Inner Worlds & John Hughes Movies: Heddy Edwards Wants to Show You Her Teenage Bedroom

Heddy Edwards © 2024
Heddy Edwards © 2024
D.C.-based singer, songwriter, and producer Heddy Edwards speaks with Atwood Magazine about life-changing movie soundtracks, the discovery of “inner worlds,“ and her latest single, “black tunnel.”
Stream: “black tunnel” – Heddy Edwards

Someday” never comes for many aspiring musicians who wait for the perfect moment to make their artistic debut.

Thankfully, “someday” came for singer, songwriter, and producer Heddy Edwards one week before her 29th birthday, on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and a life altering accident. Hours spent watching YouTube videos on music production – and hard-earned savings poured into the making of a home studio – led to the release of Edwards’ debut single, “white lightning,” in August of 2021.

Her dream pop, synth-heavy sound, combined with mystical, soul-searching lyrics, did not make waves until her sophomore single, “cherry picker.” The track’s release serendipitously coincided with the iconic Stranger Things episode that features Kate Bush’s equally iconic track, “Running Up That Hill.” TikTok dubbed Edwards’ ethereal sound and unconventional lyrics as a suitable listening substitute for Gen-Zers who had already exhausted Bush’s complete catalog. 600,000+ streams later, the artist is back on the scene with “black tunnel,” produced in collaboration with Alan Day.

black tunnel - Heddy Edwards
black tunnel – Heddy Edwards

I jumped on a Zoom call with Edwards a few days after “black tunnel” hit streaming platforms. There is no PR team behind Edwards – both literally and figuratively. We communicated directly via email leading up to our conversation, and she took the call solo from her at-home office in the Washington, D.C. area, her fiery red hair standing out against a dark background.

“Music has always been a huge part of my life,” Edwards starts when I ask how and why she published music for the first time in her late twenties. “I started writing songs when I was 16 and took a guitar class for high school. Something about putting chords together in whatever order I wanted made melodies come to me, and I started realizing I could write more than just jingles.”

Excitement took over as she wrote and recorded amateur tracks in quick succession. Strangers on the internet, unsurprisingly, were unkind to teenage Heddy, who was eager to put her work into the world but less keen on beefing up her guitar skills.

Heddy Edwards © 2024
Heddy Edwards © 2024

“I sent those demos to this YouTube channel that’s now a label, and they asked me to come out and record them,” Edwards recalls. “I was so excited, I went to college as a freshman thinking that summer I would get to record in a real studio. Then, they re-listened to my demos and told me they needed more work – which was true.”

The canceled recording session – in conjunction with online criticism that, at the time, felt very extreme – was enough for Edwards to deprioritize music and reprioritize school. Two degrees later, she accepted a desk job and settled with her now husband in the D.C. area, comfortable with her by-the-book existence – but a car accident in 2019 was the impetus for a major shift in perspective.

“I kept replaying that memory thinking, if I had died that day in a car accident, I would have never pursued my greatest dream, which was to be a singer/songwriter and release music I was proud of,” she says. “Not rushed guitar demos.”

With all the time in the world during the dog days of the early pandemic, 28-year-old Edwards set up a home studio and took an online production course, dead set on releasing her first song by the age of 30. By her thirtieth birthday, Edwards had two singles on Spotify, with a third (“the moon below”) in the making.

With “black tunnel,” Heddy Edwards dives further into the crossover between shoegaze and dream pop – marrying swirling vocals and distorted instrumentals with heavy synth.

“I think my taste in music really started forming when I heard new wave in movies in junior high and high school,” she explains. Movie soundtracks, like those in Pretty In Pink and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, were critical to developing the “new wave, post-punk, shoegaze sound” that Edwards does her best to incorporate into her own music.

Her lyrics, sometimes nonsensical (the chorus of “black tunnel” begins with Edwards singing “stick that needle in my eye”), call to mind the otherworldly ramblings of The Cocteau Twins. She points to The Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks in particular), and Hole as additional influences.

Heddy Edwards © 2024
Heddy Edwards © 2024

If the soundtrack to Edwards’ life plays like a John Hughes movie, then the words on the pages of her notebook read like a spellbook.

“I see music as a channeling,” she says, acknowledging that her songwriting process may come off as a bit “woo-woo” to those who are less in tune with their spiritual side. “ I do a lot of automatic writing,” she continues.  “When I’m playing something or hearing something, I sing whatever words come to mind. I often find that it’s my subconscious telling me something I didn’t know I felt about a situation.”

She points to her favorite lyrics from “black tunnel,” which came to her after reflecting on teenage pastimes and reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, as proof:

Spill this vaulted heart
Full of talismans and reminiscence
I’ll stay wild of mind
Abstemious, reading Dionysus

Edwards’ songwriting process is an act of manifestation – the opening of a portal to an inner world that exists only for herself and her listeners.

“My inner world is my teenage bedroom,” she says, “being a teen girl, you have this kind of effervescence about you, a more hopeful and romantic approach to life in general.” Somebody else might stumble across Edwards’ music and find themselves (mentally) riding shotgun in their ex-boyfriend’s pickup truck in 1992 – everybody’s inner world looks a little bit different, and that’s okay.

“I really view making any kind of art as pulling out a piece of your psyche to let people walk through and experience it,” Edwards says. “And maybe they’ll get a different visual than you had in mind. The fact that you are building this space for them, to me, that’s the most powerful part about art and self expression.”

Edwards is proud of and feels power in her status as a female producer – “there are not a ton of female producers or women who feel confident enough to call themselves producers when they should,” she says – but she was relieved to bring producer Alan Day into her most recent project. Late nights and weekends spent self-producing are isolating and exhausting with a full-time desk job.

“It’s fun in retrospect, and I like being the one to curate the sound,” she reflects, “but it’s so in the details that I find my perfectionism goes into overdrive.” Working with Day allows Edwards to spend more time in her teenage room, abstemious and making music.

Heddy Edwards © 2024
Heddy Edwards © 2024

Slow and steady is winning the race for Heddy Edwards.

Moments of inspiration during songwriting are well worth the lonely hours in the studio.

“To me, that feeling is the best natural high alive. Nothing can replicate that,” she smiles.

It keeps her moving towards her next goal of releasing a full EP and hopefully performing her original music live for the first time.

When I ask Edwards about her dreams as a musician, she inquires back with a smile, “How wild are we talking?”

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:: stream/purchase black tunnel here ::
:: connect with Heddy Edwards here ::
Stream: “black tunnel” – Heddy Edwards

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