When local songwriters Cara Luft and JD Edwards team up, they make beautiful music together
By: Erin Lebar
When it comes to local folk duo the Small Glories, the old adage "two heads are better than one" couldn’t be more apt.
Longtime staples of the Winnipeg music scene, Cara Luft (formerly of folk-roots trio the Wailin’ Jennys) and JD Edwards have melded their veteran singer-songwriter talents to create what they both feel is some of the best music of their careers to date.
"We went out on the road, and it was on that particular tour where I had all these people come up during the shows who had seen me solo, seen me with the (Wailin’) Jennys, seen me with a band, seen me in all my various musical formations over the years, and they said, ‘This is the best we’ve ever seen you; this is the right combination,’" says Luft. "JD felt it, I felt it. It was happening at the right time for both of us."
Though both musicians spent a lot of time in the Winnipeg music scene, they hadn’t properly met until they were paired up to perform at the West End Cultural Centre’s 25th-anniversary celebration. It didn’t take long for them to realize they’d hit upon something special, but due to other commitments they were unable to pursue the collaboration further. It wasn’t until Luft asked Edwards to sing with her at a show at the WECC a year later that the decision was made to make an album together.
Luft had been awarded some free studio time at a new analogue recording studio in Kelowna, B.C., so the pair went westward to work on their debut album as The Small Glories, Wondrous Traveler, with producer Neil Osborne (54-40). Each musician came armed with a collection of songs — though some tracks were co-written once the recording process had started — and inspired the other to think outside the box when tackling tough topics.
"There's a song on the album called Home. It's a song I had written the music for and I knew I wanted to be singing around the theme of home, but I was really having a difficult time. I haven’t had a home in a little over three years and I wanted to sing about that, but that’s kind of depressing," the Calgary-born Luft says.
"JD said, ‘You know, let’s change the approach. I’ve been on the road with you for a while now and everywhere we go, there's always a home.’
"That was one of the pivotal points of us working together — him appreciating where I’m coming from and helping me change my perspective on how I was approaching something, and I would do the same for him on a song."
Not all the songs on Wondrous Traveler are new creations, however. Some tracks may sound familiar, as each artist decided to try breathing new life into songs written many years ago for other projects, including a track Luft wrote for the Wailin’ Jennys, Something To Hold Onto.
"JD ends up singing the lead on it so it’s a completely different feel and takes the song down a different path," Luft says.
Though both performers would like to continue working on other projects in the future, right now The Small Glories is the biggest priority for both of them. As Luft says, she's "fallen in love with the music we’re doing together."
"We both really feel strongly that it’s important to keep doing creative different things, so I still do some collaborations with other artists," Luft says. "There’s still a solo element that I will eventually tap back into again and JD has his rock band and other projects, but right now we’re going to put all our energy behind (The Small Glories) for the next few years — get the wheels rolling and build a solid foundation so that it becomes a project that has longevity and substance but maybe doesn’t end up taking up all our time.
"Right now we’re still in that building-foundation phase, although it’s been going incredibly well. We’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities so far in a very short period of time and I think that’s why we’re excited about it — because the feedback has been so incredible we’re aware there’s a lot of great potential here and we really want to see it through."