Can we please begin this with the last time I saw you on the stage of Columbus Theatre?! I didn’t even know you could sing yet, as we were new friends that exchanged quick conversation over morning coffee. You sung a song with Arc Iris at the David Bowie tribute show and I can honestly say I cried. I’m pretty sure David Bowie came through your inner most being. It was miraculous. It was as if we all witnessed some earth shattering awakening. What did that performance feel like?
Well, I do view that performance as the start of this latest period of my musical development. Before that night I was very inward with my work: playing little shows with a few local acts on weeknights, hiding under a baseball hat, and mostly singing quietly and carefully. The day of the Bowie show was one of the most stressful days I can remember. I was about to sing my favorite song by my favorite musician for a packed room full of people who also adored and admired David Bowie. I had thoroughly internalized it though and had even reached a point where it felt strange, incidents were taking place just after he passed that made me feel like he was with me. I got up on that stage and somewhere during the third verse I blacked out. When I came to I was on my knees and everyone was cheering. I guess it was good?
It was beyond good. There was an ecstatic response from the crowd for the next couple of days, a performance that lingered in minds far past the night of the event. Did that feedback show you a bit of yourself? What you can do, maybe even gain more courage to invest in your solo music?
I’m glad people were moved by it. It seemed like I owed it to him for moving me so firmly towards music, for keeping me on track toward the one thing that would never let me down. So yes, that feedback definitely helped me to believe in myself and invest more in my own work. It also did seem to cast me in a different light with other people, including musicians. I think it was part of why I was chosen for XR-TABS and to briefly fill in bass duties in Leiko (both band leaders using the term “star ” to describe me, ugh..)
Your personal project is Voodoo Cuisine, when did you start playing out solo?
Yes, my solo project is called Voodoo Cuisine and my first show was actually at Blue State Coffee back in 2012. My manager at the time was very supportive, partly because I had turned down a management position with the company to “focus primarily on my music”. He thought I could do whatever I wanted to and if I wouldn’t take the opportunity to advance with the company, he wanted to see me advance in the area I wanted to. So at 8pm on a Wednesday night, I setup my own P.A. at Blue State Coffee at the top of Thayer street and played until close for a pretty full cafe of friends, coworkers and customers who happened to pass through and stick around for the show. It was a magical night in its own way and I played mostly original songs with a few covers (including one by the Beatles and another by Yaz, for reference). Among the originals was the song that opens my album, “When You Coming Home?” I think of songs like that as steps where if I make them, I can advance to the next level. They kind of show me I’m on the right track and give me a better view of how to proceed and I thank my audience for helping me see which songs do that. Shows were very scattered around this time (one every few months) with a lot of my time being spent making ambient music on guitar, but that too has played a big part in my development.
Oh, 2012, that is a while back! Thats really rad of the Blue State Coffee manager. I thought one of your first shows was with PVDlive at The Grange. Gosh, when was that? It was so good.
The Grange show was great (thank you for having me!) and definitely was one of the first where I really felt confident enough to do a full set of original songs. That was November 2016, not too long after I joined XR-TABS.
That Grange show was the first time I saw Voodoo Cuisine; your sound is entirely yours. You let your natural voice float over these gorgeous chords with glorious imperfections and true emotion. It all works so well. How would you describe your sound and how did you get to where it is now?
Thank you! I appreciate the “glorious imperfections”: that’s kind of how I see it. Well, I want my songs to MOVE first and foremost. I think a lot of people play and cause time to slow down and float. While I appreciate that and like to do so occasionally, I’d rather try and write songs that have a sense of motion. We are always in motion even when we’re sitting still as time is constantly rushing us along. I want my music to acknowledge that and take people on a “ride” of its own. So I use a lot of fingerpicking patterns with a sort of constant uptempo and (hopefully) interesting harmonic quality. I don’t want to lull people to sleep, I want them to wake up. As for my vocal approach, I sing where it’s comfortable but also where I begin to sound different. If I didn’t sing in a somewhat higher range, I wouldn’t be able to invoke the same degree of emotion (personally) and I’d sound a lot more like the cliché “dude with an acoustic guitar”. I don’t want to be that!
Your instrumental songs are delicate and stunning. Is it just yourself on these songs and what instruments did you use?
Thank you again! Yes, the instrumentals are just me and they are mostly initially composed on guitar. After I get a basis for the song I usually figure out how to play it on piano and make a backing track to build up layers over. Mostly what you hear are layers and layers of synths (I used an Arturia mini brute, a moog sub 37, and a prophet-12, so pretty solid lineup of synths!) along with bass, steel and nylon string guitars, and percussion along with drum machine here and there. I think my instrumentals are where I allow the “time slow down/floating” effect to enter my music. I let the sounds do the talking.
I read in Motif magazine “living the life of a sober rockstar” how has the lifestyle of staying dry impacted your musical path?
Well, I wouldn’t be doing this if I hadn’t put down the bottle over eight years ago! Music has been my main reason for staying dry honestly. There’s no way I could have the focus or even energy to do what I do now if I was still drinking. It’s tough sometimes being in a band and not drinking, but it’s the way that works for me and I’m not about to question it!
I was deeply moved when I saw a video where an interviewer asks Bowie about his sobriety and says “surely you can have a glass of wine now and again” and Bowie immediately replies with “no, that would kill me. You see I’m an alcoholic”. I get a warm tingle every time I think of that: he just owns it and talks so openly about it. I try and do the same thing, it’s nothing to be ashamed of!
Its nothing to be ashamed about and I feel its important to talk about. Just how you were moved and inspired by Bowie I’m sure people feel supported by you sharing your story so openly.
How did you record this album?
I recorded the album almost completely at home with an audio interface and a USB microphone, although parts of it (electric guitar tracks) were done at the band space when no one else was around. I experimented with different settings and recorded in different rooms for different reverb qualities etc, but it was all very lo-fi and intuitive. I am curious what some of the songs would sound like recorded in a studio, but I’m very happy with how it came out.
Many know you in the local music scene as a member of Xr-Tabs. How has that band influenced and inspired you and your solo sound?
Playing with XR-TABS has easily been the most important collaboration I’ve done so far and may remain so through my life, at least for the time it came about. Dusty is nothing short of a musical genius and one of the best friends I have. He has taught me so much about everything from the significance of even the slightest change in play style, downstrokes only on a section of a song for instance, to using synthesizers as like a painters palette of sound. And I never really understood how powerful a REST can be until I started playing with him. Precision is key in our band so I am also much more accurate in my playing and rhythmically in line. Not only that, but playing more regularly in front of people, larger crowds especially, has gotten me much more used to being in the spotlight and throwing myself headfirst into every performance. That translates into doing the same kind of thing when I play solo. I bring everything I have to every show.
Who are some people who will be playing with you at your album release show this Friday at Columbus Theatre?
So for my solo show I have Mary Burke and Jill Kay playing the opening sets. Mary plays bass and keys in XR-TABS, but she is also a stunning singer-songwriter with a strong background in jazz and classical music. She generally plays ukulele and sings and the combination is hypnotic and beautiful. Jill and I shared a bill over the summer (along with Mary!) and I was shocked by the level of emotion that she could bring out in her music. Her flowing , washes of guitar chords and an angelic vocal delivery that would suddenly erupt into the most pained, testimonial sort of explosions of feeling really moved me that night. We did a radio show together shortly after that and the pairing seemed to work well. I’m honored that they each agreed to play with me on Friday. As for my set, I will be joined by Austin Pecchia (former drummer from XR-TABS and all around great dude) and my long time musical partner, Dusty, on percussion. I’m very glad they agreed to help me with this show, they’re two of the best in the biz.
PVDlive Proudly Presents Edward Foster’s Album Release Show at Columbus Theatre on Friday March 29th 2019
purchase tickets here
Interview by Chrissy Stewart
Photo credit by Jocelyn Tipton @alonemostly