“I write songs about life. And wondrously tortured women, who torture me. I don’t know what will kill me first. Life or women. Maybe both.”
Edward Herda has been a causal musician his whole life, but in 2011 decided to make a run at it. Leading up to that moment was the loss of love; a tragically dysfunctional relationship fueled by booze and pills. Nearly wed, she fled, only to marry another man three months later. Her departure marked the beginning of what is now nearly six years of sobriety. A few months into that hard-won recovery, Herda needed more change in his life. So he left his cushy advertising job and headed out to 1940’s film-set-turned tourist destination Pioneertown, CA.
Holed up at the Inn seeking serenity, Herda chain-smoked reds, drank stale coffee, ate corned beef hash out of a can and wrote much of his first record, The Wondrous Folly of Vaughn Frogg. In March 2013 he released it to no fanfare, booked a tour through the Pacific Northwest—packing himself into a van with two friends—and hit the road. Camping along the way, the trio ate hot dogs around the campfire, trading songs after each show, which net no money. But the vagabond life of a traveling minstrel made Herda feel more alive than he had in years.
After returning from the road, Herda began putting together his second record. Yet, as fickle fate would have it, the romantic fell in love once again. Without warning, she too flew the coop. Armed with his destructive mind and shattered self, Herda returned to the same room at the Pioneertown Inn to see if there was a little magic left, hidden under the bed or behind the bureau. There was.
Though already halfway through recording, Herda scrapped what he had and returned to the studio with a fresh batch of songs that stitch together a theme of love, exploration, vulnerability, empathy and redemption. Goodnight Jaybird is a love story, but one much different than the first salvo. It’s a war story, one where a pummeled man is left standing against his huckle bearer in the arid desert. It’s a saga, where the protagonist seeks to learn a more empathetic way of living. It’s selfless.
Recorded at The Outpost in Topanga Canyon—they say the ghosts of Woody Guthrie and Mick Fleetwood still chase steelhead in the creek on moonless nights—the record features a complete lack of hired guns but instead a brace of Herda’s faithful friends. Trevor Smith (electric guitar), Curran McDowell (bass, drums), Matt Bradford (pedal steel, dobro, slide guitar), Ethan Yeager (drums), and Leah Kouba (backing vocals) join producer and multi-instrumentalist Max Allyn in crafting an eloquently composed trellis through which Herda weaves his poignant storytelling.
On the surface, Goodnight Jaybird is a collection of pretty love songs. Yet, while this is a love story, it’s also a story about understanding yourself more fully, moving a little more gently, and having more empathy toward humanity and one’s own struggle. “I hope that my honesty and authenticity reaches someone, if only a single line” says Herda. “The greatest loves in our lives have the ability to show us different sides of ourselves; sides we’ve likely been running from. Sounds lofty and maybe a little cliché, but I don’t think I’ve experienced a more spiritual and soul-enriching feeling than being completely vulnerable with another human. Being in love, offering yourself unconditionally, is a religious experience, as if kissing God him/herself. That’s what it means to me, at least.”