The Key West Theater was in the infant stages of booking larger acts when Edwin McCain took the stage in late December of last year. It was during that show, after a fervent crowd stood and demanded an encore, that McCain returned to the stage and performed a gripping rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
When the curtain closed, a speechless mass was reminded of why McCain was one of the most celebrated singer songwriters on the globe during the 1990’s. Now, McCain returns to the Key West Theater on December 18 in what has already become one of the most anticipated encores to the 2016 season.
KW: Thanks for allowing us to interview you again. So what are you doing right now?
EM: Right now? I just got finished loading my forestry mulcher onto my truck. People have a lot of hunting property and do a lot of game management around where I am.
KW: Wait, are you telling me someone can just pick up the phone and ask Edwin McCain to come over and clear a field?
EM: [Laughing] My company is called Nomad Land Management. I love being outside and I love improving land for wildlife and for people.
KW: So what do you think about on a tractor?
EM: It’s a really a good time for me to flush out ideas and songs in my head. I call it “tractor therapy.”
KW: Are people ever freaked out when Edwin McCain shows up to clear a field?
EM: It’s interesting; some of the people wouldn’t know me from Adam. But sometimes I’ll show up and they’ll be like, “Hey, aren’t you the guy that sings those songs?” And I’m like “Yeah, I guess.” And it kind of trips them out for a minute and then they’re like “… well, there’s the field I need cleared out” and I’m like, “ok then.” [laughing].
KW: People still talk about your last performance in Key West, in particular the mind-blowing version of Lenard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Can we expect something like that again?
EM: Honestly, in that night and in that version — I had only learned the song a couple days before and for some reason I made some choices at the end I had never made before. The spirit moved me. And that night still sticks out in my mind.
KW: Cohen has since passed. Has that changed your approach to his song?
EM: It’s such a powerful song and his recent passing definitely punctuates it. I mean, what a career as a writer. He was such a big fan of language and emotion and to think he managed to pull that off in such a short song like that is astonishing. I aspire to write a song like that one day.
KW: What can we expect from your upcoming show?
EM: It’s me and the guys again. I’ll probably use a core group of songs that are mandatory but I’ll work some newer songs in again.
KW: What have you been working on of late?
EM: I’m doing three new songs at a time. I’m trying to do them every four months or so. I feel like the attention span for albums are kind of gone. For me it’s just a way to jump around from genre to genre and from production style to production style — instead of taking 10 songs and trying to cram them into a box.
KW: So what’s different some of the new material?
EM: Case in point is a new song called “I’m Back.” I use some dry vocals and banjo —two things I swore I would never do. But in my later years I’ve sort of thrown out my prejudices.