I Mother Earth stay grounded

ANNA LAZOWSKI

, Last Updated: 9:11 PM ET

If only one phoenix can rise from the ashes of the original I Mother Earth lineup, the race is on.

Ex-lead singer Edwin is playing Edgefest this Tuesday to support his own solo effort, while the newly constituted band -- with vocalist Brian Byrne -- is set to release its Blue Green Orange album on July 13.

Since Edwin took top honours in Chart Magazine's Sexiest Canadian Musician readers' poll shortly after leaving the band, the remaining members of I Mother Earth had to figure out a way to replace him without upsetting too much of their fan base.

By way of introducing Byrne to those fans, the band has decided to unveil him at a series of free shows across the country.

During IME's recent stop in Winnipeg, multi-pierced guitarist Jag Tanna and Byrne, with tattoos peeking out from under his sleeve, held court in the lounge at the Sheraton Hotel.

As Fatboy Slim played softly in the background they joked and chatted about how the band has evolved since 1992, when Tanna and his drummer brother Christian met Edwin at a studio in Peterborough, Ont. Their 1994 debut, Dig, became an overnight success, while 1996's Scenery And Fish sold more than 100,000 units.

Though the band was always known for its energetic live sets, Tanna says Byrne has brought energy levels up so high the rest of the band has begun to feel upstaged.

"We've got a guy who's 10 years younger and excited to be there. It's a whole different thing onstage now. So we just try to keep it together musically while he does his thing, 'cause he's like a wild chicken."

Tanna spent a lot of time with Byrne before introducing him to bassist Bruce Gordon and drummer Christian Tanna.

"We hung out and once I felt comfortable with him I had my brother and Bruce come over. He stood up and sang, left and we said, 'He's in the band.'

"But we didn't tell him for four months. We already had half the album written and then we said, 'OK, you're in the band.' It wasn't to be mean, it was just making sure he wasn't a freak. We've had it with freaks."

Given the shoes he has to fill, the shaggy-blond Byrne wisely says he isn't looking to be the rock world's next glamour puss.

"There are a lot of very wonderful-looking frontmen out there and that's cool. I just find that when the importance is placed on that then there's something very weird. Especially because I never really consider myself much to look at -- ever."


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