Everything changed for Sydney soul vocalist and blues guitarist Karen Lee Andrews with the release of her 2018 EP, Far From Paradise. The four-song collection, which had shades of Sharon Jones and the Black Keys, was Andrews’ first independent release following a long time working with a major label. 

It was also a statement of artistic intent, with Andrews taking control of the songwriting for the first time. Following its release, Andrews hit the road with drummer Yanya Boston and bass player Adam Ventoura, landing support slots with Jimmy Barnes and Gregory Porter and appearing at events such as Woodford Folk Festival and Queenscliff Music Festival.

Four years later, Andrews retains the maverick spirit that gave birth to Far From Paradise, channelling it into the five songs on her new EP, Edin. Produced by Ben Rodgers (Jimmy Barnes, Guy Sebastian), Edin showcases Andrews’ penchant for blues-infused rock anthems and heartrending soul numbers. 

Karen Lee Andrews will launch Edin at Sydney’s The Great Club on Saturday October 8th, joined by Boston, Ventoura, guitarist Daniel March, keyboardist Shannon Stitt and backing vocalists Jade MacRae, Mahalia Barnes and Bek Jensen. 

Tone Deaf catches up with Karen to find out about the making of Edin and the real-life experiences that inform her songwriting.

Karen Lee Andrews

Tone Deaf: Far From Paradise came out in 2018. When did you start thinking about Edin, or working on the material that became Edin?

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Karen Lee Andrews: I was touring [Far From Paradise] in a trio with Yanya Boston and Adam Ventoura and just along the way people were telling me that I should write more music and stuff like that. And I wanted to, I just found it a little bit difficult. 

But I just did little bits and pieces here and there and occasionally I asked for help from an amazing artist named Jade MacRae. She helped me put some of the songs together and Adam Ventoura helped me write some bits and pieces and Daniel March did as well. 

As soon as we finished writing the songs, we decided to start playing them at our already existing gigs and festivals – even though we hadn’t released anything or recorded it – which was really, really great because when it came to recording, it was already polished. 

TD: What were the recording sessions like?

KLA: Ben Rodgers, who produced the EP, was able to fine-tune a lot of things and help us think very differently. He managed to bring out some really beautiful qualities, particularly in two of the songs. 

One is ‘I’ll Wait’, which is influenced by my father, so that’s a very personal song for me. Ben told Yanya, who is the drummer, he was like, “How about you do the kick drum like a heartbeat, so it reminds you of when Karen used to put her ear on her father’s chest?” 

‘Promise’ is the other song. He insisted on having an orchestral arrangement on it and really bringing its beauty out. ‘Promise’ by far is my favourite song on the EP.

TD: Can you elaborate on the influence your father had on ‘I’ll Wait’?

KLA: Sure. My father passed away when I was 21. I’m 40 now. And I was definitely my father’s daughter. I’m a lot like him, I see the world a bit more like him, and he was just a really good man. I do put up every other male next to him. It’s just there; I can’t take that away. 

When he passed away, it was awful for all of us and particularly my mother. But ‘I’ll Wait’ is basically just a song that says I’ll miss you and I know that one day I’m going to see you again and it’s going to be just like how it was when I was a little girl and I was snuggling into your armpit. 

Karen Lee Andrews

TD: What led you to write this song now? Did it take you a while to feel comfortable with being so vulnerable?

KLA: I think I was ready to express how I felt about my father. For a long time I wanted to write a song about him and tell people who he was, but I realised that I don’t have that skill. But what I do have is the skill to say I miss you and I love you and I can’t wait to see you.

TD: What’s it like sharing something so personal with the people you’re working with?

KLA: Adam Ventoura plays bass and he’s also playing the solo in [‘I’ll Wait’]. Adam is a father of two very beautiful young ladies and when we started playing this song live, I’d give Adam a cheeky little smile like, “Please do the solo.” And it just developed.

I could really see the input and contribution that these musicians bring to my music – they want to play and they want to give their sense of expression into the song. And I just sort of saw Adam as a dad in that moment. It was a beautiful moment.

TD: So, at the gig, you’ll have Yanya on drums, Adam on bass, and who else is playing?

KLA: Daniel March will be on guitar. Shannon Stet is on keys. Mahalia Barnes will be singing backing vocals along with Jade MacRae and Beck Jensen. And Julian Moss will be opening. 

TD: What a band.

KLA: Everybody’s made such a huge, incredible… Like, you don’t know the lengths that people have gone to to come to this show. They’re all on the EP, but I never thought that they would all be in the same country at the same time for my launch. They’ve literally moved mountains to be there. So, I’m so lucky.

Edin is out on Friday, October 7th. 


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