By David Hennessy
Splitting her time between Yorkshire and Nashville, Dublin-born singer-songwriter Edwina Hayes can count Nanci Griffith, Michael Parkinson and blogger/ television personality Perez Hilton among her fans.
Her cover of the Randy Newman song Feels Like Home was featured in the Cameron Diaz film My Sister’s Keeper and has since had over six million plays on You Tube.
Featuring in such a hit movie brought Edwina to the attention of many and it came about quite by chance.
Edwina tells The Irish World: “It was exciting and very surprising. I had made [2008 sophomor album] Pour Me a Drink and I was thinking about advertising. I was a fan of Perez Hilton so I looked on his website and saw he had a rolling feed of ads running down the side and I emailed just saying: “I’m Edwina from England, I’m wondering how much it costs to advertise?’ And I got a reply from himself saying nothing about the ad, just saying he had heard Feels like Home, particularly liked it and the next thing he had put it on his website as a post.
“I got hundreds and hundreds of messages on MySpace and loads of orders for the CD and two months later, I got an email from Warner Brothers asking if they could use that song in the film. It was all random and just a lucky, lucky break. The money I’ve spent over the years posting CDs to radio stations, all the things I’ve consciously done to try and promote myself, they’ve never seemed to work but these crazy random things do. People are still booking me to sing that song at their wedding and it’s five years later. People still email me about it. They tell me their story because it was a very sad film about cancer and I lost my dad to cancer last year so I save all these emails, it’s just really nice.”
Did Preston-raised Edwina hang out with any of the film’s stars? “I didn’t, I never got invited to any of the premieres or anything like that unfortunately which my little sister was disgusted about- She’s a lot younger than me and she was so excited for about ten minutes until she realised she wasn’t actually going to get to meet Cameron Diaz.”
It seems hard to believe now but the track could even have been left off the album had it not been for the proficient baking of one of her fans: “The only reason I included it was because a lady at my gigs called June requested it. I remember making the album and I thought ‘what song shall I put on?’ because I had so many and I said: ‘I know, June really likes that song and she makes me nice apple pies. And that’s the only reason I put it on.”
Edwina was born in Dublin and grew up in Preston, Lancashire before moving to the East coast of Yorkshire as a teenager, where she has been based ever since although she has been travelling to her second home of Nashville, US for fourteen years now where she is much loved as a songwriter and artist. Her mother’s family originally came from Cork.
Having signed with Warner Chappell Publishing, Edwina released her debut album Out On My Own to critical acclaim in 2004. The album became a favourite on Michael Parkinson’s BBC Radio Show but is now out of print.
This was followed by Edwina releasing her second album, Pour Me A Drink. This was an independent release and exhibited a much more stripped down and acoustic feel: “They put all these session musicians around me (for the first record) which was lovely but it did not sound anything like what I’ve always sounded like and still sound like which is very acoustic so I’m glad of the experience but really Pour Me a Drink was the record I wanted to make and I always had imagined making and everything that happened from it confirmed that for me.”
Nanci Griffith who calls her ‘the sweetest voice in England’ covered the title track. This was a huge thing for Edwina who practised Nanci Griffith songs for her first live performances at Bridlington Folk Club: “If I’m honest, that means more to me than the song in the film because those two things happened around the same time. Her doing that song was just amazing.
“This year will be 20 years in July since I got up and sang at the folk club in Bridlington when I was 20 so everything started from doing two songs at the club and it all built up slowly.”
Edwina has opened for Nanci on several tours now: “We’ve always kept in touch and she’s been amazing. I’ve got to know her over the years and had support from her.”
Her third release Good Things Happen Over Coffee followed in 2011. Edwina has already started work on a fourth album but delayed it due to work on a live recording that took place last Friday night with Abbey Road Live Here Now at Driffield Town Hall: “I’m very thrilled they decided they would come and record me at Driffield Town Hall. I’ve never done a live album.
“I’m going to redo some of the songs from the first album because you can’t get them anymore and also because none of them were done the way I always do them live. There’s three or four songs that I still love to do live and people often say: ‘Where can we get it?’ They may already have that first album but they say: ‘We like the way you do it live’. So that would be a very nice way of not having to do those songs again on a studio album. I also have a couple that didn’t seem to sit on the last two albums, they were just a bit quirky. It would be a good way to use them. It should be good fun. I can’t believe the team are coming from recording Robbie Williams in Europe to recording me at the town hall, it’s hilarious.”
Edwina’s cover of the song I Can’t Stop Loving You earned the attention of its writer Billy Nichols who has got in touch to ask if she would like to do some song writing with him in the future. She also toured with Fairport Convention which could also lead to future collaborations: “I think when I make the next album, I might end up having one or two people on there.”
Edwina plays St Edith Hall in Kent on May 30. For more information, go to: www.edwinahayes.com.