Kat Edmonson says she wrote much of her new album, Old Fashioned Gal — including the track “A Voice,” whose video is premiering exclusively below — “out of a place of self-doubt and just really feeling like ‘What is my worth?’ ‘What do I have to offer?'” And that makes the video’s closing scene, where Edmonson perches at the edge of the roof of a Brooklyn building, seem a little precarious.
“The amazing thing is I wasn’t as close to the edge as it appears,” Edmonson tells Billboard with a laugh. “It was the director’s idea to go on the roof. I don’t have a fear of heights, but some of the crew did, and they really had to get through it. We were literally running, sometimes, with the camera to get those shots.”
An intimate journey from doubt to resolve and implied triumph — with plenty of close shots of Edmonson singing — the “A Voice” video is, in fact, a microcosm of those emotions she felt going into the making of Old Fashioned Gal, which comes out April 27. Smarting from some negative criticism, especially about her own distinctive, reedy voice, that she received for 2014’s The Big Picture, Edmonson used the new material as a creative pep talk to help her move forward.
“For the first time in recent years I started seeing some open criticism about my voice and occasional critiques, and people were very opinionated about my voice,” Edmonson explains. “All along my voice has been part of my power, and I was just feeling like my voice was rather irrelevant. So I wrote (‘A Voice’) from that point of view, ’cause I really didn’t feel like I had a voice anymore, at least not one worth listening to. I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ and I was so sad. But when I started to write, the message that came out was one of empowerment — not that I was trying to write an empowering song, but my pain came out on paper, and doing that gave me strength.”
Nevertheless, Edmonson adds, “If you listen very closely, it’s not necessarily a song of someone who’s completely overcome something. It’s very much in the process. I didn’t know if I wanted to do something so vulnerable, but the act of releasing it, of putting the song on the album is really a turning point.”
Edmonson wrote and produced Old Fashioned Gal with drummer Aaron Thurston helping out. It was recorded during several sessions at Atomic Sound Studios in Brooklyn, and Edmonson conceived it as a soundtrack to a vintage film after being laid low with a bad cold during the winter of 2016, watching ’30s and ’40s films on Turner Classic Movies. “Every time I watched a movie I was getting inspired and I would start to write a song,” recalls Edmonson, who also directed the video for the title track. “I’d write for a while, then turn on another movie and write for a while. Even when I got better I continued that process, and when the record was finally written I realized I had been writing for just a few characters that were in my head. I wrote out an entire storyline and realized I had a musical from start to finish. And ‘A Voice’ is a pivotal song in the movie, if you will.”
While an Old Fashioned Gal movie isn’t in the offing yet, Edmonson intends to make more videos for the album and hopes to “have content for nearly every song on the record.” She’s studying acting at the William Ester Studio in Manhattan and hopes to add to an acting resume that already includes 2013’s Angels Sing and Cafe Society in 2016. “I love being on camera,” Edmonson says. “I love acting; I just adore it and want to do more of it. I often imagine scenes in my head for film. Sometime I write down dialogue. I feel like (music and acting) are both mediums I can access very easily. Up until now I haven’t really known how to pursue the acting aspect and I always saw a clearer path through music, so I’ve just been doing that and having success with that. But since I started doing some movies I realized, ‘I gotta do this. I don’t want to wait anymore. I really love it.'”