Kathleen Edwards is a wonderful singer-songwriter. That’s just not my opinion. Pitchfork said of her debut album Failer that she “has significant songwriting prowess.” She’s put out four really good albums, and she has been a musical guest on “Letterman” at least twice, the first in 2003. The Seattle Weekly seems to like her a lot, too, and there’s several posts on their music blog, Reverb, to prove it.
Strangely, there is also a strange obsession with her personal life coming from the Weekly, and it’s not just one particular writer.
Dave Lake interviewed Edwards prior to her show at Neumos in April. The first sentence was:
Let’s get this out of the way up front: Kathleen Edwards is dating Justin Vernon of the Grammy-winning Bon Iver, who also produced her latest record Voyageur, which she wrote while going through a divorce.
Gwendolyn Elliott wrote a Reverb post about John Roderick (occasional SW columnist and frontman of The Long Winters) being nominated for a Canadian songwriting award for a song he co-wrote with Edwards. She begins:
Reverb’s own John Roderick and Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards (aka Justin Vernon’s girlfriend) co-wrote “A Soft Place To Land” on the singer’s 2012 release Voyageur, and the song has been nominated for an Echo, a Canadian songwriting prize. (her emphasis)
Then on Wednesday, in a review about Tift Merritt’s show at the Tractor, editor in chief Mike Seely wrote:
Her career arc to date is analogous to that of the great Kathleen Edwards, whose relationship with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon may temporarily deliver her to Showbox-sized stages.
See what Seely, who claims to be a fan, is saying? That Kathleen Edwards can only expect big crowds as long as she’s dating a famous indie rocker, and once that relationship ends, the crowds will shrink. He also previously referred to Tina Turner as “Ike’s ex.” And he once began an article by writing, “In high school, dancing was for fags.” Anyway, that Mike Seely is awful isn’t the point, but I digress (though he is terrible). UPDATE: Mike Seely responded via Twitter (see below) and said I missed the context of his 2001 article forthe Stranger about a male member of the Sonics Dance Team (RIP). He said, “That quote was tongue-in-cheek and led an article I wrote for the Stranger… The whole point of that article was to show how far male dancers had come since that awful high school stereotype.”
After the second instance last month, I mentioned this on Twitter and used Edwards’ twitter handle so that she would see it if she wished (though I was wrong about the waiting until the second sentence part: viewing the article on my iPhone made the photo caption look like the first sentence).
Edwards wrote back:
The Village Voice posted a brilliant article earlier this year, written by their amazing former music editor Maura Johnston called, “How Not to Write About Female Musicians: A Handy Guide.” It’s a must-read for anyone, but rule number one deserves particular attention: “Go through your piece and flip the gender of your descriptive phrases’ subjects. Are there any that sound ludicrous as a result?”
How many articles have you read about Bon Iver (there have been a lot written!) that begin, “Bon Iver, the indie band led by Kathleen Edwards’ boyfriend Justin Vernon…?”
Look through the Weekly‘s archives and you’ll find many articles about Edwards, but only until this year did they find the need to qualify her as some (indie) famous dude’s girlfriend. They aren’t the only ones guilty of this, of course, but why can’t they mention Edwards in 2012 without mentioning Vernon? They mention it when they are talking directly to Edwards, they mention it when she gets nominated for a prestigious award (a nomination she shares with another indie dude) and they even mention it when talking about Tift Merritt. I could find zero posts in 2012 about Kathleen Edwards that don’t mention Vernon in the first sentence she is named.
As she said in the tweet to me mentioned above, “he’s not my boyfriend.” And even if he were, she told the Weekly in her interview with Dave Lake earlier this year, “‘You know, I actually have a musical spine of my own and I’ve kind of done some shit before I had a boyfriend that everyone knew.’”
Mike Seely responded on Twitter:
Chris Burlingame is the editor of Another Rainy Saturday.