WORDS BY ROBBIE CAIRNS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LINDA ARRENDONDO
With melodic guitar, flailing banjo, and rich harmonica, Eddie Berman’s sound is an aural hot shower to warm your mid-winter frostbitten ears. His storytelling style and vivid imagery transcend time and place. Nostalgic, yet timeless, his upcoming debut EP promises to be a precious Americana gem reminiscent of the folk classics of another generation.
A dilapidated hotel in a small French port-town was the setting for Berman’s musical Eureka! moment. He recalls, “Awake one night at the Hotel Sète I stumbled across two CDs: ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ and ‘A Chrestomathy’ by Dave Van Ronk. I listened to them over and over on my Discman for the rest of the trip. It was one of those ‘Amazing Grace’ ‘was blind but now I see’ moments.” It is no surprise that the influence of these iconic artists can be heard in the essence of Berman’s sound.
However, he doesn’t feel part of a Greenwich Village-esque community, or that a modern day equivalent even exists. “I’m sure there are small collectives of artists all over the world creating varying mediums of work in interesting, likeminded ways, but nothing of the scope of what Greenwich was. Our technology-fueled society is too fragmented and disconnected to have a movement like that. But I’m sure if we tried to start one it’d get a lot of ‘likes’ on Facebook.”
Instead, Berman considers his father the most consistent influence on his songwriting. “My dad’s definitely been a part of my progression as a musician. He has a great ear and an unbelievable way with words. When I play new songs for him he has really interesting insights.” Perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that with every passing moment one becomes more like their parents. In Eddie’s case, they contributed greatly to his artistic foundations. He didn’t end up a cinematographer (though, growing up in a house with Hitchcock, Bergman, and Kurosawa movie nights, he wanted to), but his songwriting has a certain cinematic quality, burning vivid images into your mind.
Rather than begin with a message, Berman’s lucid narratives emerge from a personal place, “My favorite songwriters are just storytellers, and that’s all I really try and hope to be. And any messages in my songs are somewhat incidental and secondary to the images and the more visceral joys of music. However, if you do find a brilliant, beautifully complex message in one of my songs, that’s exactly how I meant it.”
At times dark, his lyrics maintain a fragile sense of hope. Referring to “The Gutter” he says, “I wrote that song at a time when I was quitting a job I hated to do something I love. That rejection of misery makes me hopeful – to be able to step back and see the structures that are keeping you from feeling happy or alive, and then doing something about it.” He muses, “It’s easy to get trapped in your own prison, but I’m hopeful for the escape.” You may not be free yet, but Berman’s ageless sound might just give you the escape you’re looking for.
Enjoy more of this on thelabmagazine.com, coming 2012!