Edwin McCain: ‘Mr. 100,000 Units’ 10 Year Plan
Edwin McCain’s whispy blonde hair smothered the singer/ guitarists’ swollen, sleep-stained face. Jarred from a much needed couch-bound slumber, the South Carolinian — whose debut release, Honor Among Thieves, is cruising up the charts on the strength of “Solitude,” his duet with Hootie and the Blowfish’s Darius Rucker — gained consciousness slowly. Speaking in a patient, gutteral drawl with Rolling Stone Online Correspondant Benjamin Wagner, McCain covered everything from falling from balconies to “A Current Affair.”
RSO: Is the rock life all it’s cracked up to be?
EM: Oh yeah, totally. I just look a little hammered right now.
RSO: Has this been a long time coming?
EM: About five years from application of dream to reality — from the moment I said “I’m going on the road and getting out.”
RSO: Getting out of where?
EM: College of Charleston. Cut-Chuck Town. The College of Knowledge. I guess I was sophomore in years, I suppose. In credits I’m sure I was a freshman. I was kind of an academic albatross — it wasn’t really my deal.
RSO: Darius Rucker’s guest appearence on “Solitude” looked fairly opportunistic. Was it?
EM: [Flushed — maybe pissed] We’re friends, yunno’? We have been for a while. We went to the University of South Carolina together. I didn’t know him real well, but I knew who he was and who Hootie and the Blowfish were back when they were playing Pappy’s. Later, after a few years, we were playing little clubs together. We eventually ended up playing gigs together. Darius was a big fan of my independently released, “Solitude” — so much so that everybody else in Hootie said, “If Darius plays that damn record again, we’re going to throw it out the window.” So that’s how it started, well before their deal with Atlantic. Now they’ve broken every record known to man. They’re the “Revenge of the Normal.”
RSO: How did your Atlantic deal come about?
EM: We were out touring hard and had some offers from other labels. We were on tour with Hootie in February and met some people at Atlantic. The rest took about a week to figure out. I just went with my gut.
RSO: What made you finally leave school and pursue music?
EM: It was just one of those things where you know who you are. The real reward is not so much realizing my goal, but the chase. It’s definately been about the sweat and the scraping to get there, because I’m not sure I’ll actually get there. I keep moving the finish line.
RSO: What extent of cross-country traipsing did you suffer before signing?
EM: Maine to Florida to Texas to Colorado to Chicago. A long time ago I was organizing the touring myself: I drove the bus, I ran sound, I was the road manager — it was tough.
RSO: Is it any easier now?
EM: It’s definately gotten easier. Our tour manager’s an MBA from Duke. And Atlantic’s hooked us up with a tour bus which makes it all a lot more fun. Things are definately a lot smoother these days. You work out the kinks after this much time. I still spend a lot of time on the phone trying to get songs in movies and on televisions — same work, different facilities. I used to call to try and get gigs, I’m still trying to get gigs — they’re just better gigs.
RSO: So you grew up in…
EM: Greenville, South Carolina. It’s a little slower paced there. Friendly. It was a pretty idealic situation really. I’ve become a big fan of New York, though. To quote the John Popper song: “Droppin’ some NYC.” He hit it there.
RSO: Do you manage to get out and experience the city?
EM: I get here and open a Village Voice and go out, but there’s never enough time to do what you want to do. But I try to grab a piece of something every time I’m here. but I’m leaving tomorrow night after the gig.
RSO: Is that ususally the case?
EM: Oh yeah, so you can wake up in the next town and do work. So we travel at night. It keep you focussed, though, because we don’t hang out at night partying and feeling bad the next day. It keeps us from wearing ourselves down too bad, although I’m sure I don’t sound it now.
RSO: What are your days like?
[EM dictates the next day’s schedule — begining at 7:45 with live radio gigs and running through to his show at Manhattan’s Wetlands — pausing only to ponder his tabloid-television debut]
RSO: A Current Affair! What the hell are you doing on there?
EM: I don’t know, I guess they dug up some skeletons in my closet. No, I hear they’re changing their format more like Entertainment Tonight. They wouldn’t have anything to dig up anyway. I’ve lived a pretty flacid life. I’ve only fallen off a few balconies. No big deal.
RSO: So what’s the endpoint of all this work?
EM: My new ten year plan would see a good, solid music career with Atlantic and the instalation of a Southeastern Musical Association set up to help musicians and artists with their endevors. It would be a support group founded on the notion that it seems odd that we have a phrase in our syntax such as “starving artist.” But to be able to facilitate something like that, I’ll need to have a pretty successful career. I hear myself talking about that and I think that’s just the craziest think I’ve ever said. That’d be something to leave behind, wouldn’t it? Leave the planet a little better than before you’d been there — that’s the trick, right?
RSO: How’s the music industry looking from the inside?
EM: [Sighs] The whole concept of selling out — I hear kids talking about it — that’s total bullshit. Because the minute that you play music for money — you sold out. The minute you play a note on your guitar and some guy’s selling tockets or beer — you sold out. So what worse? Selling out for $150 at the end of the night? Or getting a career out of something you love to do?
This interview first appeared on Rolling Stone Online