In support of her latest release, Personal Record, Eleanor Friedberger — formerly of The Fiery Furnaces, currently on hiatus — stops at The Parish on Friday night. With the strength of her sophomore album (she released her debut, Last Summer, in 2011), Friedberger proves that her brand of singer-songwriter music is timeless, poignant and gimmick-free.
Unlike so many solo female artists today who succumb to mass-market pressure, Friedberger's work is narrative-driven, harkening back to artists of the decade she was born in — and she's not afraid to admit it.
"I grew up listening to classic rock radio in Chicago," Friedberger, who was born in 1976, once told NPR. "Those sounds — a Wurlitzer piano, a very dead drum kit — those are my favorite sounds. I'm not embarrassed to say I love the sound of an Elton John record or I love the sound of a Carole King record. That's my taste."
In advance of her Austin show, we had the chance to ask Eleanor a few rapid fire questions of our own, wherein we learned a bit more about her craft, her nights spent at Emo's as a student at UT, and one other interesting tidbit she's not willing to share.
CultureMap: You recorded most of Personal Record live. Why was that method so important to you for this record?
Eleanor Friedberger: Because I'd been playing most of these songs live for the better part of a year, it made the most sense to record in the most live way possible. I wanted it to be a pretty organic-sounding album and I wanted to capture the energy of the musicians I'd been touring with.
CM: Are you willing to reveal which song is the most personal of Personal Record?
EF: Absolutely not.
CM: You've said it's a very romantic album to you, why is that?
EF: I wanted to write an album very much in the tradition of '70s singer-songwriter albums, very warm in tone and feeling, but I didn't want the songs to be topical. I wanted them to be about personal connections we make, most specifically, through music. And I think the rhyming schemes of the lyrics very much contribute to a romantic sound.
CM: Speaking of the '70s, you're often cited as saying that your music is influenced by your idols from that time. Who stands out to you, in particular?
My favorite records were made in the 1970s, from Led Zeppelin to John Cale to David Bowie to Van Morrison. I started listening to a few new singers — new to me — as I was writing this album, who all made a very strong impression on me: Duncan Browne, Emitt Rhodes and Bridget St. John. Part of it was discovering something new, but mostly it was just the quality of their songs and voices that struck me.
CM: As far as touring this album goes, what is different — good or bad — about being a solo artist versus part of a group, like The Fiery Furnaces?
EF: I'm playing in a five-piece band at the moment, so it doesn't feel very solitary or "solo" at all. And we're having a lot of fun, on and off stage. I'm probably having more fun playing music now than I ever have, and I really hope that comes across.
CM: Lastly, you used to live in Austin. What's it like coming through town? Do you consider the city as an influential element in becoming the artist that you are today?
EF: I love visiting Austin. I still have very close friends here, and my dad lives here. The city has changed a lot since I was at UT, but I would say it had a huge impact on me as a young person. I remember when Emo's was free if you had an over 21 ID, and I saw shows there at least a few times a week. I've never seen so much live music as I did back then.
I was an intern at Austin City Limits and Texas Monthly, so I feel like I really got my dose of Texas culture, which still feels very rich. This weekend, I'm most looking forward to taking a dip in Barton Springs and meeting my friend Diana's baby for the first time.
Eleanor Friedberger plays The Parish at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 21. Tickets are available online for $15.