IT’S Monday afternoon, Steve Edwards is at his children’s parents’ evening. But the teacher probably doesn’t know that within about one hour’s time, Mr Edwards will sound-checking his enormous vocals at SOYO, for a show later in the evening.
Nor, perhaps, does that teacher know that the parent sitting in front of them has had a string of worldwide number ones and fronts one of the city’s most popular bands, Lords of Flatbush, whose recent single, 999 has just been remixed by much esteemed producer Toddla T (also from Sheffield).
But Edwards, from Woodseats, has always kept a happy equilibrium between family life and his career as a professional musician. And if his Lords of Flatbush rehearsals, parental obligations, guest appearances and side projects didn’t provide enough plates to spin, he’s just added another: his solo work, known as The Big Strong Love.
“It’s a bit of Marvin Gaye, Elvis Costello and Stevie Wonder mixed together. It’s soul but it’s a certain kind of soul. There are lots of different types of soul – you wouldn’t just say ‘rock’, after all, you’d say ‘heavy rock’ or ‘metal’. The Big Strong Love’s stuff’s is edgy, it’s a bit like 60s R&B or Northern Soul.”
The project’s name relates Edward’s belief that there is goodness in everyone: “It’s about peace, love and understanding. It’s a concept, a bit like ‘the force’ in Star Wars – there’s a deeper love binding people together. The Big Strong Love’s about the fact that 99.99 per cent of us are alright. Most people are good – it’s about recognising that goodness in everyone.”
Songs explore this theme, as well as making observations about modern British life: “Some of the songs are based on what I see around me. It’s not political – just observational. Kids are having kids, young men are being killed fighting a war, we’ve got rioting on the streets and there’s a recession on and you think to yourself ‘how did that just happen? Again?’.”
And Edwards knows a thing or two about songwriting. For eight years he’s been a featured artist with tracks such as Bob Sinclar’s monster worldwide hit, World Hold On (2007), for which Edwards sang and wrote the lyrics, and the Sound of Violence, in 2003. He also played in a group called Cloud 9 with Mark Brydon, who later formed Moloko.
As part of his singing career Edwards has made several worldwide tours and heard his voice on national radio stations in countless countries. “It’s weird at first when you hear yourself on the radio in a foreign country but you soon get used to it.”
Edwards puts his success as a singer down to his ‘grit’. “Many singers at that time were divas but I came with a different slant. Firstly, I’d write lyrics on a guitar so it had a rhythmic quality but my voice was also flexible and could sing along to any song. It wasn’t rigid in any way and I had a bit of grit about me.”
Edwards still globetrots as part of his work, although the highlight, so far, has been sharing a bill with Beyonce and Michael Jackson at Earl’s Court. “We made the biggest-selling dance record, World Hold On, so we were invited to play at Earl’s Court. It was amazing, Michael Jackson came back to do his 25th anniversary Thriller show and the crowd went absolutely mental. I could see Michael – his dressing room was next to mine – but you couldn’t even get anywhere near him, he had so many people around him. It was unbelievable when he came on stage though.”
But throughout his glittering career, successive hits and trendy guest appearances, one thing, rather bafflingly, has remained: his name. Unlike other dance acts, such as Fat Boy Slim or Mylo, whose semi fictional monikers emit trendy vibes, Edwards stuck with what he had: “I’m just Steve Edwards, from Woodseats. That’s who I am and that’s how I’m known.”
Edwards brings his solo show to Barker’s Pool at Tramlines this year.