, including such memories of the place where the new couch we bought wouldn’t fit up the stairs into our apartment. [We managed to use ropes and pulleys to bring it in over a second-floor balcony, so all was well in the end.]

It felt like the right emotional note to end the album in that it looks backward and forward. As you know, I often put characters in my songs other than myself, so getting so specifically personal is both exciting and a bit scary. But it felt like it was time. I hope people will forgive my personal remembrance and think back to the distance they’ve come, too.

Q: What do you have planned for your October 18 album release show at The Ark? Will you be playing So Far in its entirety? Who will be part of the full band that’s joining you on stage for your set?
A: The plan is to play the album from top to bottom. I’ll also play a couple of songs solo that aren’t on the record. I’m so blessed to have this great band supporting me: Annie Capps singing harmonies, John Holkeboer on bass, Billy Harrington on drums, Mike Harrington on electric guitar and pedal steel, Tony Jaworowski on keyboards, and Phoebe Gelzer-Govatos on violin. They’re the dream team as far as I’m concerned.

QJeff Scott will be opening your album release show. What do you enjoy most about Jeff’s music? What will he help bring to the show that night?
A: Jeff and I have been friends for a long time, and I’m a huge fan of his writing and his singing. His voice is an amazing instrument. He’s a consummate professional, and he’ll start things off on a very high note. I’m so happy he was able to do it, and it’ll be a great introduction of his music to listeners in Ann Arbor who maybe haven’t heard him before.

Q: When we last talked, you mentioned working on a concept album called Troublemaker. Any plans to release that in 2024? If not, then what do you have in mind for new material next year?
A: Thanks for remembering Troublemaker! I think that was a project I had to get out of my system—an album where the lead character is someone entirely unlike me, an anti-hero if you like. I’m not sure what the future holds for that record, but I listen back to it from time to time and I think it stands up pretty well. So, who knows?

Aside from that, I am positively itching to get back to recording. The release process for So Far, as anybody knows who’s released a record, has been very time-consuming and intensive. I have a whole lot of songs that might get cobbled into an album, but I’m also eager to have time to explore other ideas, styles, and maybe voices that are new and different. Having control of the whole process allows me to explore, make mistakes, and learn as I go along.

I can’t wait to relax into the flow without any time constraints and see what comes out. I absolutely love this period of my life where I have the time and freedom to be my lyrical and musical best self. It’s completely absorbing and endlessly fascinating.

Lori Stratton is a library technician, writer for Pulp, and writer and editor of strattonsetlist.com.

Bill Edwards performs October 18 at The Ark with Jeff Scott. For tickets, visit The Ark's website.