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Almost A Dirty Dozen with EDDIE BERMAN – October 2021

| 5 October 2021 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Portland-based folk artist Eddie Berman has just announced Broken English, a new album of campfire-worthy, cosmic folk rock, out January 21st via Nettwerk Records. Presciently written before the pandemic, the 11-song suite explores the precarious state of a world sinking deeper into isolation, and its tumultuous effects on our relationship to work, family, technology, and community. Berman announced the album with the release of its title track, which Glide Magazine called “delicate but commanding,” bringing to mind “the folksier studio recordings of the Grateful Dead.” Berman made his debut with the EP Blood & Rust, featuring his duet of “Dancing in the Dark” with British folk icon Laura Marling. His subsequent release generated tens of millions of streams, placements on major Spotify playlists like Your Favorite Coffeehouse, Acoustic Covers, and The Pulse of Americana, and nationwide tours with Laura Marling, Tyler Childers, Passenger and Lee Ann Womack.” We get Eddie to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  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?

This single “Broken English”, which is the title track off my upcoming album, is a kind of exploration of the precarious state of a world sinking deeper into isolation, and its effects on our relationships to our communities, the natural world, technology, and ourselves. It was written in late 2019, a few months before we heard of covid. So the last 18 months have really kicked these feelings into overdrive. On this album there are definitely allusions to the things I was reading and listening to when I was writing the album – people like Annie Dillard, Cormac McCarthy, Dostoyevsky, and Alan Watts. This single has a vague reference to a speech from a crazy monk in The Brothers Karamazov.

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

I was a pretty serious water polo player when I was in high school (and extraordinarily briefly in college) – the summer when I was 15, I was on a team trip in Europe where we were getting our asses kicked by a bunch of 30 year old professionals. I came back to the strange French port town hotel we were staying in after a particularly brutal day of scrimmaging, and randomly found a CD of my dad’s called The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It unlocked something in my brain. I went from having no interest in playing music to feeling an overpowering compulsion – I had to learn how to fingerpick like Dylan did.

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

Dylan was definitely my starting point in lyricism and musicianship. I started looking up some of his direct influences like Rambling Jack Elliot and Woody Guthrie and folks he influenced, who are too many to name.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

I’m influenced (for better or for worse) by just about everything I hear, but the people I got into when I was first playing guitar and writing songs really poured the foundation of my musical taste. Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, and Mississippi John Hurt.

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

I’d want to collaborate with the late Irish poet John O’ Donohue, just so I could have a drink and talk with him.

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?

Describing yourself and your own work is tricky business. I think it’s best for others to do if they want. But when people ask me what kind of music I play – I say something like “folky, lyrical kinda stuff. Lots of lap steel, horns, and upright bass” It wasn’t a cringing comment, just sort of an inexplicable one: after I opened for Lee Ann Womack at Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, CA a very drunk woman came up to me and shouted “you’re gonna be the next Garth Brooks! I just know it!”. It was very sweet but deeply odd.

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

I grew up in LA so you kinda get over seeing famous people at a young age. But around the age of 9 or 10 I met Adam Sandler at a Chinese restaurant, and I met Magic Johnson in the parking lot of a California Pizza Kitchen. Both guys couldn’t have been cooler.

8. 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?

Doing something for a living that is one of my main sources of calm and happiness is definitely the best part. I’ll play and write music whether I’m paid or not and whether anyone listens or not. It’s just what I do. I have gotten very into smoking meats during the pandemic. I’ve got some solid bbq recipes down but my smoked trout is pretty damn good. The whole process of brining, building a charcoal bed, dialing in the airflow just right is like playing music, in that it’s a very zen experience. I think I could happily do something with that for a living.

9. 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?

The question is a two-parter: how do you write songs of such depth, texture, and beauty; and is it difficult being the warrior poet of this and all generations, past and future? And the answer is: I’m far too modest to even imagine such a question, let alone an answer. As long as any question is even a little thoughtful I don’t mind answering it.

10. 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?

You know, I don’t really think in those terms. It’s a yin and yang kind of thing – the good and bad are part of the whole picture, and like the symbol, they are contained in one another.

11. 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?

I would have loved to just sit and watched Nina Simone record something like “I Wish I Would Know How It Would Feel To Be Free”. Witnessing a performance that sublime would be something.






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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