County Road One comes full circle
By Sue Tiffin
Published Feb. 6, 2018
Ten years ago, Joel Edwards gave music up.
The former Haliburton resident was looking for something different in his life, then. He sold his instruments and said he didn’t want anything to do with it.
But then in March 2016, Minden resident Jay Corby – Edwards’s brother-in-law, longtime friend and fellow bandmate – died as the result of a car accident. Since the unexpected phone call almost two years ago that bore that dreadful news, Edwards's grief has brought him back, full circle, he says, to music.
“It really started with Jay,” he said. “After his accident, Sarah [Corby’s sister and Edwards’s wife] and I were in such a whirlwind. The first year was just hell.”
Edwards had been planning on becoming a global worker for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada in El Salvador with his family when Corby’s death caused him to rethink his plans.
“After Jay, it was just like, it stopped everything,” said Edwards. “Everything was refocused into our family.”
He said that grief and the reconnection to family he hadn’t seen in awhile brought people together, and also reinvigorated a passion for songwriting he had set aside years before.
“It just came, it just came out of my heart,” he said. “I started playing it, and all of a sudden one after another, all these songs and melodies ... I would sit down and literally write a song in 10 minutes. It all came out of just refocusing and living life every day, doing something you’re so passionate about.”
After Corby’s funeral, Edwards reached out to Corby’s cousin, Earl Johnson, who had been a third member in their band Cronic in their post-high school days, to see if he might be interested in playing in a new band together almost two decades later. As it turned out, Johnson was. Though Edwards and another bandmate, Theo John, are based in Oshawa, Johnson makes the commute from Haliburton to practice and play gigs in that area.
“It’s a brotherhood that was never lost, really,” said Johnson. “We always have a good time playing together, we know each other well on musical levels and personal levels. The growth was a big thing, we have a lot more to offer on the table. Just getting together jamming, it’s like we never stopped.”
The band name, County Road One, came from one of the songs Edwards had written and just stuck.
It seems the band is sticking too, with bar gigs and a fundraiser coming up in Oshawa, and a recent announcement that they’ll be playing at the Haliburton County Fair in June. This summer, they’ll also play the third annual Jayfest, a tribute to their friend.
“We’ve all been on these different journeys, for it all to end up [here],” said Edwards. He speaks to one of his songs in which he’s written about everything coming full circle. “I never really thought I’d be singing this right now, but everything’s come full circle. It just kind of points to everything that’s happened with the band, and with our lives and everything else.”
Though they used to play rock music together, much of County Road One’s material is now country.
“The tunes are great,” said Johnson. “Everything [Edwards] writes is from the heart, so I think people relate to that more.”
Edwards said his love for music influences the sound of his work, and the band is able to “bring the song to a whole new level.” They’re working on putting a demo together now and excited about booking more upcoming shows.
Getting back into music in their adult lives has had challenges, including the travel time for practice, which doesn’t always happen if the weather isn’t great. Still, they remain committed to making it work.
“Everyone’s got their lives, we’re like, 40 years old,” laughed Edwards.
“Well, being an adult sometimes kind of sucks, and it’s nice to be able to do what you love to do, and makes you feel a little young,” laughed Johnson, who said music had taken a bit of an aside to raising a young family over the years. His wife, Melanie, is supportive of the band.
“She’s very happy to see I’m doing what I love to do,” he said. “Our kids are all teenagers now and it’s a little easier to get out of the house to play. It doesn’t hurt that it’s country music, which she loves as well.”
Grief from the loss of Corby is still something the friends work through each day, but getting together again to make music, one of Corby’s well-known loves, helps the bandmates work through their loss.
“There’s a certain kind of chemistry everyone has where you feed off each other,” said Johnson.
“It really woke us up, to regrets and things we wish we had done while he was here, things we wish we had said, things we wish we wouldn’t have said,” said Edwards. “We live our life now every day where we don’t want these regrets, we want to go after our passions.”
“I miss Jay every day, if he was here, oh my gosh ... It’d be like a reunion, and we’d go from there.”