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Music: 6 questions for Graham Edwards

Graham who? If that was your first response, you wouldn't be alone, even within the local musician community. Yet you've likely seen Edwards and his acts play many times here in Sonoma Valley – having played closing night at the Sonoma International Film Festival, numerous winery and club member events and even headlined the City Party last year.

But Edwards is not one to grasp at the spotlight, but surrounds himself with those that do, front people like Mayra Swatt, Kyle Lundstedt, Codi Binkley, Ellen Toscano and David Grohol (not that one).

Edwards grew up on the east coast, New York and the New England area, spent time in Los Angeles and finally made his way to San Francisco in the early 1990s. Music and playing was always part of his life, kinda. Freshly married and knowing his child was going to take up most of his free time, he lamented getting rid of all the music gear but thought, you know, this is something I can do with just me, so the guitars stayed.

Along the way to San Francisco he had a layover in Dallas and was getting his shoes shined, a guy sat down next to him. It happened to be his friend from high school back in New Jersey, David Grohol, with whom he never played music, but tennis, and hadn't seen in years.

Roll the clock forward and they both ended up in San Francisco and would come up to Sonoma, Grohol moving here first followed by Edwards and his wife Sarah who would come up to visit on weekends and, like many before and since, fell in love with the town. They thought: Why don't we just move here? So they did.

But before that, it was visits to Grohol's house to see music on the Plaza at the former Sebastiani tasting room where the first local band he started was cooked up by the duo. While watching the act play they thought, we could do this, so they recorded an acoustic CD and talked their way into a gig, then brought about 80 of their friends from San Francisco with them. Getting an encore performance in the small tasting room was not going to be an issue any longer.

At one of those shows, they were approached to play an out-of-town gig and asked to 'bring the whole band.' Sure, they said. Only problem was – they didn't have a whole band, and knew literally no one around that they could tap into. So a Craigslist ad produced a rhythm section and Isabel's Basement was born, named after his daughter and the place they practiced at the house in San Francisco. That act rolled into Loosely Covered and since has enjoyed the company of many local musicians, including Scott DeMartini, Bill Nelson and even yours truly.

Edwards told us about his musical influences and bringing Sonoma some grooves that 'just might kill' us.

Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?

It was actually two different things. In 1976 I got a record player for Christmas and went out and bought my first record, 'One More from the Road,' the live Lynyrd Skynyrd album and I played it over and over and over. I didn't know what or how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to do something to be in a band and play that music. This was during the CB radio craze and with that I found some guys in a neighboring town that wanted to jam. We played 'Needle and the Spoon' for literally hours and days. I ran into one of the guys a while back. He said his mother still cannot listen to that song.

Your first instrument: What was it and do you still have it?

I don't have it, but it was a Japanese knock off of a Gibson SG. My mom took me to my first guitar lesson and after the lesson, the instructor took her aside and said, 'He probably shouldn't be playing guitar.' I seemed to be good at organizing bands though so kept playing and I eventually sold that guitar.

Who are your main influences?

Eddie Van Halen, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Page. When I heard the first Van Halen album I was blown away, I wanted to know how to play like that, but playing like Billy Gibbons seemed much more attainable, so ZZ Top became a big influence.

What CD or playlist is in your car?

Depends on who's in the car. My daughter and I used to spend a lot of time commuting from Sonoma to San Francisco so we would listen to her music half the time and my music the other half. I would have just listened to classic rock or Classic Vinyl on XM radio, but listening to her music kept me hip to newer music I would have likely never heard.

Tell us about your current acts.

Funk Fatale, the act that did the City Party is the primary act now. It's a dance band and nothing else. The ideas is to have a mashup of classic and contemporary dance songs, and they must have a groove, hence the bands tagline: 'A groove that just might kill ya.' Crowd-pleasing dance songs are key, and we usually have a group of go-go dancing girls with us on stage, to help fill up the dance floor.

If you could have written one song, which would it be?

(Without hesitation) 'Sultans of Swing' by Dire Straits. To me, it's perfectly crafted musically from start to finish, then factor in the lyrics and it's actually a love song that I really identify with.

For more info on Funk Fatale and where they will be playing, you can find them at funkfatale.com.

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