Trae Edwards, unpacking from a busy weekend that saw him sing at the Miss North Carolina pageant, has grown accustomed to the flux of life in music.
Edwards’ journey has taken him from his small hometown of Oxford, Ala., to Nashville and now Fayetteville, where he moved five years ago to be closer to his family. Throughout it all, music has been a constant.
Edwards frequently makes the 500-mile plus drive each way to Nashville to work on his upcoming album, “I Believed,” which he hopes to release later this year or in early 2013. A three-track, prerelease of his album will be released next week.
The 47-year-old, who has opened for major names in country including Naomi and Wynonna Judd and Trace Adkins, was just 5 when he sang in front of people for the first time. Standing on a table at a PTA meeting, he belted out a song by gospel singer Sammy Hall.
He honed the fundamentals of singing, like breathing techniques, as a kid. By the time he was 7, he had shared the stage with Hall in front of a huge audience in Alabama.
“I was born and raised in the church atmosphere all my life, then I had scholarships in music from high school,” Edwards said.
He went to Jacksonville State University on a voice scholarship, eventually moving to Nashville, where he spent 20 years as a session singer.
Edwards admires the rare vocal abilities and tremendous range of artists such as Michael Bolton, Michael Buble and contemporary Christian singer Steve Green, but when it comes time to make music of his own, he wants it to be heartfelt.
“I tend to sing more from a feeling than I do trying to copy somebody’s lick or practice something until I nail it down just like they did it,” Edwards said. “I see that happening with a lot of artists today. They’re always trying to represent someone else (rather) than trying to bring themselves to the table.”
Edwards points to singers such as Ricky Skaggs as an example of people who have made their names singing country but sprinkle gospel songs into their sets.
As a longtime session singer, Edwards has had the opportunity to perform music all over the genre spectrum. His music is a combination of blue-eyed soul, gospel and country.
Edwards made more than connections in Music City. He also met other musicians who taught him some tricks for navigating the music industry.
He knew he didn’t want to be like many of the singers he ran across in Nashville who could hold down only dishwashing jobs outside music.
He juggled his music career with day jobs in artist development, magazine publishing and his passion for painting cars and building engines.
“I was always working all the time. It helped me get to where things are lining up today,” Edwards said. “It kept me from being one of those artists where all they could rely on was their musical career.”
He said having so much on his plate may have held him back in Nashville. But to hear his song “I Believe” and to hear him talk today, it seems things worked out, even if it took longer than expected.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise. Now, I’m actually able to make everything I’ve learned make more sense,” Edwards said.
The twists and turns of his career have landed him briefly in a gospel quartet with Naomi Judd’s ex-husband, Larry Strickland, and on stage opening for Trace Adkins the same day he met the star in a post office.
Since moving back to Fayetteville, Edwards has worked to be a presence in the community. He teamed up with local clothing line Pasión to be the voice of the business, which gives half of its proceeds to benefit cancer patients.
Edwards will headline the brand’s “Hot Summer Dream” event at Club Barcelona on July 14. The $20 cancer benefit will feature a fashion show, belly dancers, cabana boys and dance lessons.
Edwards hopes to make feel-good music, but he applies this approach to all factors of his life.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t really understand what life is all about. They work from daylight to dark just trying to make a living. They come home, go to bed, get up and go right back to work,” Edwards said. “They miss the joy of life itself, which is helping other people, helping them get to a better place and enjoying their family.”
By Mike McCray