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Q&A: Meet the artist - Eleanor Friedberger


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''Personal Record,'' the second solo album by Eleanor Friedberger, formerly of the Fiery Furnaces, was released on June 4, and she has been supporting it with a nationwide tour. SUBMITTED PHOTO
''Personal Record,'' the second solo album by Eleanor Friedberger, formerly of the Fiery Furnaces, was released on June 4, and she has been supporting it with a nationwide tour. SUBMITTED PHOTO

''Personal Record,'' the second solo album by Eleanor Friedberger, formerly of the Fiery Furnaces, was released on June 4, and she has been supporting it with a nationwide tour. SUBMITTED PHOTO
''Personal Record,'' the second solo album by Eleanor Friedberger, formerly of the Fiery Furnaces, was released on June 4, and she has been supporting it with a nationwide tour. SUBMITTED PHOTO


For most of her life, Eleanor Friedberger has had the comfort of playing side-by-side with her older brother.

She and Matthew Friedberger built a solid indie rock career as The Fiery Furnaces, composing bluesy, grungy guitar rock layered with electronic beats and other unique elements.

“There’s a security of that. We did it for a very long time,” she said.

But at the same time, she wanted to explore what she could do as a solo artist.

Friedberger is in the midst of a solo tour, supporting the release of “Personal Record,” her second solo album. The record is a departure from her work with The Fiery Furnaces, focusing on deeply personal stories and having a rawer, more live sound than her debut.

“Personal Record” was released June 4.

When The Fiery Furnaces decided to take a break in 2011, Friedberger started focusing on her own music. She released “Last Summer,” a kind of retrospective look back that evoked ’70s singer-songwriters and organic pop.

With this most recent record, she wanted to take that idea and stretch it further. She had been working on the songs for more than a year, playing them in shows and experimenting with them live.

The songs mostly were written on keyboard, and Friedberger needed to make adjustments to be played by herself on acoustic guitar.

She teamed up with a friend, musician and novelist Wesley Stace, to write the lyrics for the album. The collaboration resulted in a group of songs that are different types of love songs dealing with everything from infatuation to loss to the first time meeting someone.

The sound blends her go-to instrumentation of guitar and piano with upright bass, alto flute, bass clarinet and an instrument called a portative organ, made of several recorders and a bellows in a wooden case.

The day “Personal Record” was released, Friedberger kicked off a monthlong national tour, including an intimate stop at Radio Radio in Indianapolis. Revealing the songs from the record now that they’ve been released and seeing how people react with them have been extremely rewarding, Friedberger said.

“The band hasn’t done this kind of four-week tour before. It’s fun to see all of the fresh eyes out there. They’re very enthusiastic,” she said.

How did the songs for this album come about?

I’ve been playing these songs, most of them for about a year while I was promoting my last solo album. I wanted to record with a couple of the guys I had been touring with, and I wanted to make it much more of a live-sounding album than the last one.

What separates these songs from your previous work?

Some of the music we had, we got to work it out on the road and tour it. We got to keep some of that same energy that we discovered on the tour. I think that’s probably the way a lot of bands work, and I’d never done that before. I’d always made albums that were very isolated from the world. I never tried to recreate them live. Often times we’d sing it one way in the studio, and never sing it that way again.

How did you get involved with Wesley Stace?

I didn’t know his work at all when we met. We met at a Bob Dylan tribute concert, and we became fast friends. I’ve done a couple shows that he does in New York. He loves collaborating with people, and we developed this relationship over time. Our emails turned into lyrics eventually. And it just came up from this friendship. It happened very naturally and very easily.

What has the experience of doing this solo been like?

I’ve only written songs with my brother.

It’s different when you’re in a band, when you’re doing your own thing.

That’s a good thing. It’s more work, for sure. But it’s not bad kind of work.

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