Edie Brickell was a pioneer of sorts, reviving the gangly sound of hippie folk-rock in the late 1980s, just before it became trendy. With her band New Bohemians, Brickell scored an unexpected Top Ten hit in 1988 with "What I Am," a dreamy, loose-limbed number that quietly stood in opposition to the heady materialism of the '80s. While the band never managed to replicate the commercial success of "What I Am," the song remained a staple of its era, and Brickell parlayed its enduring popularity into an unpredictable career that stretched over the decades. Following the disbandment of New Bohemians in the early '90s, Brickell spent some time on a solo career before experiencing a renaissance in the 2010s, first with the Gaddabouts and then with a series of albums with Steve Martin -- a stretch that culminated in the 2018 reunion of New Bohemians.
Brickell was born and raised in the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff, attending the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts as an adolescent. She didn't begin performing music until attending Southern Methodist University, where she was convinced to sing with New Bohemians, a band featuring fellow Booker T. Washington alumni. Bassist Brad Houser, drummer Brandon Aly, and guitarist Eric Presswood had been playing as New Bohemians since the early '80s, long before Brickell sat in with the band one night in early 1985. The pairing went so well that the union became permanent shortly afterward. New Bohemians began playing various Dallas suburbs, adding guitarist Kenny Withrow -- who replaced Presswood -- and percussionist John Bush along the way.
New Bohemians quickly became a fixture on the college rock circuit of the Dallas environs, self-releasing the cassette album It's Like This… in 1986 and earning the attention of major record labels. The band signed to Geffen, altered their official name to Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, and headed to Rockfield Studios in Wales to record their first album. During the sessions, Aly was axed by the label, with Chris Whitten taking over drumming duties for a good chunk of the album. The resulting Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars appeared in 1988 and climbed all the way to number four on the Billboard Top 200 thanks to the Top Ten hit "What I Am."
Hiring Matt Chamberlain as their drummer, New Bohemians recorded Ghost of a Dog, which appeared in October 1990. Failing to generate a hit along the lines of "What I Am," Ghost of a Dog quickly stalled the band's momentum, leading to their dissolution shortly after its release.
Brickell married Paul Simon on May 30, 1992 -- the couple met when New Bohemians played Saturday Night Live in November 1988; they would have three children together -- and eased into a solo career with the 1994 release of Picture Perfect Morning. Debuting at 68 on the Billboard Top 200, Picture Perfect Morning generated the modest adult contemporary hit "Good Times," but didn't gain a lot of attention during the peak years of alternative rock. Brickell sat out the remainder of the '90s, resurfacing in 2003 with Volcano, a record produced by Charlie Sexton. It peaked at 188 on the Billboard 200.
The original New Bohemians line-up featuring drummer Brandon Aly reunited to record 2006's Stranger Things with producer Bryce Goggin. Stranger Things featured keyboardist Carter Albrecht, a fellow member of the Dallas alt-rock scene; he died on September 3, 2007 after being shot by his girlfriend's neighbor.
In 2008, Brickell teamed up with Harper Simon -- Paul's son from his first marriage -- to form the Heavy Circles, an indie pop group that released an eponymous album on Dynamite Child that year. Her next project was the Gaddabouts, a band also featuring guitarist Andy Fairweather Low and bassist Pino Palladino. The Gaddabouts released an eponymous album in 2011, followed by Look Out Now! in 2012, before fading away. Brickell teamed with Steve Martin for 2013's Love Has Come for You, a handsome Americana album released on Rounder Records. The album inspired the pair to write the musical Bright Star, which was workshopped in 2013, receiving its world premiere at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre on September 28, 2014. By that point, Brickell and Martin had wrapped up a supporting tour for Love Has Come for You with Martin's bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers; 2014's LIVE: Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell documented the jaunt. Brickell and Martin quickly followed their first studio album with So Familiar in 2015.
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians reunited in 2017 for a series of live shows benefitting the Oak Cliff school La Rondalla. These shows sparked the group to write and record Rocket, which was released in October 2018. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine