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Eleanor Friedberger Discusses Her Love of Neil Young and All Things ’70s

Since branching out on her own from The Fiery Furnaces, Eleanor Friedberger has moved closer and closer to the classic-rock sound she grew up with.

On New View, her third solo album, Friedberger puts her own spin on the sound of 1970s rock touchstones like George Harrison, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac.

“Blame that on my personal tastes,” she says. “I’m always trying to emulate-slash-copy the things that I love the most. I was drawn to sounds of the ’70s. I love the sound of an electric piano. I love the sound of a deadened drum kit. I love a certain guitar tone you can hear on Neil Young records. I feel like I achieved that the most on this album as compared to my first two solo albums. I was really happy with the way that turned out.”

Joining Friedberger on New View are the musicians who backed her on the tour for 2013’s Personal Record: Malcolm Perkins, Jonathan Rosen, Michael Rosen and Noah Hecht (who also form her opening band Icewater). The album gets much of its character from the Wurlitzer and 12-string acoustic guitar that augment basic rhythm tracks.

“It was fun to work with these guys. They have their own sound and it’s fun to get people to go outside their comfort zone a bit. It works well for everybody,” she says.

Fittingly, Friedberger and her band arranged the songs and rehearsed in Los Angeles, a West Coast interlude that certainly shaped the sound, before returning to record in a barn-turned-studio in Germantown, New York.

“I had the songs written and then we all went to California for about eight weeks, got a cheap rehearsal space and worked on the arrangements there. Undoubtedly the environment affects you,” she says.

“I feel that the album sounds like it comes from a wide-open space. My previous albums sounded more like subway music,” she says. “It worked out really well writing music alone in a house upstate, having the luxury of getting to play guitar really loud in a building I own where I don’t have to worry about neighbors.”

Like her previous albums, New View stands out for Friedberger’s lyrics, which manage to both be plainspoken and convey her utterly unique voice. Songs like “He Didn’t Mention His Mother” and “Because I Asked You” draw a conversational tone, filled with relatable details pulled from real life.

“I hope I leave it loose enough so people can insert themselves into the narrative,” she says. “I like the lyrics to be provocative without telling too much. For me, they’re deeply personal and very specific and usually inside jokes between me and one other person, immortalizing one little moment.”

Including the albums she made with her older brother Matthew as The Fiery Furnaces – starting with 2003’s Gallowsbird’s BarkNew View is Friedberger’s 12th full-length record. But being her first since leaving Brooklyn, the album felt like turning over a new page in her career.

“I had a long list of different titles,” she says. “I knew what kind of image I wanted to have on the cover and with that New View made the most sense. It’s a good story for the album. I’d left the city and moved upstate so it fit.”
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Eric is a freelance writer covering music, travel, science, and food and drink.
Contact: Eric Swedlund