Meet the 20-Year-Old Guitar Hero Discovered Onstage at Canadian Music Week
After a chance encounter playing in someone else’s band, Charlie Edward is now working with some major names in the rock music industry.
Many artists playing industry music events dream of getting discovered onstage at their festival showcase. For Charlie Edward, he got discovered at somebody else's.
Edward was a hired gun for a local band at Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2022, but he was the one who caught Festival Director Andrew Valle’s eye that night. After watching the young musician sing backup vocals and shred on his blue Strat, Valle approached the band’s manager and asked “Who’s the guitar player?”
The manager brushed it off. Edward was the only one who wasn’t an official member of the group.
“I was just sort of a background guy,” the Toronto-based Edward says from his family home in London, Ontario. “I was a session guy. It wasn’t my own thing.”
Valle found him again at a show at the Horseshoe Tavern a couple of months later, and this time he was ready. He signed on as Edward’s manager as part of LOFT Entertainment, a company led by Canadian music industry mogul Randy Lennox. (LOFT also has a strategic partnership with Billboard Canada). He also set them up with three agents from Paquin Artists Agency (Ralph James, Jason Furman & Mike Graham).
All are big industry names, but Edward didn’t feel out of place.
“These are a lot of the people who put out the music I loved when I was a kid,” he says. “So it feels natural. It’s in my DNA.”
For a 20-year-old just starting to record his own music, Edward has been in the same room with a lot of his rock heroes. When he was a teenager, he spent time recording with Guns N’ Roses’ Steven Adler and Foreigner’s Jeff Pilson. He recorded a three-song EP in Detroit with Kid Rock guitarist Marlon Young along with producers Al Sutton and Herschel Boone — the team who discovered and developed fellow rock revivalists Greta Van Fleet. Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots, Edward’s favourite band, told him he loved the recordings.
“There is a bit of a rock resurgence happening right now, but unfortunately you do still have to look for it,” Edward says, absentmindedly noodling with his unplugged electric guitar. “When I was just a teenager, I didn’t really have that community. So if there's any chance to bring back rock & roll in its dirtiest and realest and nastiest sense, I want to be that guy. “
His songs are heavily influenced by ‘70s and ‘80s hard rock, with lyrics taken from his own experiences — no metaphors. He also does a slow-burning cover of the country-tinged acoustic ballad “Simple Things” by up-and-coming songwriter Teddy Swims (who debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 last summer). He hopes he’ll hear it.
As of right now, though, if you want to hear Edward’s music it’s mostly on stage. He was handed his first guitar as a four-year-old at his parents’ wedding and he says he was on tour the day he graduated high school. His parents are both musicians, and so he was dreaming of rock stardom for as long as he can remember.
“I was in kindergarten fantasizing about getting to go and play some big shows,” he says.
In the last year, Edward got the chance to play at some prestigious events with legends of Canadian music. He returned to play the Canadian Live Music Awards at last year’s CMW, then the Canada’s Rock of Fame event at Massey Hall. Slightly hungover from a late night at the hotel bar with Mike Reno of Loverboy, he joined Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson to riff and solo as heavy as he wanted in tribute to rock heroes Prism, Max Webster and Geddy Lee from Rush.
Now that he’s been in the right rooms, his 2024 goal is to play live. A lot.
“I think 200 shows is pretty admirable, no matter how old or how young you are,” he says. “I'd like to do that.”