“My heart is sprinkled all over the country after so much touring,” vocalist Sarah Slaton laughs.
Edison, a three-part indie folk band from Denver, Colorado, has a timeless sound and an impressive work ethic. After forming in late 2014 in what was initially a collaborative effort between singer-songwriter Sarah Slaton and multi-instrumentalist Dustin Morris, the band has been touring relentlessly. Pouring dedication into their craft, Edison has put in more time over the last six months than some bands do in years.
After releasing their debut LP, Familiar Spirit, in September 2016, Edison wasted no time in making the rounds all across the United States. They toured every corner of the country all throughout the fall and winter months, finally finishing in early April after making considerable sacrifices—including putting all of their belongings in storage. As a consequence, none of the members have permanent residences, but that’s partly to do with the fact that they consider their best selves to come out on the road.
“It was that leap of faith that we all took,” Dustin says. “We just believed in each other so strongly.”
Still, before Edison became Edison, Dustin was playing in another band, while Sarah was pursuing a solo career. “She was doing her solo stuff before that, and [my] band and I, we backed her up,” Dustin recalls.
Sarah, who attended music business college, hadn’t considered a career in music until her older sister went away to college. She fondly remembers abandoning her passion for athletics for the old Taylor guitar left behind by her sister, and how quickly she ended up changing paths.
When her humble beginnings in the music scene intersected with Dustin’s, the pair realized they had something great to offer each other. They decided to co-headline a tour together, switching opening slots on different nights and gaining familiarity with one another’s musical styles. They soon discovered that they worked well together creatively, and Dustin suggested they join forces in a more permanent, serious way.
“I was like, ‘Wow, we should play together!’ And in early 2015, we started getting really serious about it—a really cool new idea for a band called Edison. We kind of dropped everything we were doing. We got really into it. Played a lot of shows around Denver, did some recording… and then we ended up going to South by Southwest.”
It was there, in Austin, Texas, that Sarah and Dustin were introduced to Maxwell Hughes, a former member of The Lumineers. At the time, Maxwell and Edison were each other’s supporting acts at SXSW, and they met up during their off-time.
SXSW became, according to Sarah, a bit of “an anchor for our formation.” And the festival, in its magical and vibrant way, continued to provide. Though the band had originally formed in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, it was in the Texas heat, on the way to 2016’s SXSW the following year, that they signed a record deal.
With consistent writing, seemingly nonstop touring, and a new record deal, the band developed a strategy for co-writing that seems to work for them. Sarah typically “brings lyrics or a part of a song, and the guys kind of build a sonic landscape around that.” Other times, instrumentals come first, and Sarah’s vocals round out the track. While Maxwell and Dustin record instrumentals in the studio, Sarah can usually be found recording vocals in a separate room.
However, how the songs are technically constructed is perhaps less important than how they are born in the first place. Many of the songs on Familiar Spirit were written in strange and unlikely places on the road, as they toured in order to network the old-fashioned way. One song came alive on a dock by the Chesapeake Bay. Another was written in a cabin below the Rockies. Still another was penned in the Arizona desert.
Knowing that most of the tracks were written in vastly different geographic locations across America may make the album sound different to discerning ears. Still, it never loses its coherency, even though, according to Sarah, the album is “two different versions of us.” This might have something to do with the fact that it was recorded in a very brief window of time—remarkably, only one week—with the first half highly edited and produced, and the second half made up of nothing but live takes.
Understandably so, Sarah does most of her writing on impulse, chasing inspiration wherever it appears. “I don’t believe in sitting down to write a song for writing a song’s sake. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing,” she details. The songs are pulled from what she calls a “very raw place,” and she can’t name a single song on their album that was written for the sake of money or marketability.
For further insight into Edison’s influences and experiences throughout the Familiar Spirit touring cycle, look no further than their personal blog. After the band’s ambitious cross-country tour finished this spring, each member detailed their feelings in short blog entries on the band’s official website. These posts offer a brief yet intimate look into the lives of a group that has managed to remain grounded, seeking joy in the small moments and finding calm in the chaos amidst a relentless, grueling schedule.
After all that, Maxwell is convinced that the band has grown closer together, and their vulnerability and fear amongst each other has faded over time. “When we mess up, we mess up together,” he muses. Still, any and all mistakes can lead to future growth and successes.
At present, they are cautious to celebrate those victories, such as their record deal and a recent tour with Iron & Wine, since they are “always looking forward.” Evidently, humility seems to be the cornerstone on which Edison’s success has been built. Whether they are speaking face-to-face with a war veteran after their show who has been impacted by their music, or cultivating new friendships with other musicians, their hearts are wide open.
“When someone comes up to us and tells us that we’ve helped them through a hard part in their lives,” Dustin states, “we’ve already made it.”
PHOTOS: LORI GUTMAN
WORDS: CARLY BUSH