After nearly five years of virtually non-stop touring, Edwin McCain sorely needed a long break. He didn’t head for the mountains, a remote Caribbean island or his favorite fishing hole.
He took up a new hobby: gliding.
Getting into a heavier-than-air aircraft (without an engine), using airflow for lift and producing a free flight was just what the doctor ordered.
“After we got off the road last year, I was really, really burned out, tired and worn down,” the Columbia, S.C.-based singer-songwriter said recently. “Then I left (music) alone … for almost two months. I always wanted to try gliding, so I decided to give it a whirl.
“You try to create diversions for yourself that are so completely unrelated to the music business so it allows you to change perspective and get on another tangent that’ll let you see things a little more creatively, rather than getting caught in a rut.”
Gliding helped clear up McCain’s head and re-energize him going into the recording of his second Lava/Atlantic album, “Misguided Roses,” released June 24. The results, brimming with confidence, show that his recreational deviation did the trick.
On “Misguided Roses,” McCain and his band mates – saxman/keyboardist Craig Shields, drummer T.J. Hall and bassist Scott Bannevich – have effectively exorcised any notions that their 1995 debut LP, “Honor Among Thieves,” was a fluke and sold several hundreds of thousands of copies merely because of the group’s close ties to Hootie & the Blowfish.
“The association with us and them was such a great help and a great hurt, in a lot of ways,” McCain said. “It was a bittersweet kind of thing, because they’re such great friends of ours and did me such a huge favor by performing on the album. I mean, we got on Letterman and everything.
“Now, I’m not naive enough to imagine that I’d get on David Letterman if it wasn’t for Darius Rucker and the boys. But the association also is something I’m constantly faced with. This record will definitely show that I’m not coattailing anyone.”
There isn’t a hint of Hootie on “Misguided Roses.” If anything, it displays McCain’s wide spectrum of emotions, musically and lyrically. On the rockin’ “See the Sky Again” (the first single) and “Grind Me In the Gears,” McCain offers a Eddie Vedder-like growl, and on the impressive “The Rhythm of Life,” he shows an eclectic twist.
“In the beginning, there’s a rhythm being played on the surface of a river,” he said. “It’s an aboriginal tribe in Australia. The kids get in the river with their mothers doing the wash and these kids play the rhythms on the surface. It’s real soothing.
“I ended up using ‘Misguided Roses’ as the album title because of a line in ‘The Rhythm of Life’: ‘Sleeping through classes, we’ll make it up later. There’s still so much time left to go. Misguided roses, we bloom in October and merging triumphant in time for the season’s burst.’ I just thought that pretty much sums up what the songs are all about.”
Sophomore albums are traditionally the hardest for an artist, but McCain is philosophical about his mindset going into “Misguided Roses.” There was no go-for-broke or play-it-safe attitude. It was just “go for what you know.”
“I tried to pull creatively as honestly as I could as far as my music goes,” McCain said. “I try my best to honestly draw from whatever’s moving me at the time and I can interpret that emotional content through music on to the album.
“If you go into a record trying to say, ‘Oh, we need a pop hit like ‘Solitude’ again’ or ‘We need a rock-radio hit,’ with all the other pressures already on you, I think you’re setting yourself up for failure.
“I believe your audience and your fans and the people that care about you and the people who can make a difference in your career truly understand honesty in your music and effort and emotion, much more than they can appreciate ‘formatibility.’ ”
More than anything, McCain is proud of the progression his band has made between albums.
“We only had a month to do that first record, so we were a little hamstrung by the time,” he said. “And the material, a lot of it was from when I was 18 years old. On this one, I was writing as we were recording, and it flowed really well.”
Faced with a 100-date tour this summer, McCain won’t have time for gliding. That may please Atlantic executives, who may shudder at the thought of his new hobby.
“There’s no second chance, not a lot of room for error in it,” he said. “I haven’t been flying recently. Glider crashes aren’t generally fatal, but they are generally bone-breaking, so I’ve laid off it for a while. I’m sure that makes a lot of people happy.”
BWF (before we forget): “Misguided Roses,” aided by the single “I’ll Be,” entered Billboard’s pop albums chart in April 1998. It reached No. 73 and sold more than 500,000 copies. In late September, “I’ll Be” debuted at No. 7 on Hot 100 singles chart. … Check out Edwin McCain on the Web @ www.edwin.com.