Greenville’s own Edwin McCain talks fame, independence, and the importance of giving back
Edwin McCain promised his dad he wouldn’t be a musician. He planned on studying law. But fame came calling after a guitar teacher at Coastal Carolina University recognized his talent and talked him into playing gigs. Known for his chart-topping hits “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask for More,” Edwin McCain is a homegrown Greenville celebrity. But McCain says his dad has way more fans.
Retired Greenville pediatrician Watt McCain doctored generations of Greenvillians, and through his work on mission trips to Haiti and serving with Doctors Without Borders, set a remarkable example of charity for his family and community. Throughout his thirty-something years of fame, Edwin McCain has made service a priority, and has continued his father’s example of kindness.
Born and raised in Greenville, McCain graduated from Christ Church Episcopal School. He sang in the church choir and played in bands in high school. He tried college but found his passion in music. “I was bussing at a Mexican restaurant during the Spoleto Festival in Charleston and the manager said he’d pay me $75 and feed me if I’d play on their deck. I thought I was rich! I dropped out of college the next day.” It was the end of the grunge era, when Dave Matthews and Hootie and the Blowfish were gaining popularity.
“I put a band together and we started opening for Hootie,” he says. When Atlantic Records asked Hootie to sign, lead singer Darius Rucker said they’d sign if the label took McCain, too. When McCain’s song “I’ll Be” appeared in the final episode of hit show Dawson’s Creek, record sales skyrocketed.
The next decade is still a blur. “I was a wreck,” he says. “That life was such an unnatural state of being.” He was playing music, doing interviews, partying, getting three hours of sleep a night, waking up, and doing it all over again. He found himself in rehab for a hard reset.
“I wasn’t cut out for the big-label music industry,” he says. McCain found his sweet spot in independence. “The thing I’m most proud of, career-wise, is the longevity of it.” He still tours, and often plays favorite South Carolina venues the TD Stage (at the Peace Center), Newberry Opera House, The Windjammer in Isle of Palms, and Charleston Music Hall. He even recently took the stage at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee, but his time is now focused on his wife, Christy, and three teenagers, Watt, Ben, and Tiller. These days, you’ll find him proudly yelling on the sidelines of every lacrosse, basketball, and soccer game.
Through it all, he hasn’t given up on giving back. In Charleston, he started The America Street Foundation, to refurbish dilapidated houses for low-income families. For more than a decade, he has been raising money with Darius Rucker for the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital.
He’s worked with Project Host and Habitat for Humanity in Greenville, and in 2006, he co-founded euphoria, Greenville’s premier food, wine, and music festival, with Greenville restaurateur Carl Sobocinski. Through its goal of giving back to the community, the festival has awarded grant money to more than forty local charities.
McCain gives Sobocinski most of the credit for euphoria’s success, and after ten years, he fired himself from the festival. “I’ve been a part of a lot of festivals around the country, and the ones that succeed evolve,” he says. “I’m happy to see euphoria has gone on without me, but let’s be honest, if we’d gone with my idea, people would be eating hot dogs in a parking lot.”
McCain doesn’t seek recognition for his charitable work. “Most of the charity stuff I do is under the radar,” he admits. But the Meyer Center for Special Children, which provides educational and therapeutic services for children with disabilities, has McCain’s heart. Many of the parents of children at this school were told by doctors they’d never have a meaningful relationship with their child, McCain notes. “Meyer Center says, ‘Don’t listen to them; we got this.’ If you ever think you have a bad day, go there to take a tour, and I guarantee you will understand the importance of charitable giving.”
Follow Edwin on TikTok @theedwinmccain
Songs by McCain worth adding to your library
“I Could Not Ask for More”
“Walk with You”