The man is constantly on the road, but there is no whining, quite the opposite: Wille Edwards, rough-and-ready singer à la John Mellencamp, congenial guitarist in the best Ry-Cooder manner and mastermind of the English trio Wille And The Bandits, completes the interview backstage immediately after a performance. In this case, people meet behind the scenes of the Burg Herzberg Festival, at which the three bandits, although set for the afternoon, received euphoric applause from thousands of spectators.
"I'm an urban hippie," laughs the 31-year-old broadly over his likeable face. "It gives me unbelievable fun to stand on a stage every evening and confront myself with myself for two hours. That's a lot of work. And it's the most beautiful state I know of, packed with emotion, energy, ecstasy. You can't get closer to your ego anywhere."
Wille And The Bandits, who first saw the light of day in 2007, were founded, according to Edwards, "to provide people with unique experiences evening after evening. There are three studio albums of us, but we haven't managed to capture this tremendous dynamic of a gig on record yet. Let's see. In 2016, however, the next studio attempt follows first."
Great role models of the trio are style icons like Ben Harper, the Dave Matthews Band or Pearl Jam. "Individual musicians," explains Wille, "who don't care about any trends and instead create new trends themselves. They make me feel at home." Against this backdrop, Edwards, with the two warriors at his side, has set himself the goal of "using the blues as a rudimentary basis for subjecting this ancient musical tradition to constant change. The blues is immortal, it's clear, it's passed on to every generation of musicians in some way. But it's important to me that he stays dynamic. "You have to approach him fearlessly and creatively pollinate him, so to speak." According to Wille Edwards, "if I play live as often as possible and improvise blues all the time, I will succeed. Then he is merciful and allows changes in tradition." And when Wille is not on stage for once, he lolls around in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner. "Most of the time I sleep in this time," Edwards reveals laughing, "because in the country the blues leaves me alone."
In the media, will and bassist Matthew Brooks as well as drummer and percussionist Andrew Naumann have been noted for years with benevolence and euphoria. For example, The Daily Telegraph raves: "One of the best live acts in the country." And Bob Harris of BBC Radio 2 is in a fluster when he says, "Love the soul in the music!" Even rock luminaries like Deep Purple, The Kaiser Chiefs or Joe Bonamassa can't get over it when they talk about the "bandits": "Mind blowing", said Purple bassist Roger Glover in a nutshell.
"Of course it flatters us when established colleagues praise us over the green clover," admits Edwards frankly. "Such a thing, however, must not lead to vanity and the associated standstill. We have a recent Europe-wide deal with a major record company. She rightly has high expectations of us. With the next studio work, which is clear to all involved, the project Wille And The Bandits stands and falls. If we don't make the breakthrough, then I'm not sure if we three won't end up as hobby musicians who have to work in a completely different profession than art in order to earn money. It would be a shame, because it is our destiny to concentrate exclusively on the music. But there's this uncertainty factor called fate. I don't know what it has in store for us."
19.11. Münster, Hot Jazz Club
20.11. Hamburg, Rock Café St. Pauli
23.11. Aschaffenburg, Colos-Saal
24.11. Cologne, Yard Club
26.11. Berlin, Auster Club
27.11. Isernhagen, Blues Garage
28.11. Lorsch, Kulturhaus
Interview: Michael Fox-Gamböck