Dean Friedman, an American singer songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about getting a member of the audience on stage to sing with him, playing ten dates at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, his latest album 12 Songs and the 40th Anniversary Tour of the UK of his album Well, Well, Said The Rocking Chair.

Dean Friedman is an American singer songwriter who plays piano, keyboard, guitar and other instruments, including the harmonica.

In the United States he is described as a one-hit wonder, following his 1977 hit song Ariel, and whilst the song did not make the UK singles chart, Lucky Stars, a duet with Denise Marsa did chart at number three in late 1978.

During 2005, as part of a tie-in to one of his tour sponsors, Friedman’s tour of the UK was almost cancelled after it was revealed that he intended to distribute cannabis seeds to purchasers of his new album. Although it was not illegal to own or distribute cannabis seeds in this manner the suggestion caused friction with a number of venues on the tour, so the intended distribution was not carried out.

Friedman has written, performed and produced the theme music to several TV series including Boon (for which he did all of the music apart from the theme song which was performed by Jim Diamond), starring Michael Elphick. Other TV credits include Nick Arcade (Nickelodeon) and Eerie, Indiana (NBC).

Touring to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his album, Well, Well, Said The Rocking Chair, he took some tome out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Dean how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin, how’s it going with you?

Things are going really well thank you, and firstly let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s my pleasure and I really do appreciate you having me.

And just how is life treating Dean Friedman at this moment in time?

Well, apart from there being a little snow outside which tends to make driving a little awkward, I really can’t complain although I must say that I am eagerly awaiting spring to descend upon this part of the world. But basically I have been busy prepping for the 40th Anniversary Tour together with getting all of the logistics finalised, paperwork, hotels, flights and trains, and all that stuff. But yes, everybody is doing well and I am just eager to get past this lousy weather (laughter).

Well if it makes you feel any better, let me tell you that we have had snow here today (laughter).

Oh alright, well I do feel better, yes absolutely (laughter).

I have to say that you have made me feel old today.

I’m sorry, how I have managed that?

I can’t believe that the album Well, Well, Said The Rocking Chair is actually forty years old.

That’s right, I know, and I am just as surprised as you (laughter). It seems like a long time but I can still remember banging out the chords on my piano in my apartment on West 72nd Street as I was writing the album. I can still vividly remember going into the studio to record the album, and it is going to be fun learning some of those tunes that I haven’t played in a long time now.

Well I have today played my old vinyl copy of the album and I have to say that I personally think that it sounds as fresh today as it did forty years ago.

I really do appreciate you saying that; you like to think that your work has some lasting value and so it is nice to get that kind of feedback.

My two favourite tracks on the album are I’ve Had Enough and S&M.

(Laughter) okay, that’s interesting. We won’t go there (laughter).

I have always thought that there is definitely a feel good factor with this album; you listen to it and you simply cannot stop yourself from smiling.

I definitely think there is an encouraging and optimistic point of view on the album. Other people have told me that so I am pleased to hear that.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

Gee, you know songs are like kids, you love them all despite some of them being more mischievous than the others. However, there are always occasions where you have a particular goal in mind when it comes to writing a song or creating a recording. The closer you get to how you imagined it was going to be, the more satisfied you are. For example, when I recorded The Deli Song (Corned Beef On Wry) I really did want to create a cinematic short story on the record and I think that I managed to accomplish that, so that was satisfying production wise.

The same thing happened with Let Down Your Hair. It was a subtle but very difficult song to write about the Summer Of Sam when there was a serial killer going around shooting women in New York City during the summer of 1977. It was a hard story to relay in a song but I felt that I had succeeded in sketching out the tale and how it had affected the city. I felt that I had created a recording that conjured up some of those feelings.

You will be releasing a 40th Anniversary edition of the album that has been fully remastered, will it contain any extras?

No there won’t be any extras as such, but there will be some subtle differences to the actual recordings. In the days of vinyl you always had to worry about the cutting needle skipping out of the grooves, however with CD that is not as much of a concern nowadays. I have fattened up the bass in a few places, made the string section a little richer and I think that people who are familiar with the record are not going to miss anything. However, they may hear some things which sound even better.

You will be playing the album in its entirety. Have you had to relearn the songs?

(Laughter) absolutely. Some of the songs like Rocking Chair (It’s Gonna Be All Right), Lucky Stars and Lydia I have now been playing for a long time but some of the other songs I have never played them live. So that is going to be a challenge but one that I am looking forward to.

What ever happened to the clay model figures of you on the cover of the album?

Those two models were created by a really talented illustrator and clay animator named Bob Grossman who lives down in New York City. After the shoot for the album sleeve I tried to retrieve them from him but he explained to me one day that his then teenage son was doing some animation tests and he had used my clay figures to do his animation tests. During the tests he somehow ended up decapitating me (laughter). Therefore the original clay sculptures are sadly no more. It’s sad because Bob did some really nice work on those sculptures on what I feel has become a really iconic album cover so I was grateful to him for that.

I have been checking out your tour schedule earlier today and you will be playing fifty-seven dates here in the UK. So still no sign of you slowing up?

Well I have to say that I don’t plan on playing as many dates next year but I thought that given that this year was the 40th Anniversary of the album, it is a milestone that I really should mark, together with the fact that it surprises folk as much as it surprises me (laughter). It gives me the perfect excuse to reconnect with my fan base and to revisit this music that a lot of them claim has been a big part of their lives.

In May 2017 you released your latest studio album 12 Songs and I have to say that I personally feel that it is a delightful piece of work.

Well thank you, I appreciate that. To be honest I am really proud of it especially all these years later; you try to maintain a standard and hope that you can still deliver the goods which I feel that I did on the latest album. In many ways I think that it is one of my best recordings to date.

Now please don’t take this the wrong way as I appreciate that you are very busy, but why did it take you seven years to release the new album?

(Hysterical laughter) you know what, recording an album the way that I like to do it is a massive undertaking, and it takes me at least four months. Also it is a huge financial investment, but more than that it is a huge emotional investment. I have to tell everyone in my world that I am going to prioritise this project for a good length of time and that, at times, can be a challenge. I do get help financially by crowdfunding my albums through my fan base which I am ever appreciative of. But even so, it is difficult for me to do and exhausting once I am done so seven years went by and I figured that is was finally time for me to go back into the studio.

Again I have two favourite tracks on the album, Your Pretty Face and Malala. I think that they are both fantastic.

Thank you. Malala was just a song which I was moved to create, having been inspired by her bravery, persistence, resilience and her determination to continue defending the rights of young girls to get an education all over the world. So I tried to write something that was like a protective prayer which also touched on the traumatic experience together with the brave spirit that she has displayed both before and since.

On the forthcoming tour you will be offering a member of the audience the chance to get up on stage and sing with you. Isn’t that rather like giving Stevie Wonder the keys to your brand new Ferrari; you simply do not know what is going to happen?

(Laughter) well usually I invite the whole audience to sing along with me, and we always have a fun time doing that but on a few occasions some folks out of the audiences join me on stage and give me a hand and I have to say that they always do a great job so I thought that I might use this opportunity to give the other folks a chance. It’s going to be fun.

I see that you will once again be playing ten dates at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, you really do enjoy that don’t you?

I do, it is my favourite place to be in August. I find it so inspirational to be surrounded by creative artists of every ilk taking chances whilst perusing their art and their craft in so many different ways. You can’t help but be inspired by that. There is a loyal audience up there that keeps coming to my shows and as long as they do, I will keep going back.

Despite the latest album only having been released some nine months ago now, are there any thoughts on the next studio album?

Well what can I say, yes I have been thinking about it but at this moment in time I am not quite ready to pull the trigger (laughter). I need to put all of my ducks in a row before I actually commit to it and I need to concentrate fully on this year’s tour first. Maybe sometime next year I will seriously start to think about a new album, who knows.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

To be honest I can’t recall any piece of music that has made me cry of late but there is a song that I stumbled upon when I was just checking out some videos that was written by Mike Batt and is sung by Katie Melua. The song is called Nine Million Bicycles and I was just really taken with the subtle beauty of that song. It is one of those songs that I thought to myself ‘gee, I wish that I had written that’ (laughter). It is a masterful song beautifully sung.

Dean on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been fantastic. You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham on Friday 27th July.

Thank you Kevin, thanks for having me and thanks for helping spread the word. Bye for now.