South Mississippi based photographer Chad Edwards talks about his love affair and obsession to blues

"I have always been fascinated with the art of live music photography and growing up in Mississippi, the music and culture of Mississippi is just a part of your DNA."

Chad Edwards: Southern Images

Chad Edwards is a photographer and tour manager based out of South Mississippi. His love affair and obsession of music, drums, and art go all the way back to when he was three years old. He has played drums since he was four years old, played in many local bands. He did glass art (lampworking) for about eight years and once had a music column in a Laurel, MS newspaper. Edward’s interest in photography came around as a child when he would sneak cameras into concerts. None of those photos really turned out to be any good. Then one night at a Phish concert (Memphis 1999) a few photos he took from a really cheap camera came out really well. Then around 2001 he bought his first SLR film camera and fooled around with it a bit for a few years not really putting much time as he could into it. During that time going on the road with New Orleans band Brotherhood of Groove.

Then around spring 2007, while at a Blueground Undergrass show, Chad was asked by bandleader, The Rev Jeff Mosier to come on the road with them as tour manager. No questions were asked, handshakes were made, hugs were given and Chad’s life was forever changed. Late 2007 brought about The Lee Boys, a sacred steel family band from Miami. Many surreal moments were spent in an airplane and  the white van criss-crossing the country.

     Many years later and a few digital cameras later he was first published in the true crime novel; Shake The Devil Off as the chapter 8 opening photo (The Spotted Cat bar on Frenchmen St in New Orleans) published in 2009. After working with The Lee Boys, Chad started working with Grayson Capps. It was Capps who actually was Chad’s first paying photography gig, shooting the bands infamous doorframe band shot from 2010 including photo credits on the Grayson Capps & The Lost Cause Minstrels 2011 release. Chad now works with Grayson Capps and Willie Sugarcapps as tour manager/ photographer/ sometimes band booker/aka the guy who tries to put socks on a rooster. He also spends time working with Cary Hudson of Blue Mountain fame and others as their social media dude. Since then he has gone on to be published in Legends Magazine, Sense magazine, Relix, Honest Tune, South MS State Fair among other publications. Credits also include albums by Grayson Capps, Mark Mann, Big Ol Nasty Get Down,  Ryan Balthrop, and Lightnin’ Malcolm. 

Interview by Michael Limnios  / Photos © by Chad Edwards

Chad, when was your first desire to become involved in the art of photography and Blues culture?

I’m not entirely sure when exactly but I have always been fascinated with the art of live music photography and growing up in Mississippi, the music and culture of Mississippi is just a part of your DNA.

What does “IMAGE” offered you? What do you learn about yourself from the photography and Blues culture?

I’ve learned that I need to be more patient with some of my photos. Photography and tour managing bands is actually really good life lessons.

Vasti Jackson © by Chad Edwards

What characterize Chad Edwards work & progress, how do you describe your philosophy about the IMAGE?

Hmmm. I try to capture that one tiny moment, that one little speck of time that you can look at years down the road. A photo that stands the test of time. It all goes back to Herman Leonard for me as far as inspiration. Actually Herman, Jim Marshall, Zack Smith and a few others. If I get a hundredth of what he got on his worse and crappiest nights shooting I’d be happy. I still really have no clue what I am doing. I just hope others enjoy looking at them. The beautiful people I know, work with and tour with all inspire me beyond measure.

How important was the Blues culture in your life? How does music affect your mood and inspiration?

Blues is the cornerstone of Country, Rock, Funk. What’s not to like.

I think its very important part of my life, as is all music I listen to. I like to listen to Blues records on hot humid days. Saturdays and Sundays with a beer in hand. Back to the Question, I do listen to the Blues a lot. It all comes back to the blues. It’s all the blues

What are some of the most memorable shoots and how does the music come out of your lens?

So far I would say most memorable. Hmmmm, that’s a tough one.  There are certain moments and people I will always remember. I have been doing a “Faces” project where I am photographing musicians/ artists/ intriguing and unique people’s faces. That’s been pretty fun so far. I am hoping sometime in 2014 to have the Faces project published.  It is an ongoing project I probably will never really ever finish.

Bobby Rush was one that is always fun. He is a photographers dream, as far as performers go. Watching/shooting him while he played acoustic at soundcheck with Duwayne Burnside was pretty fun.

Dr. John is always fun to photograph, as is Grayson Capps. Kris Kristofferson was another highlight of mine.

Having Mary Gautier ask me to do her new promo is pretty flattering.

Bobby Rush © by Chad Edwards

Which meetings have been the most important experiences? Are there any memories which you’d like to share?

Shooting the cover for the blues artists Lightnin’ Malcolm latest album. I love that guy. He is real deal Mississippi Blues. Also shot the cover for the latest album by Willie Sugarcapps this year.

I shoot with Legends magazine out of Mississippi as well. You guys should check that magazine out. It’s the real deal!!!!

I think each and every one of the experiences I have is the most important one. Some are just more intense than others.  So far so good.

Who from the musicians you have shoot, had the most passion for the image & camera lens?

Bobby Rush, Dr John, Grayson Capps, Kris Krisstofferson, and Warren Haynes.  

Kris Kristofferson © by Chad Edwards

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from your shootings in gigs and festivals?

I think the first festival I really tried to shoot a photo at was a two-day thing String Cheese Incident did up in Rockingham, NC July 3/4th 2001. It was at a NASCAR racetrack if I’m not mistaken. I had just purchased a film SLR and was there merely as a fan and spectator.

Mountain Jam (put on by Warren Haynes/Gov’t Mule) June 2012 upstate New York. Levon Helm had just passed away and most of the festival was dedicated to him. Watching most of his band, including his daughter Amy sing, crying on stage was pretty intense and magical, to say the least.  You have to tell yourself to shoot photos and not get emotionally tied up w the music. That is until you leave the photo pit

Another time was recently at Magnolia Fest down in Live Oak, Florida. In the photo pit, mesmerized by the sounds and the beautiful music I was hearing from Stephen Marley. I stood for a moment, lost in the music. Again, I had to tell myself to shoot photos and get out of the pit. I could sit in the photo pit and go to sleep. The loud music and sounds relaxes me that much.

How would you describe your contact with the musicians, when you are “on the project”?

How would I describe it…Well, it’s fun. I have never really ever had any bad experiences. I tour manage bands on the road and I have been in bands so I kind of know when is a good time and when it is not a good time to shoot. Then again, sometimes I don’t. Most of what I shoot is the musicians on stage doing what they do. Although, I try to do more behind the scenes and candid type shots. I always loved those as a kid and I still do now.

Dr. John © by Chad Edwards

What is the strangest desire that someone have request in the shooting?

I think it’s usually me with the strange request, but no I don’t think I have ever got a strange request as far as musicians/artists goes.

Is there any shooting made by mistake, but know you’re proud of? Which memory makes you smile?

Oh yeah. There are mistakes all the time that turn into something I like and or want to keep. Happy mistakes. It’s the same thing with playing music. Sometimes those mistakes turn into song and or a riff. Some of the most memorable photos of live music weren’t exactly the most perfect/focused shots. It’s all about capturing that one tiny split second.

What do you miss most nowadays from the old days of blues? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

Well that’s kind of hard to say because I don’t really miss anything. I love all blues. I do miss the way they recorded and sound of those old blues recordings, as I do anything from those time periods.  We owe a lot to the Lomax family and Dick Waterman (who by the way is a helluva photographer). I miss the fact most of the old blues dudes are dying off. Those legends. There isn’t too many left. Luckily I got to see R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough play at least once.   


Chad Edwards and Grayson Capps of Willie Sugarcapps around the The Frog Pond At Blue Moon Farm in Silverhill, Alabama 2013. Chad is the tour manager for Grayson Capps and Willie Sugarcapps. Photo © by Reggie Thomas

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you of music circuits?

Willie Sugarcapps (the band makes me laugh A LOT when I am on the road with them.)

I get touched emotionally quite a bit. It especially happens more so than not down in Silverhill, Alabama at this outdoor House Concert, which is held on Sundays from September to April. Magic happens there. Magic happens everywhere though. If you love the music you are hearing then there is magic happening between you and music.

Some local music scenes can be fads but the Southern music is always with us. Why do think that is?

Well you never hear the saying, “Northern Music” and or “Northern Food” etc... We have the most beautiful women. We have the best food and we have the BEST music: Blues, Rock, Jazz, Bluegrass, Country & Western, Reggae, Classical and Hip-Hop are the only other forms that weren’t from the South.

Antique Vehicles Project © by Chad Edwards

How started the thought of the projects “Faces” and “profiles of old vehicles”?

Well, I got the idea of the Faces project from a photo that was taken with the Hipstamatic app. I absolutely love black & white photos. I love old tintype photos and I am lucky enough to be around people who make for great photos. One of those being Everett Capps. He is a writer from South Alabama. Look up the book, “Off Magazine St” and the movie, “Love Song for Bobby Long.” It’s really just an ongoing project. I am not sure when it will end. I’d like to think sometime in 2014 I would be close to enough to that goal. Then again, it really is an ongoing thing I don’t think I will ever stop doing. It’s fun. It’s charmingly intrusive for a few seconds and in the end you have a story captured in a single split second. I mean at least that is what you would want at least one person to feel from looking at it. I know that is what I am trying to make it do for myself.

 That being said, it’s obviously mine aren’t analog/film but it really is easy to whip out the old cell phone and slide your fingers across the glass and BAM, it’s done. It’s perfect for those moments. I still do “faces” shots with my Nikon but for this project it’s the trusty Hipsatamatic app.

As far as the cars goes I have ALWAYS loved the front grills, the front and rear profiles of old (antique) vehicles. Some of those old grills remind me of faces like some wild beast. They sure as hell don’t make them like that anymore. Even the rear profiles of some of those antique vehicles were pretty badass. They had so much character and soul. It was art. Chrome. Big simple engines too. Those grills sometimes look as if they are snarling at you. Headlights as eyes. If I see an old vehicle parked anywhere, first thing I think to do is look at the front profile. That’s another project I will always and forever shoot. It never gets old.

Chad Edwards Photography - Home

The Cedric Burnside Project © by Chad Edwards

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