A hit song, like teenage pregnancy, can lead to commitments you're not old enough to responsibly keep. Not that country rocker Bleu Edmondson's 2001 track "$50 and a Flask of Crown" was such a huge hit, other than on Texas music charts. But for a 22-year old kid with the type of modest ambitions the song suggests, it was world-changing.
"It came so quickly that I didn't know how really to approach it, not only as a business but as an artist," Edmondson says looking back. "I didn't know how to act on stage, I was just a kid. I didn't know what to say. Being 21, 22, 23 years old, I was into getting chicks, drinking booze and running around like an idiot."
Edmondson was a latecomer to music, and got his big break when he sent some demos to legendary producer/guitarist Lloyd Maines out of the blue. Maines subsequently offered to produce his 2001 debut, Southland, and his 2002 follow-up, The Band Plays On. The latter's title is instructive. While Maines helped shepherd him into the business, it took Edmondson some floundering to find a place where he was comfortable.
"I was writing more for the scene than for myself. I was so surrounded by the Pat Greens and the Cory Morrows and their success, and figured that was what you had to do," he says. "I don't think now that the songs had a lot of meat on them until [2007's] Lost Boy, where I kind of went: 'Screw it.' I don't want to have to be country. I don't have to be rock. I don't have to be Red Dirt. I can just write these songs and see how they lay out."
The album found Edmondson gravitating toward a sometimes epic blend of country and rock story-songs that were informed by the anthemic spirit of Springsteen. But it isn't just songs like "Resurrection" — which features last-call bathroom sex in a stall with 'Jesus is Love' written on the wall — or the brink of desperation ode "Finger on the Trigger," which sounds like a prelude to the Boss' gun-toting paean "Johnny 99." There's also the thing that connects Edmondson with the Texas tradition of Ray Wylie Hubbard, the Flatlanders and Lyle Lovett: honesty.
Edmondson readily acknowledges that he lost some of his audience after Lost Boy, but he also started courting a new one. He didn't let so much time elapse between releases, either, choosing to follow it with The Future Ain't What It Used to Be in 2010. Edmondson has already started putting some new songs into the set and is hoping to have his next album out by the summer of 2013.
Meanwhile, the musician is doing what he does best these days, while living humbly. He may have come into music a brash young kid with a head full of ideas and ambitions, but he's settled into a workman's appreciation of his craft.
"I'm just an idiot that fell ass-backwards into playing music. Some days I'm pretty decent at it," says Edmondson. "I just want to be good at what I do and hopefully I'm getting better with each record to where — if I keep my head down and try to be a decent guy and a good songwriter — the fame the fortune and the fans, all that will sort itself out."