Edison's Sarah Slaton on Writing Music From a Van
Sarah Slaton discusses the band's journey days before its main-stage set at the Westword Music Showcase.
Kit Chalberg Photography
In the last year, Denver's indie-folk trio Edison has been on a seemingly meteoric rise to the top of the local scene. The band started playing together in late 2014, after singer/guitarist Sarah Slaton met drummer and multi-instrumentalist Dustin Morris when she was opening on a tour with his previous band. After jamming together, they began performing as Edison. The snowball effect continued when the duo met guitarist Maxwell Hughes (formerly of the Lumineers) at SXSW. The rest, as they say, is history.
Stylistically, the band takes influences from rock, pop and folk acts of all kinds. Slaton says groups like Counting Crows and Death Cab for Cutie inform her songwriting. What comes out of Edison is a unique brand of folk that is as honest as it is catchy.
The band's first release came in 2015, in the form of the EP Ghosts, a four-track, melancholic tribute to Slaton's late mother. On this debut, Slaton shows her talents as a skilled storyteller, perfectly conveying melancholy and rebirth with her heartfelt, acoustic tunes. With extra strings from Hughes as well as percussion and horns from Morris, the songs are perfectly filled out, with sonic space swelling and emptying in all the right spots.
Slaton describes her songwriting process as spontaneous, saying that the main force that drives her to write a song is “feeling a lot of something and needing to make sense of it." Sometimes she'll write a song and bring it to the band; other times the tunes materialize between the three of them: "We'll get together and jam and see what comes out," she says.
For its most recent release, the debut full-length Familiar Spirit, the band took a new approach to the songwriting process: "We all quit our jobs and took a van around the country.... We would stop to write in different places," Slaton says. This includes Chesapeake Bay, the deserts of Arizona and, of course, the Rockies. The result is an album filled with powerful imagery, almost as though the songs were imbued with extra meaning by the locations they were written in. Familiar Spirit also bore some of the band's best singles, including "Civil War," "The Good Fight" and "Open Road."
Despite taking inspiration from all over the country, Slaton retains her hometown pride and recognizes why Denver is such a special place for music. "There are opportunities left and right here.... We sold out Red Rocks last week, and I can only say that because we're in Denver."
Edison will be going on the road again in July, this time for a string of shows in the Midwest, where they'll debut some new material that will be on their next album, which is expected to drop early next year. Before that, however, the band will be playing the Westword Music Showcase at the Coors Light Main Stage, supporting national acts like Shakey Graves and the Revivalists. Edison is sure to deliver an energetic, intimate set, full of heart-on-sleeve sing-alongs and unforgettable songs. After all, Slaton knows that a performance is all about the audience:
Says Slaton: “[A show] is a shared moment.... It takes both parties to make it work. I hope people come away feeling like they shared our songs with us.”
Edison, Westword Music Showcase, 1:25 p.m. Saturday, June 24, Golden Triangle neighborhood. Find tickets and a full schedule for Showcase here.
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