Kevin Edlin’s resume would paint him as a freelance recording and live sound engineer, and an audio and recording engineer with Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and Nashville Symphony Orchestra. But if you ask him, Edlin will tell you that he is first and foremost a guitarist.
As with most guitarists, Edlin loves talking guitars: the makes, the models, and most of all that harmonizing feeling one gets when a certain instrument’s outer vibrations allow the player to more fully harness his innermost ones.
“My first guitar was an old acoustic of some sort, just a beater,” Edlin says. “But my first electric guitar was a red, Japanesemade Stratocaster that was given to me by my Dad out of the blue one day. I put punk rock stickers all over it. I still have it, and I always will.
“My favorite guitar that I own right now is my white Gibson SG. From a distance it just looks like one of their regular Standard models. But I’ve had it modified for a low, baritone tuning. I use a custom set of really heavy strings on it for that. It’s in an open fifth tuning to a low B natural — that’s a step and a half lower than drop D.”
For those unfamiliar with guitar tunings, that’s gut-rattlingly low. Edlin’s familiar with such unorthodox tunings, having spent years in industrial metal outfit Cryogen Second, an act he left in July. He’s working now with D. Ryan, helping foment an infectious, laid-back, groove-oriented sound. It’s one of the things he loves about the guitar: its seemingly endless supply of sounds, suitable for whatever music one hears in one’s head.
“Starting out, you’ll find yourself picking it up and playing when you should be doing something else, but you’ll play the guitar anyway because it’s just more fun. I think it’s important to learn in lots of different ways. There’s nothing like having a real person sit next to you to watch what you’re doing and hear you play, and maybe correct you of some bad technique and show you better ways of doing things. I think it’s also good to listen to recordings of your favorite songs and play along. It’ll start teaching you to listen — and I mean really listen — which will make you better. Picking up the guitar and stringing a few notes or chords together was like magic for me in the very beginning. And when I was able to pick out the parts to songs I loved and play along, there was suddenly this whole other connection. I just love [everything about] it.” While he makes most of his bones these days behind the scenes, Edlin says that his rock ’n’ roll background still informs his classical work, and on a daily basis.
“Sometimes I co-write or play on tracks, like a lot of other people here in town,” Edlin says. “But I record classical music more than anything these days, which is just a whole different world. Recording a full orchestra by yourself is a challenge. I really enjoy chamber groups and small ensembles the best, things like string quartets and such … probably because it’s more or less similar to working with a band.”