Micah Edwards Turns Pain Into Art On Jean Leon

Micah Edwards will celebrate the release of his first full length album Jean Leon on Saturday, June 18 at The Heights Theater.
Micah Edwards will celebrate the release of his first full length album Jean Leon on Saturday, June 18 at The Heights Theater. Photo By Of The Rose Studios
Houston’s Micah Edwards has found the perfect way to combine his love for classic country and natural ‘70s soul sound into his first full length album Jean Leon due out this Friday.  The new release will only help cement Edwards' well selected nickname of "Mr. Texas Soul."

He and his band will celebrate virtually first with a Zoom listening party on Thursday, June 9 and then with a performance at The Heights Theater with Sam Turner and the Cactus Cats and Ancient Cat Society.

Edwards was inspired to host an online listening party with a Q&A time at the end after participating in a similar format by Houston heroes Khruangbin. The online event will also serve as a way for Edwards to connect with his fans in Asia and South America. “It is still pretty insane to me,” he says of his faraway fan base developed through the modern world of steaming on Spotify.

“I never really wanted to make an album until I felt like I had something to say and until I had an audience to say it to,” says Edwards who quit his day job and dedicated himself to music three years ago

“I’m a really deep country fan and for some reason I was avoiding it because who I am at my core is soul and jazz. My voice is really soulful and sultry and I wasn't going to dip my feet into country too much,” describes Edwards of his initial resistance to embracing his ties to country music.

While working on this new batch of songs, Edwards had the liberating realization that he could blend pedal steel and fiddle with horns and funky drums while staying true to himself and creating his own Texas Soul.

“I didn't want to do something that was that comparable,” says Edwards who often gets lumped in with John Mayer or Leon Bridges. “I wanted to put together a sound that someone could hear and be like, ‘That sounds like Micah’ or ‘That sounds like a Texas soul sound.’ I wanted to create a sound that other people would start to compare to me.”
Last summer Edwards released ten singles, mostly upbeat love songs serving as a contrast to the bulk of Jean Leon though the album does include the sweet and autobiographical story of Edwards and his wife in “Girl From The Valley.”

Jean Leon not only served as a vehicle for change in his and his band's sound but also a cathartic way for Edwards to grieve and process changes and trauma within his family while confronting the fears that he has for his own recently expanded family unit.

“In your adulthood you realize how your parents are just humans too. They're not the figures that you have always seen them to be. Growing up, you realize their faults and humanness.”

After many years, Edwards' parents got a divorce and as the oldest of five siblings, Edwards tried to help his family while also working on his own self preservation.

“I was really processing a lot of pain, frustration and confusion,” says Edwards. “It was the first time I've been able to use songwriting as a way to process pain and it was a therapeutic session for me. You hear that a lot on the album.”

The title Jean Leon comes from Edwards' parents' middle names. Edwards grappled with many questions including, how could he be so sure that he wouldn't make the same mistakes and cause the same damage to his family as his father had?

“That fear is totally here and it was kind of consuming for a lot of my life,” says Edwards of the reality of continuing generational trauma whether consciously or subconsciously. “It’s not consuming now but it’s still present. I have to give to God on a daily basis and that's how the album ends.”

Edwards addresses both of his parents together and separately on Jean Leon. He was able to put into song sentiments that were harder to express one on one. In “To Mama” he praises his mom for not only hanging on to a marriage that was clearly not working for the sake of her family, but also for having the strength to end it when she did.

Despite dealing with heavy subject matter throughout the album and serving as a kind of emotional time capsule for Micah and his family, Jean Leon is a very relatable and uplifting album that is sure to resonate with listeners as Edwards and his band seem to have perfected their formula to groove with lovely proportions of soul, funk and country.

Edwards is excited for what the future holds for his band as they have not yet had the opportunity to perform most of these songs live.

Edwards has been playing music for most of his life with his mom signing him up for piano lessons as a young child and then continuing on to play in worship groups and with friends. He counts his long time band members among his closest pals and is proud of where their hard work and focus has taken them.

They were recently featured on a short list of favorites from the thousands of NPR's Tiny Desk submissions selected by Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner and iLe, where the band performed the title track "Jean Leon."

“We didn't need to win, that was enough for me,” says Edwards. “There were thousands of people that entered and just for us to get that recognition is a real blessing but it's also confirmation that if we put our heads down and really get after this sound, it's going to reap some pretty cool fruit.”

Jean Leon will be available for streaming and purchase on Friday, June 10.  The Zoom virtual listening party with Q&A will be on Thursday, June 9 and Micah Edwards will perform with Sam Turner & The Cactus Cats and Ancient Car Society on Saturday, June 18 at 7 p.m. at The Heights Theater, 339 W 19th. $18-144.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes