Kathleen Edwards was born in Ottawa, Canada, to parents in the Foreign Service and spent portions of her youth in Korea and Switzerland. At age 5, she began classical violin studies that continued for the next 12 years.
As an adolescent, Edwards went through a typical teen-pop phase. But when the Edwards family moved overseas, away from the North American commercial mainstream, she was drawn to her brother's record collection. "A lot of my music came from what he was listening to, although he's only two years older. He was really into Neil Young and Bob Dylan, and he bought me my first record, a Tom Petty album."
By the time she graduated from high school and had decided not to go to college, she was playing acoustic cover tunes in local clubs. "I probably got into it during my last two years of high school. Ani DiFranco was a big influence. I'd try to learn her guitar parts by ear, that very percussive style."
Whiskeytown's 1997 album Strangers Almanac remains a personal favorite to this day. The example of Ryan Adams and company also sparked Edwards' determination to write her own songs; which she began to do in earnest after leaving home and moving into her own small apartment.
In 1999, Edwards recorded a six-song EP entitled Building 55 and pressed up 500 copies. By fall 2000, she was on tour across Canada, booking her own dates and driving herself in an old Suburban. In a few months over the summer of 2001, while going through a breakup with an old boyfriend, she wrote seven of the 10 songs for her 2003 Rounder debut release Failer. After constant touring, Back to Me followed in early 2005.