He started learning the piano at the age of five, got his first guitar at the age of nine and was lucky enough to grow up against the musical explosion of the ’60s – all elements which have made Dean Friedman one of the finest songwriters of his generation.
Dean, whose hits include ‘Ariel’, ‘Lucky Stars’, ‘Lydia’, ‘Woman of Mine’ and ‘McDonald’s Girl’, plays Horsham’s Capitol on October 16, his latest date in a country which has always served him well.
“It’s a bit of a commute, but it is worth it!” laughs Dean.
“I was born in ’55, and the ’60s were certainly my formative years. My mum was a singer, and there was always a Broadway show tune on the piano. My early influences were also a lot of classical music. There was always music in the home, and then I got my first transistor radio which I hid under the pillow… and that was when I discovered The Beatles, Dylan, The Stones, people like that.
“What always struck me about The Beatles was that they defined a whole era of pop music and yet even back then you could hear threads of Tin Pan Alley running through and music-hall themes, especially in something like ‘When I’m ’64’. Just everything they did was exciting.”
And no, The Stones and The Beatles were not mutually exclusive: “You hear something like Angie and you hear this great pop ballad.”
As soon as he had learnt three chords, Dean knew what he wanted to do: “I started mimicking the artists around and also people like The Monkees. I wrote my first song when I was nine, and I just carried on writing.”
He stacked up the piles of rejection letters from record labels, but eventually the breakthrough came, and he hasn’t looked back: “I am lucky enough to have a very loyal following. I have never stopped being a musician and I have never stopped writing songs, but definitely the music business has changed dramatically. I think the biggest change has been the internet.”
The impact has been huge, not least for the fact it has meant that Dean can finally have a direct dialogue with fans.
“That was just impossible before with all the middle men, the promoter, the agent, the publisher, the record company executive, all interfering, all getting between the artist and the fan. You were not supposed to talk to the fans. You were just supposed to wave. But the internet has changed all that. It’s not just suddenly that I can speak to the fans. It’s also that they can speak to me, and I appreciate that. Sometimes they can be very vocal, but it is great.”
Dean has been crowd-funding his albums for the past dozen years: “In the olden days I would be in the studio and there would be some annoying record label executive looking over my shoulder. Now it feels like there are 10,000 fans on my email list looking over my shoulder! But that’s good. It’s all a lot more open.
“Part of it is also that I write story songs. They are not about my life, but they reflect my perspective as you go through life, my friends and family and all the things that are happening, and in a lot of ways the fans share that perspective as they have evolved and matured as their lives have changed.”
Dean is now passing on all the lessons in his The Songwriter’s Handbook, newly published and available from Amazon: “I don’t pretend to know how to write everyone else’s songs, but I do write a pretty decent Dean Friedman song.”
In other words, he can encourage you to be yourself: “The book is intended to be fun and informative about the craft of song-writing and to encourage you about some of the decisions you will need to make when you are writing a song.”
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