By Kenny Kerner

Bill Edwards has been playing guitar since thirteen and, at sixteen, wrote his very first original song called "The Little Boy." Though autobiographical, as Bill recalls, he also admits that "it was pretty bad." Bill took to writing and by eighteen was doing the singer-songwriter thing in Buffalo, New York, at club and college circuits. These days, Bill's original songs are flooding the major record labels in Nashville, being pitched to everyone from LeAnn Womack to Travis Tritt.

Unlike most of us who, at an early age, make the determination to take music seriously as a career, Bill opted to go for a good paying job and pursue music as more of a hobby until his mid-thirties. "I played music for a living for about three or four years after I got out of college, but it kinda dawned on me that I didn't enjoy traveling that much and that I was kind of a homebody. Things like the lack of a pension plan, you know. So I just started looking around for a new way to make a living. So I turned to retailing."

The fact that Bill turned to retailing did not mean that he turned away from music. "In 1989, kind of on a whim, I entered the Billboard songwriting contest and won in the country division. I was playing in a part-time country band at the time and decided, after moving to Michigan, that I didn't want to play in bars anymore. I was determined to get serious about my songwriting. So, shortly after that, I joined TAXI as a mechanism to learn and to try and get my stuff out in front of people."

Having discovered TAXI through ads in recording magazines, Bill joined and began getting forwards. And although getting his material forwarded to other companies was a good thing, the critiques really were the rewards for Bill. "The critiques have helped me learn more about my songs. Over the past couple of years I've gotten more serious about writing, to the point where now. For the first time, I'm actually scheduling time to get my music done. I learned that you have to take instruction to heart. It's very easy, especially when you're not living in a music center, to be just a little too cool for school. Sometime you need to make a very sober assessment of yourself and admit that what you're writing is not as good as what's on the radio."

Edwards' material first saw the light of day when two of his songs earned single-song publishing deals through TAXI but the real pot of gold came to him almost accidentally at the most recent 2003 Road Rally. "I signed up for a mentoring session with Susan Tucker (she heads up Sage House Music) and played her three of my tunes. When she asked what I was trying to do, I told her that I kind of needed someone to champion my music in Nashville and she said that she might be the one to do just that."

Bill got back home to Ann Arbor and mailed Susan two discs with his 27 original songs on them. Susan must have been impressed because she first offered Bill a series of single-song deals for his music. Then, after some more consideration, she called again and changed the deal to a staff writer deal which Bill can participate in from his home in Michigan. "This is a pretty sweet deal," according to Bill. "I get to keep half of the publishing and she works the songs to major record companies. There is no minimum number of songs that I have to write." All indications are that the deal will be signed shortly.

Though Bill just raves about the networking possibilities at the Road Rallies, (this was his fourth), he in no way downplays the instructional value of the entire TAXI effort. "They have been supportive beyond my expectations. Sometimes, when you get a song back that was not forwarded, it's frustrating, but it's also instructive. And you have to be open minded and take the instruction and move on and keep improving. The big thing about TAXI is that I'm confident it's an honest organization that has my best interests in mind."

Right now, Bill is trying to come up with one "keeper" song every two weeks, which would total about 25 keepers a year. Considering how his songwriting has grown over the past few years, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Bill Edwards at the next TAXI Road Rally telling us how he got one of his songs on the Billboard Country charts.

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