Kindred Spirits Living On The Edge
When it comes to making great music, kindred spirits somehow seem to find each other and such is the case with Edens Edge. Three talented young musicians from Arkansas — Hannah Blaylock, Dean Berner, and Cherrill Green –make their debut on Big Machine Records with a vibrant sound that honors country music’s roots while creatively pushing the envelope with their seasoned musicianship, dazzling harmonies and insightful songwriting.
With one listen to Edens Edge, it’s obvious the trio has forged a unique sound shaped by their individual influences and anchored in their own distinctive gifts. Each grew up in rural Arkansas where farming, faith and family provided a firm foundation and offered a springboard for their musical aspirations.
“I had grown up singing in church and school talent shows,” says lead vocalist Hannah. “I’d always known that I wanted to be a singer. I didn’t know exactly how to go about making that happen, but my parents always knew that that was my true passion and they wanted to nurture that as much as possible.”
By the time she was in her teens, Hannah was singing in a band with her family and Steve Smith, a local financial planner with a penchant for writing songs. It was Smith who recruited Dean to join the group. “He taught me my first chords on guitar and he was also my soccer coach when I was seven,” says Dean, who plays guitar, dobro and contributes harmony vocals. “I grew up listening to a pretty eclectic mix of music from Johnny Cash to Crystal Gayle. My dad was a fan of Crystal and he had her tapes in the car. I also listened to the Beatles and other great songwriters like Billy Joel, Paul Simon and The Eagles. Then I got into rock music when I was a teenager and listened to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. I was learning to play guitar, so that was a big thing for me just listening to great guitar players. Eric Clapton was also another big influence.”
Dean and Cherrill had played music together a few times during their college days, and a month after Dean joined Hannah’s group, they recruited Cherrrill. “We needed another mandolin player and singer so we found Cherrill,” says Hannah. “She is just amazing. She’s this incredible instrumentalist and she could follow me like crazy with harmonies because she’d grown up her whole life singing in a family bluegrass band.”
Cherrill recalls listening to some classic country and a little Beatles growing up, but her world was dominated by bluegrass. “I listened to Alison Krauss, Tony Rice and Flatt and Scruggs, but then my mom listened to a lot of The Judds, Reba, George Strait, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn,” says Cherrill, who sings and plays mandolin, banjo and guitar. “We played a lot of festivals. At bluegrass festivals you just play all the time. We’d jam till really late at night and we were constantly around so many good musicians. When you are at those things, especially as a kid, musicians want to show you stuff so you are constantly learning. It’s basically like taking lessons from professionals all the time.”
After Cherrill, Dean and Hannah joined to form Edens Edge, the group steadily gained popularity, touring extensively around the region and winning area talent competitions. An entry in the 2006 CMT/NSAI Songwriter’s contest caught the attention of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Kye Fleming, known for penning such classic hits as Barbara Mandrell’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” Sylvia’s “Nobody,” Ronnie Milsap’s “Smoky Mountain Rain.” “Kye contacted us and found out that we were 40 miles down the road from where she grew up in Fort Smith,” Hannah says of their Arkansas connection. She encouraged the young trio to move to Nashville. They made the leap in 2007 and began working with Fleming to hone their unique sound.
When Fleming was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame last year, Edens Edge was asked to perform a medley of her hits at the induction ceremony. Toby Keith, Taylor Swift and the late Tammy Wynnette were among the other honorees during the gala and the room was filled with Music City’s most powerful movers and shakers. “That night we got a record deal offer from Big Machine,” says Hannah.
Working with producer Mark Bright (Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts) the trio crafted a stellar debut that showcases their strengths as musicians as well as their compelling vocal blend. “The cool thing about the three of us is Cherrill has a classic country along with bluegrass background. Dean has the rock, blues and country background and then I have more the folk/americana/ country background,” Hannah says. “We’ve all kind of taken our favorite sounds from every genre and just kind of come up with our own formula.”
Cherrill, the Magazine , AR native, says Bright immediately caught their vision for the Edens Edge sound. “We felt he would bring creatively to the table what we wanted,” she says. “It’s a real challenge to take what we do acoustically as a trio, to add a band to it and yet keep the band from overpowering the acoustic instruments and vocal blend. It’s unique, and we needed a producer that understood our vision for the sound and could help us achieve that.”
They also flex their muscles as songwriters, co-writing with such proven hitmakers as Vince Melamed, Catt Gravitt and Danny Myrick. Hannah co-wrote the trio’s first single, “Amen” drawing from her rural experiences. “We all grew up in small towns and in Arkansas there is a church on every corner,” Hannah says. “Amen” is a fresh depiction of a small town love story. Everybody knows everybody else and gossip gets around and it paints a picture of that small town where two people fall in love.”
“Swinging Door” is a positive anthem that is attracting attention. ““I love it because it’s an empowering song,” says Hannah. “It’s from a girl’s perspective obviously, but it could also be from a boy’s perspective. It’s about being in a relationship and not letting somebody else push you around. I know we’ve all felt that way.”
“Giving Myself to that Man” is another song attracting strong attention as the trio blissfully conveys the excitement of completely surrendering to a new love. “Feels So Real” is a beautiful ballad, penned by Hillary Lindsey, Angelo and Tia Sillers. “Last Supper” is a unique examination of a relationship on the rocks. “You break the bread and you break my heart. You raise the glass, we fall apart” Hannah sings in the mournful ballad. The collection closes with” Christ Alone,” an a cappella song written by their longtime friend and former band mate Steve Smith. “It’s about living every day for the right thing,” notes Hannah.
“It’s not about money, power or success. It’s about who did I love today? Where are my priorities and where are my values? It’s a reminder of what’s really important in life. People get emotional and are moved to tears when they hear that song. It’s a priceless gift for us.”
“It’s a really universal song,” adds Dean. “It’s in a Christian context, but it speaks to people that are from different faith backgrounds and people who don’t really have a faith background. It’s amazing in that way.”
Music has taken the young members of Edens Edge on an intriguing journey and they are thankful for the ride. “We’ve really grown up together and we’ve moved here and created a life together and I think that kind of history is organic,” says Dean. “We came together naturally– just for the purpose of having fun and playing music. That’s part our chemistry- we’re all doing something that we love together.”
Cherrill and Hannah agree. “We’ve grown together and changed together,” says Cherrill while Hannah adds, “We’ve found or have written music that moves us and inspires us. We just trust that the music will speak for itself. You do what you do and hope people will love it and can connect with it because our first love–as much as we love playing and writing music–our first love is inspiring others through music.”
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