Los Angeles singer/songwriter Eddie Berman has released his new album, Before The Bridge. The album is a rich, evocative and moving collection of tracks that draw, more than ever before, from Berman’s own life experiences – written and recorded between his getting married and the birth of his first child, and all the thoughts and decisions in between. Album track Untamed, out now, is a slow-burning number led by Berman’s guitar and confident, quiet vocal delivery accented by subtle piano and low, stirring strings.
Berman grew up in Southern California and taught himself guitar and piano, inspired by the troubadour styles of Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk. He made waves in the acoustic music world when his bedroom demos were given significant airplay on influential LA radio station KCRW. His debut EP Blood & Rust, featuring duets with British artist Laura Marling, along with his subsequent international tours, connected him to an even bigger audience. All the while, Berman steadily developed his craft while staying true to a familiar formula. He self-released his debut album Polyhymnia in 2014 was a stunning 10-song set, stripped down to the bones and tracked-live in a single room. Despite an open-tuning change and adding a bit more percussion and harmony, the sound of Before the Bridgeretains the stark, elemental power of Berman’s former work. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Eddie about the album.
Is it relief or excitement knowing your album is done and dusted?
It feels great having Before The Bridge out. This was my first album released through a label, so with things like “planning” and “a coherent strategy” (things I hadn’t considered with my previous self-released albums) there was certainly a longer period between the album’s completion and its release. So it’s tremendous that people are able to listen to it now. Also with Before The Bridge out I’ve been able to shift my focus to writing the next album.
How hard is it for any artist to break through the clutter and get themselves noticed?
I think it’s always been hard getting people to hear your music when you’re first starting out, but the democratization of music production has definitely muddied the waters even more. I think if you just focus on your craft and making work that you genuinely like – eventually, its quality will set it apart from the clutter. And as long as your joy comes from the process and not the results, then the clutter is meaningless.
How would you describe the single Untamed?
I originally wanted to name the album after the song Untamed because it seemed like a nice distillation of the overall theme: a sort of prisoner/guard schizophrenia of simultaneously trying to escape while holding yourself captive, along with the feeling of being pulled further and further away from any sense of the natural rhythms of the world. Plus the tune’s got some great trombone on it.
Did you have a clear vision of what you wanted to achieve with the album?
My song writing process informs the overall qualities of the album. I never really start out with an idea of what a song is going to be musically or lyrically. They just sort of begin to reveal themselves while I’m playing and writing them. Sometimes it comes easily and sometimes painstakingly. Usually some combination of my life, the lives of the people close to me, and maybe something I’m reading will inform what direction the song is going to go. So being that I wrote all of these songs in a narrow window of time – they all bind together, thematically.
Did you feel the pressure during the creative process?
My natural state of laziness and procrastination requires pressure to get just about anything done. I booked our studio time a month or so before a bunch of these songs had been finished (or some even started). So that pressure forced a diligence to finish the album.
Are there any significant influences that have shaped your music?
It started with Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, and then splintered off into their influences and the people they influenced: Mississippi John Hurt, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine. An important thing to me wasn’t just consuming the music made by the songwriter’s I loved, but finding out what they listened to, what they read, etc. That’s why I have a lot of (*lightly read*) copies of books by people like Thucydides, De Tocqueville, and Rimbaud — my ambition is often at odds with my attention span.
Were there many songs left over that might make b-sides or an EP?
There were a few partially finished songs leading up to the studio, but I think I’ve developed the ability of knowing when to pull the ejector on a song. So I only really finished the ones I liked for this album.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt so far in music?
To surround myself with people I love and trust, and then concentrate just on things I’m in control of.
What’s your plan’s for the next 12 months?
My plan for the next year is to to write and record a new album, try to play some cool shows on as many different continents as possible. Hang out with my wife and 1 year old daughter. Plus we’re building some raised plant beds now, so hopefully we’ll be growing some great fruits and vegetables by next fall.
Any plans to tour Australia?
We are formulating next year’s tour plans now – and we’re dying to play AUS – so hopefully we’ll be down there in mid 2018.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Eddie Berman’s Before The Bridge is out now. Head to his official website to order your copy.