By Sarah O’ Hara
“As a singer-songwriter, for me, I think of my work as writing short stories set to music. Although there is a lot of inspiration involved in that, there’s also a lot of craft and poetry that goes into a good song. One of the fun things about touring the UK and Ireland all these years has been sharing the stage and meeting all these super talented singer-songwriters. Their craft and work as songwriters and performers is off the charts. That’s my criteria for SongFest – that they be really excellent songwriters and know how to share those songs, with what is always an appreciative audience”.
It’s 6pm in the UK and I’m talking to Singer-Songwriter Dean Friedman ahead of his micro-music festival SongFest, which is being held virtually as ‘SongFest ZoomFest’ this month.
SongFest will be held as a live webcast via Zoom on Sunday 30th August 2020, from 4pm to 11pm (UK Time).
One of the pre-eminent songwriters of his generation, Dean Friedman credits his regular touring of the UK and Ireland as one of the inspirations for his micro-music festival SongFest, which was first held in 2018.
“I do an annual tour of the UK and I decided it would be fun to do a micro-music festival over there. It’s a small festival, which I thought would be fun to invite all my musician and songwriter friends who I’d met through touring all these years to. It was a big success and we did it again last year.
It was supposed to happen again this year, but of course it’s cancelled due to the pandemic and rescheduled to next year. However, I thought it would be fun to do it virtually. On Sunday 30th August, we’re going to have our virtual SongFest on Zoom – it’s a SongFest ZoomFest!”.
The onsite version of SongFest in the UK is currently rescheduled to Saturday 31st July 2021, but Dean cannot wait to share the virtual version of the festival with audiences at the end of August 2020:
“SongFest, the onsite live version, will be on Saturday 31st July 2021. We’re hoping things resolve by then, so we can have a great micro-music festival. If you don’t want to wait until 2021 though, you can join us virtually this month on Sunday 30th August.
It’s going to be an afternoon and an evening, around six hours, of performances by all these terrific musicians and singer-songwriters. It’ll be a great way to celebrate what is sadly, the end of summer!”
SongFest is a boutique micro-music festival that celebrates ‘really good songs and the folks who write ‘em’.
The line-up for the Live Webcast of SongFest 2020 includes brilliant singer-songwriters and performers including Boothby Graffoe, Tracey Curtis, Attila the Stockbroker, Charlotte Campbell, Vance Gilbert, Katy Rose Bennett and a special appearance by The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.
“It features, in my mind, some of the best singer-songwriters who are working today, said Dean.
Folks like Boothby Graffoe, Tracey Curtis, Charlotte Campbell, Vance Gilbert, Katy Rose Bennett, Atilla the Stockbroker who is a brilliant punk poet and songwriter, as well as an unlikely addition, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre! They’re sock puppets and they have been joining me, along with the folks I mentioned, on my Dean Zine Live Stream.
It’s a monthly live stream I have been doing since the lockdown began in the States. It’s been a delight and a pleasure to share my audience with these talented singer songwriters and I’m looking forward to doing it again on Sunday 30th August at our virtual SongFest ZoomFest!”
Along with their performances, Charlotte Campbell and The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre will also be co-hosting the event alongside Dean.
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are one of the many groups who Dean discovered while touring, and who Dean is excited to have join him at SongFest 2020:
“They are amazing. I first came upon them when I was doing my first Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I saw them perform and they were just brilliant. I invited them to do some support for a gig I did in Glasgow, in about 2001 or 2002 and I’ve been a huge fan of theirs ever since. As you say, they’re also going to co-host along with Charlotte Campbell, on the SongFest ZoomFest”.
Throughout the past few months, Dean like many musicians, has been connecting with his audience via live video performances.
His Dean Zine Live Stream has been popular with fans across the world and has featured guest appearances from many of the performers who will be at SongFest 2020.
“Once a month, I have been doing an all request Zoom concert, my Dean Zine Live Stream – we always have a great time. At the start of the pandemic we had to cancel the 40 city UK and Ireland tour, but it gave me the motivation to start the Dean Zine Live Stream. It’s been a really fun, satisfying and fulfilling endeavour and the audiences feel the same way about it”.
Following SongFest, Dean says that he will be taking a hiatus during the fall to complete work on a new album.
“I’m still working on new material and putting songs together, but there’s so much set up that goes into the weekly Dean Zine, that I haven’t got as much time to focus on the songs, which is what I need to do. That’s on the agenda for September/October time and hopefully I’ll have something out in time for the New Year”.
Dean Friedman is renowned for classic hits including ‘Lucky Stars’ and ‘Woman of Mine’. His work has inspired generations of musicians and he recently celebrated forty years of his career as a singer-songwriter.
Not only a singer-songwriter, he has composed songs for television series including Boon and one of my favourite television series growing up, the classic Eerie Indiana.
“I always get a kick out of people discovering that they have been hearing my music, without actually having been aware of it. On Eerie Indiana, my brother in law wrote and produced that series and he invited me to do some select songs that I enjoyed contributing to the show like ‘Forever Ware’. I had a great time contributing those songs. I also did the incidental music for the TV Series Boon. That was great to put on my Cowboy hat and deliver all the country and western music that the soundtrack called for”.
Talking about his musical influences, Dean describes how his home life had a huge impact on his career:
“I grew up, getting my first transistor radio when I was nine years old. I got my first guitar then too. A lot of my pop influences were folks like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Monkees, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, but I grew up in a house where my mom was a classically trained singer. There was always some Operetta or Broadway tune on the piano, so I grew up in a house filled with music”.
The music of singer-songwriters continues to be an inspiration, whether that is the performers he grew up listening to, or the singer-songwriters he meets on tour:
“I’ve always embraced different genres and I love all kinds of music. I always had an affinity for singer-songwriters who told stories – people like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Their songs conjured up very vivid imagery. You can imagine being in that scene – it has a cinematic quality. That’s always something I aspired to do as a singer-songwriter. To this day when I write a song, I try to imagine that scene – writing short stories and setting them to music”.
Dean Friedman’s UK and Ireland tour dates are rescheduled to 2021, where Dean will continue to share his storytelling through music with audiences.
Throughout every moment of our talk, the passion that Dean has for music and for songwriting is inspirational.
As we end our interview, Dean describes the power of storytelling through music and how songs can inspire audiences in their own lives.
“Once you write a song, it has a life of its own. That’s the magic of it. I might have written a song with a particular intention with the song I was telling, but the listener will have their own interpretation of it in their own life and how it resonates with them. In some ways, that makes the listener a collaborator. They have listened to the song, made it their own, assigned their own meaning to it and that’s great. It’s like a hologram – depending on what angle you view it from, it can have a totally different aspect”.
Dean Friedman’s ‘Virtual’ SongFest ‘ZoomFest’ will be held on Sunday 30th August 2020.
The Micro-Music Festival Live Stream will be broadcast from 4pm-11pm (UK Time).
To find out more, please visit Dean Friedman’s Official Website.