An Interview with Dean Friedman

1 0
Read Time:10 Minute, 26 Second
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is thumbnail_Original-Logo-899x1024.png

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with the talented Dean Friedman. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, his newest music, his opinion of the music scene today, and what he’s looking forward to the most once COVID-19 breaks.

Dean’s new album, American Lullaby is out on August 27th, 2021. His music catalog, books, and tickets to his 2022 Tour can be found on his website: www.DeanFriedman.com. Enjoy this interview with Dean. Cheers.

Andrew:
Dean, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?
 

Dean:
My experience of the past year, really the past 6 years, since America elected a Russian money-laundering, failed reality-TV-show huckster for president, has been one of sheer bewilderment, befuddlement, and incredulity at the mind-bending shattering of any sense of normalcy, security, and stability in the lives of my family, friends, community and, basically, everyone else on the planet. Also, having been spared the worst effects of the pandemic, I’ve had a great time working on a new album and enjoying the luxury of time, imposed on most of us as a result of the lockdown. One of the strangest and unanticipated consequences of the lockdown was that by forcing the world to a grinding halt, and most of us into relative isolation, it provided us with a rare opportunity to actually slow down, take stock of our lives and bring into focus those things we cared most deeply about.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music? 

Dean:
I grew up in a house filled with music. My mom was a singer and performer who’d worked in Broadway and Film and there was always some show-tune on the piano or some aria playing on the turntable. It was inevitable that, whatever I wound up doing professionally, music was going to be a big part of my life.

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences? 

Dean:
Growing up in a musical household my influences were always eclectic. I’ve always loved all kinds of music and that’s reflected in my work; a typical Dean Friedman album will run the gamut of musical idioms, from Pop to Rock to Country to Folk to Jazz to Classical. George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, all the Broadway songwriters to start, then, once I got my first transistor radio, top-40 coursed through my veins – The Beatles, Dylan, Stevie Wonder. I always had a special affinity for those singer-songwriters who, somehow, managed to paint vivid pictures with their words and music – folks like Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Elton John, and Bernie Taupin. To my ears, those songs had the power to transport the listener to another place and time – something I always aspired to do as a young singer-songwriter, starting out. And something I still aspire to do, every time I sit down to write a new song. I like the idea of inviting the listener into the song, itself, making them part of the song.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events first. Tell us about your new album, American Lullaby.

Dean:
American Lullaby is my personal take – a chronicle – of all the crazy, surreal stuff America – and the world – has endured these past 6 years.

It touches on a broad range of topics, including the calamitous pandemic, looming environmental disaster, racism, sexism, and an intractable culture war…all exacerbated by our inane and disastrous politics.

And like all lullabies, it’s filled with tales of dark deeds and disaster, but couched in soft, gentle tones, meant to soothe and comfort the listener, while gently bracing them for the potential terrors that await.

But, I promise – the album is not all gloom and doom; it’s filled with optimism and faith. I’m insistent on hope, laughter, and joy. We’ve all been through a prolonged emotional trauma that is palpable and requires tending to, so some serious silliness is called for.

Andrew:
What lyrical themes are you exploring with your new music? Songs such as “Halfway Normal World,” “The Russians Are Coming!,” and “Welcome to Stupid Town” seem to come from some pretty deep places.

Dean:
Well, in trying to understand, and hope to process, what’s just happened, my job as an artist is to try and look reality “straight-in-the-face!” All these things really happened – and continue to happen: March 2020, the entire planet came to a stand-still. What we’d previously thought of as “normal” suddenly became a far-off, hopeful yearning. Vladimir Putin executed an intelligence operation that succeeded in placing a long-time money-launderer and Russian asset into the White House; and shattered the UK’s economic stability, for the foreseeable future, by bankrolling a fact-free, fear-driven campaign to promote Brexit, one of the most disastrous “own goals” in the history of British politics. And none of this is hyperbole: every word of “The Russians are Coming” is true – confirmed by the five-volume, bi-partisan “Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian Active Measures, Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election.” A predictable global pandemic caused the unnecessary deaths of millions and sent modern society into total paralysis. Clean water is growing scarce, America’s west coast is burning, the air unbreathable, parts of Europe are drowning, hundreds dead – “Sorry ‘bout That” is an apology to the next generation that’s going to inherit the terrible mess we’ve made of our beautiful planet. “Ridin’ with Biden” is not just a catchy campaign song – it’s a reminder that we just dodged a bullet; that if Biden hadn’t won, a second Trump term would have spelled unimaginable disaster, and that the tag team of tyranny and despotism are relentless, with democracy still in its sights. But, again, mixed in with all the dire warnings is a healthy measure of hilarity and an ample dose of silliness – both necessary ingredients for surviving difficult times.

Andrew:
This album was crowdfunded. Tell us about that experience. It must be extremely gratifying to know your fans are touched enough by your work to the level that they stepped in to help make it happen. 

Dean:
I couldn’t do what I do without the enthusiastic support of my listening audience and for that, I am eminently grateful. The first album I ever crowdfunded was The Treehouse Journal back in 2001 when I explained to folks on my email list that I had written a bunch of songs I wanted to record and if they would be so kind as to pre-order the CD’s, I’d have the money to upgrade my studio and pay musicians. At first, I was afraid that everyone would write back saying, “Dean, why don’t you get a proper job?” And some folks actually did just that! But enough people were supportive of the idea, and a year later I delivered a brand new album. That was back in 2001, a full six years before the crowdfunding sites IndieGoGo and Kickstarter even existed. The band Marillion is recognized as having crowdfunded the first-ever music project, a year before me, but so far as I know, I’m the first solo artist to have done so. And I’ve been crowdfunding my albums ever since.

Andrew:
You’ve been at it a long time. As a songwriter, how have you evolved?

Dean:
I’d like to think I’ve managed to hone my craft a bit, after all these years; improved my technique, with the benefit of all this accumulated writing experience. And I hope I’ve acquired some small measure of maturity in my writing, as well. But, at the same time as I strive to improve my songwriting chops, over time, I always strive to retain the same sense of wonder and adventure, and discovery that were such crucial ingredients of the songs from my early days. Craft can be learned but heart, sincerity, empathy, and authenticity are aspects of life that you have to open yourself up to and be willing to expose. They’re not so much learned as they are nurtured and revealed. [Note: Dean’s book on songwriting, The Songwriter’s Handbook, is available on his website www.DeanFriedman.com and through Amazon.com].

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? What are a few of your favorite albums and why?
 

Dean:
In 2018, I manufactured a re-mastered 12” Vinyl LP of my album, “Well, Well,” Said the Rocking Chair to celebrate its 40th anniversary. And when I first listened to the vinyl test pressing, I was delighted, and very much surprised, at how good it sounded – even better, to my ears, than the CD. I still love working in the digital realm for its clarity and absence of noise, but analog mediums like tape and vinyl will always be an important part of the sonic landscape.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?
 

Dean:
My dad was an illustrator and I’ve always loved cartoons and animation. It’s led to lifelong involvement in various forms of multimedia, including developing Virtual Reality video games for Nickelodeon TV (Nick Arcade, Total Panic), creating Interactive Music Exhibits for children’s museums and theme parks around the world (Eureka! Children’s Museum, Disney’s Epcot Center). I suppose the visual element, along with a general sense of “playfulness,” has always informed my approach to songwriting and recording. There’s plenty of evidence of that on the new album, American Lullaby. Even in the process of telling sometimes difficult stories, I think there’s a discernable sense of playfulness, as well as a strong visual component to the storytelling, that permeates the album.

Andrew:
In your opinion, what is the state of the music business these days? Should artists be hopeful? Scared? Both?

Dean:
Both. Artists are still getting screwed by the gatekeepers – the powers that be – but, these days, instead of just the labels and publishers, it’s the big DSP’s – Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube, etc…that are scoffing up the lion’s share of revenue and exploiting the artist. But, at the same time, present-day technology has dramatically democratized the production of music and potential access to an audience, making it possible for more and more musicians to create music and find listeners. The mainstream gatekeeps still hold sway 99% of the time, but there are more routes to making music, and acquiring an audience, than ever before. Even there, the hardest part is still figuring out how to make a living doing it. Never an easy thing to do. (Even if you’ve enjoyed multiple chart hits, in different countries, all over the world!).

Andrew:
Last one. We seem to be nearing a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of COVID-19 restrictions. That said, what’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the post-COVID world? 

Dean:
In the past 16 months, I’ve been forced to reschedule the dates of a forty-city UK/Ireland tour not once, but twice, and in some instances, three times. Like every other touring musician, I had to cancel my live dates and wound up doing regular webcasts and Zoom concerts, which I’ve found surprisingly satisfying and even intimate. Weirdly, seeing into people’s homes, their pets jumping up on their laps, family wandering in and out of the video frame but I very much look forward to finally getting back on the road and being able to share my songs with a live audience in a live venue. So, barring some giant meteor crashing into the moon and shutting down all air travel, I’m determined to grab my bags and guitar, hop on a plane and kick off my next UK/Ireland tour in April 2022.

Interested in learning more about Dean Friedman? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
Happy
Happy
0 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

Social profiles
%d bloggers like this: