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A Dirty Dozen with ROGER STREET FRIEDMAN – April 2020

| 24 April 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “When Larry Campbell, the GRAMMY winning producer and longtime collaborator of Levon Helm, says he wants to collaborate – you listen. Just ask Roger Street Friedman, the award-winning, NY-based singer-songwriter, whose “autobiographical, cinematic, blunt, and honest” songwriting has been compared to James Taylor, Randy Newman, and Jackson Browne (The Aquarian). With the release of Rise, the songwriter’s third studio album produced by Campbell, Friedman has crafted nothing less than a true expression – a statement of purpose that resonates as a career milestone – thanks in part to a partnership with Campbell that far exceeded Friedman’s expectations.” We get Roger to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about ‘Rise.’ What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I think the meaning behind a lot of the lyrics may need a few listens to really grab, along with the absolutely stellar production and playing of Larry Campbell.  There are a lot of really nice little “moments” in each track woven in between the vocal. I think diehard fans will recognize the rising chorus line in “Rise” as a motif I’ve used in both of my previous releases.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I started playing the guitar when I was seven years old, taught by my two older brothers, and by the time I was sixteen or so being a musician was pretty much wrapped around who I was as a person. In my late teens and early twenties, I was pursuing a career in music when my life took a left turn and I wound up going in a completely different direction.  It was a long way back, but after two plus decades in a career that wasn’t making me very happy spiritually, a number of life events, the loss of my parents and the birth of my daughter Allie specifically, held a mirror up to my soul and I got the message loud and clear that it was time to get back to who I am and start writing and performing again. That was about 12 years ago at this point and now I’m ready to release my third full length album.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

There are so many but there was one that influenced me the most right in the early stages of my journey back to music.  It may have been in 2009 my brother-in-law bought a few tickets to see the Levon Helm Band up at The Barn in Woodstock. That was such a magical experience, I was literally transported. It was so inspiring… and it was also the first time I got to see Larry Campbell live and up close. I was really blown away by the entire experience. We wound up going a number of times. At one show we were lucky enough to sit in the front row and when the show ended Levon would say hello and thanks on the way out. He shook my hand and gave my wife a kiss. That was quite a night.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Can I list more? The Beatles, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Robertson, The Band, Todd Rundgren, Bob Dylan, and Shawn Colvin.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Any of the above would be amazing but I think if I had to choose one it would have to be Paul Simon.  The way he writes and condenses broad swaths of meaning into one or two lines… I’d like just a little tiny bit of that mojo to rub off on me!!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I would say it’s an amalgam of Americana, Roots Rock, R&B (not as much on this record) and Singer/Songwriter.  Nothing’s made me cringe yet… but I’m sure it’s coming!

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Well – it’s usually me cracking out the acoustic guitar. As far as cooking and drinks, we do a good bit of eating at the venue and breakfast is usually a grab and go affair, and while in the past there have been many a late night telling stories and jokes around a bottle of bourbon, I quit drinking about 9 months ago, so now it’s a cup of tea or non-alcoholic beer… boring I know!

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

That’s easy!  It was last year at MSG. I was totally blown away by PINK! What a talented songwriter and performer. A superstar in every sense of the word. With a great message to boot!

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I would have to say that I never feel more like myself then when I’m writing, recording or performing.  That’s just about all we can ask for in life, I think. We only get one go around and I feel very lucky that I’m able to do what I love for that very reason.  What you realize is that it’s not really a choice, you can fight it but eventually you gotta follow your heart. Anything less is poisonous to the soul. If I couldn’t be a musician my dream job would be to be on the Ski Patrol in Telluride, Colorado!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I can’t think of either!

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Well – right after the release of The Waiting Sky in 2014 I got the opportunity to open up for Los Lobos at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock… being naïve about what it meant to be a supporting act, I brought the full 10 piece band, horn section and all.  We had a great set and Los Lobos were very gracious… but I was never asked to open for them again. Live and learn as they say!  Now we go out with a 3 or 4 piece band max for these slots.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Oh man that’s a hard one.  I would have to say Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Beatles with George Martin were just pushing the envelope so far with the available technology and developing new techniques in the studio.  It’s just an incredible record and I would have loved to have been there soaking that up. It sounds so good still and there are so many fond memories of being a young kid with those songs over the years… I mean – “A Day In The Life”… recorded music doesn’t get any better than that!





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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