Big Machine Records
"One of the hard things about it is you only have 10 slots on a record for songs," says Dean Berner, one third of the talented trio that includes lead vocalist Hannah Blaylock and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Cherrill Green. "We had written so many songs over the past few years, and there are so many great songs in town that we also love that had been written by Nashville songwriters. It's a tough choice chiseling it down."
"The opportunity for us to put out three more songs was fun," Cherrill says. "Having to narrow down songs we've been writing over the course of two or three years is really hard so it was exciting to get to throw three more out there. It's really cool that it's through Cracker Barrel."
Executives at Cracker Barrel feel the young trio is a perfect fit for their music section, which offers CDs from Dolly Parton, the Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs and others. Edens Edge is excited about having their debut CD available in one of their favorite restaurants. "Cherrill and I talk about how much we love the hash browns. We could go on and on about that," says Hannah. "We've always seen the music they've chosen to sell in the stores and respect choices they've made. We feel it's the heart of what country is all about. So for us to be alongside those artists, we could not feel more grateful. We're very honored they chose to work with us and partner with us. We respect the company and what it stands for and are excited to work with them."
With the Cracker Barrel deal, the group was able to add three more tunes for the special edition. "Roots" is a song that started with an idea that Cherrill's father suggested. "My dad always calls and gives me these song ideas," she says. "He called me one day and said, 'I've got this really great idea for a song. It's about letting your roots show. People think it's about your hair, but it can be about all this music you grew up listening to.' I thought it was a really killer idea."
So she teamed up with songwriting pals Skip Black and Catt Gravitt to flesh out the idea and finish the tune. Dean wrote "Little Bird" after moving into a new apartment and finding a bird's next outside his window. "Then the next morning, I woke up at 4 or 5 am when that bird woke me up, tweeting around and making noise in my window. I wasn't so happy about having the bird's nest in my window at that point," he says. "At that time, I was going through this thing where I had been chasing around this girl and that song just fell out. It's one of those songs that just fell on the page and I didn't even feel like I wrote it. Everybody in their lives has had that feeling where you want something so badly but you just can't make it happen on its own. Sometimes things come together and sometimes things don't work."
The final track, "Wherever I Go," was written by Hannah, Danny Myrick, Jennifer Schott and Joy Williams, one half of the popular duo the Civil Wars. "I really wanted to talk about what its like to take that leap of faith when you believe in something so strongly that nobody else can really understand the depth that you're going to work to make it come true," says Hannah. "The three of us were very lucky to have family in Arkansas that supported our dreams, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty of how crazy this journey is, nobody can understand it but ourselves. I hope when people hear this song, they hear encouragement. If they are not in this place, hopefully they will be someday, if they believe in something and have dreams. It's about them believing they can do it."
The release of their debut album is a dream come true for Hannah, Dean and Cherrill, who began working together eight years ago. "All three of us grew up in Arkansas and we have pretty much the same childhood," says Hannah, a native of Nimrod, Ark., who grew up singing with her family's band. "I'd always know that I wanted to be a singer, I didn't know exactly how to go about making that happen, but it was really fun for me and I've always sang and performed and my parents always knew that that was my true passion and they wanted to nurture that as much as possible, so we made an album and we played around the region of Arkansas and neighboring states." The Blaylock's family friend, Steve Smith, a financial consultant and aspiring songwriter, also performed with their band. "Steve Smith taught Dean his first chords on the guitar," Hannah says.
"He was also my soccer coach when I was seven," adds Dean, who grew up in Russelville, Ark.
After Dean graduated from college, Steve recruited him to join the band. While in college, Dean had met Cherrill and played music with her, so when the band needed a mandolin player, he immediately suggested Cherrill. A native of Magazine, Ark., who grew up performing with her family's bluegrass band, Cherrill was a perfect fit.
"She was just amazing and this incredible instrumentalist," Hannah says, "and she could like follow me like crazy with harmonies because she'd grown up her whole life singing in a family bluegrass band."
Cherrill says growing up around festivals provided a wonderful musical education. "At bluegrass festivals you just play all the time," she says. "We'd bring our bicycles and ride them during the day and at night we'd just jam to really late at night. We [met] so many good musicians and when you are at those things, especially as a kid, they want to show you stuff, so you are constantly learning. It's basically like taking lessons from professionals all the time."
The group got their first break when Steve entered a contest sponsored by the Nashville Songwriters Association International [NSAI]. Legendary songwriter Kye Fleming, who wrote such classic hits as Barbara Mandrell's "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool" and Ronnie Milsap's "Smoky Mountain Rain," heard the group and was so impressed she encouraged them to move to Nashville.
Hannah, Dean and Cherrill made the leap in 2007 and moved to Music City. "It was always kind of apparent that we were the young driven ones that wanted to do it for a career," she says of the three younger members of the group moving to Nashville while their families remained in Arkansas. "My dad and Steve still play together back home and we still have music parties and jams. They've been nothing but completely supportive of us following our dreams. All of our parents are really that way. It's an amazing blessing that we all came from families that nurtured our dreams."
Once they moved to Nashville, Kye began mentoring the young musicians and introducing them to people. When Kye was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009, she asked Edens Edge to perform at the induction ceremony. That night changed their lives when Scott Borchetta, CEO of Big Machine Records, heard the trio and signed them to a record deal.
"One thing about what we do here, it really feels like an extension of what we were doing back home," says Dean. "The reason we played music back home is because it was fun and we loved to do it and the reason we play music today is because it's fun and we love to do it. There's a lot of other stuff that's gotten added onto the picture, but really the core of what we do is because we love music."
The trio closes the album with "In Christ Alone," a beautiful song that showcases their amazing vocal blend. "We've been closing our shows with it," says Cherrill. "It was written by Steve, the guy who put us all together and it's an a capella thing. [The lyric] says how we try to live our life."
"It reminds us of the message that we want to be saying with our life," adds Dean, "which is we're out to love people and to be good to people. We're not here to get money and things and houses. It's all about how we live our lives and what we believe in and how we show that to people."
Since signing with Big Machine, the trio released an EP last year and have been touring extensively---opening for Lady Antebellum, Reba McEntire and Brad Paisley. This summer they'll hit the road with Rascal Flatts. Their debut single, "Amen," hit the top 20 and the group recently premiered the video for their new single "Too Good to Be True."
Dean describes their music as "country with roots. Those roots include our acoustic instruments. It includes Hannah's pure vocals and lots of harmony vocals. We value honest songs and honest sounds. . .We also love the roots of country music and how deep those roots are. That's something that we really hold high. We want to bring something new to country music, but we also really value where it comes from."