Edwin McCain doesn't write songs. He writes audio versions of home movies.
Rather than just sit down and think up a song, McCain said, he's usually inspired by some change or transition in his life. That decision he makes or milestone he crosses, he said, determines his next song, and that's where the inspiration comes from.
McCain - whose new album, "Nobody's Fault But Mine," was released July 24 - will perform a free concert Saturday at Suwanee Town Center. His song "I'll Be" has serenaded thousands, if not millions, of brides and grooms for their first dance on their wedding day.
"It's a musical photo album," he said in a recent phone interview from his home in Greenville, S.C.
"There was a song about a lost love in college, and I remember her very well, and I know exactly how I screwed it up. You get to replay specific stories that influenced the songs. So yeah, it's like playing a movie and I can revisit all that. They're exactly like home movies - sometimes good and sometimes bad."
That means the subjects have changed over the years as he's grown up, gotten married and had children.
"For me, songs are kind of like diary entries," he said.
"When I come to a place in my life where I've had the "A-ha!" moment, where I'm trying to figure something out for myself, it usually comes along with a song of it'll come along with something not always good, sometimes bad, but something that needs to be noted.
"But it seems like the songs are noting the milestones for me in my life," he added. "I'm not one of those people who can just invent songs; I have a personal connection with the content."
McCain's latest album is a collection of R&B and soul covers, which he said was something he always wanted to do.
Growing up in South Carolina, he listened to music from Ted Spencer, Wilson Pickett and Al Green. His sister, he recalled, who was nine years older than him, was a big Earth, Wind & Fire fan.
"I remember, I saw the album cover for Earth, Wind & Fire; it was an album called ‘All 'n All,' and it was just so cool," he said. "And the first track on the first side of that album was a track called ‘Serpentine Fire,' and I remember I had headphones on and I was listening to it and it blew my mind. I couldn't believe that human beings could actually produce that music. And I was in. That was all I needed to hear."
So channelling soul music from the 1950s and '60s, he said, was a dream come true.
"It's something I've wanted to do for 10 years, so it really worked out," McCain said.
Earlier in his career, McCain could be found at any moment relentlessly touring the country, either with longtime friends Hootie and the Blowfish in the 1990s or supporting one of his many albums. Since 2000, McCain and his band have released either a studio album or a DVD nearly every year.
The pace has slowed recently, however, with his last original album, "Lost in America," in 2006 and, in the last month, the release of "Nobody's Fault But Mine."
His grueling schedule also used to include training for marathons. But that's changed too, he said.
"I enjoyed the process of setting a goal and accomplishing the goal, but marathoning for me is a bad idea," he said, laughing. "I had a good time. I'm glad I did it. It was kind of a bucket list thing to do. But with two kids now, there's no way you can go and spend 2« hours running."
Nowadays, he said, it's everything in moderation.
"For a long time I was always, whatever I was doing, I was either all the way in or all the way out," he said. "And you set yourself up for a considerable amount of frustration when you're either all or none all the time. And it didn't really make sense to be like that, so I decided to give that a break."