Kathleen Edwards

The question isn’t what it’s like to be Kathleen Edwards. The question is what it’s like to be her publicist. He recently had to squeeze VH1 Senior VP Bill Flanagan, Rolling Stone’s Joe Levy and The New York Times’ Jon Pareles onto the same guest list for a show at New York’s Village Underground.

Edwards is nowhere near the arena level yet. Perhaps that’s a level the singer/songwriter genre may never see, but she is selling out 300-capacity clubs everywhere she goes, and quickly, and sometimes is filling 1,000-capacity clubs. Meanwhile, the press and reviews continue to roll in, especially in the U.K. and to a lesser extent the U.S. The final step may be for her to actually win over her own Canadians.

Some have argued that Canadians won’t give an artist proper due until he or she makes it Stateside.

“I’ve always had support, especially in my hometown (of Ottawa),” Edwards told POLLSTAR. “That statement’s more about convincing important media to give me the kind of exposure to help me build an audience in Canada. And that’s what’s really been tough to do. I don’t get played on the radio in Canada.”

It got her on a roll.

“My record came out in September in Canada,” she continued, “and I didn’t get a national media piece until there were press releases coming from Rounder about how I was going to be on David Letterman and how I was going to be in Rolling Stone. You know, my record’s been out for six months and there was not a fuckin’ whiff of media interest (until then). … I was like, ‘Where were you guys six months ago when I could have used you?'”

She backed off, noting that she still feels like “one of the luckiest kids around” and doesn’t want to complain, but it certainly seems to be an issue for Canadian artists.

“It seems like there’s a theme to that these days,” Edwards’ manager, Patrick Sambrook, told POLLSTAR. “But we’re talking about roots-based music. We don’t have an infrastructure in Canada for it on the radio. It’s not that people aren’t fans of the style, it’s that the exposure isn’t there.”

On the flipside, Edwards is selling about 2,500 units a week, according to Rounder. No more than two years ago, she was playing guitar and singing in Ottawa clubs and having some kind of musical spat with the band Starling. Now her career is summed up by two words: Lucinda Williams, who most reviewers compare her to.

That’s probably because Edwards’ voice seems to be an even blend of Williams and Garrison Starr.

“I like to think that I’m going to be at the right place at the right time for a little while longer than this flurry of buzz and hype,” she said. And maybe, with the addition of the O Brother phenomenon, things are looking long-term for Edwards and others like her.

“As we know, what’s happening in the last couple of years is that music that people never thought would sell is starting to sell,” Sambrook said. “For instance, Norah Jones. People are feeling like there aren’t any parameters. It’s no longer, ‘This is this type of music, so therefore, it’s going to do this type of business.’ I think lots of people made that mistake in the past.”

Kathleen Edwards

Sambrook said the phone calls and e-mails to his office have been nuts, something that Edwards’ agent, Jack Ross, reiterated.

In fact, Edwards apologized for calling from her cell phone rather than her hotel because plans had changed.

“We were in Massachusetts and were driving to Philly to do a show,” she said. “We just happened to be passing through New York and my manager called me and said, ‘Uh, pull over.

Pull over, get in a cab and get to David Letterman because you’re on tonight.'”

Sambrook also manages Sarah Harmer, who also hails from Canada, who is also on Rounder and who also broke in the States through the record company. It was that relationship with the record company that led Edwards to it. Not only that, it was Harmer’s tour manager, who also worked with Edwards, who sent the latter’s CD to Sambrook, who approached Edwards.

Despite the similarities between Harmer’s and Edwards’ career arc, Sambrook said there was no pre-designed blueprint.

“I think every artist is different,” he said. “I think the similarity between the two artists is that it was press-driven and I think with both artists, it’s honesty (as a performer). … With Kathleen, the success has been American-driven, and she’s better known in America than she is in Canada, which is not the case with Sarah.”

Ross said he is getting calls not only from smaller promoters but from Clear Channel and House of Blues Concerts as well. Edwards was expected to play SXSW, the event that kickstarted her career last year, and is doing a European run from April to May. After that, it’s the summer festivals and other U.S. dates again.

Except for giving her “a week off here, a week off there,” Ross expects her to be on the road for the next year.

“Kathleen, she’s made a great record, but primarily she’s a live artist,” he said. “She’s the kind of artist that’s going to connect with people and make fans every time we get her out on the road.”