5/2/2019 0 Comments
Photography by Katelyn Kopenhover
The great Steve Forbert once said; "I relate to the audiences and they know me. It's pretty real." Shlomo Franklin's authentic stage presence reminds one of Forbert's. It feels like sixty years ago. It feels like Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin' Jack, Washington square park soul-searching-we-shall-overcome sing along's in the aching city of crushed and beautiful story-lined faces. Like the long lost and weary voices of Bleecker Street now all but ghosts lingering in from a half remembered dream. Feels like borrowed guitars and crashing on floors and getting by with a little help from your friends and your strangers. Each of Franklin's songs feel a bit like that old friend that you haven't seen in years, but when you do, it's like you pick up right where you left off, as if no time at all had gone by. But time has gone by. As Franklin himself says, you've got to be able to put enough distance between you and your experiences before you can find the truth in them. "Sometimes it arrives as a poem and sometimes it arrives as a song. I like the songs more cause they have a longer shelf life." "No, that's not true," he adds. "They don't." Franklin is Ginsberg with a Guthrie heart of gold. He is wise beyond his years, authentic, born to tell the story. But more than that, he is kind. The searching kind, the suffering and learning from suffering kind, the kind kind. "I'm not trying to be the new anybody," Forbert also once said. Those words are the feeling you get when you listen to Apt 16. A record where the journey, no matter its many twisting paths, always points back home toward the terribly beautiful human heart.
James Diaz: You're about to release your debut full length album, Apt 16. Tell us about it, the writing, the recording, the inspiration - people, places and things, the collaborations, the touring, the heart and soul of it.
Shlomo Franklin: I only write songs because I’m desperately trying to capture a place and time. I’ve lived through certain experiences and no matter how much fun or how painful they may have been, I still find myself overcome with a desire to paint a picture of them. It can be the color of a lonely evening in Philadelphia when the moon was big and the night was cool and I had a long phone call with an old friend that I hadn’t talked to in a while. Maybe they’re living in Alaska and going through a lot and they tell me about the northern lights, the brightness of the stars in their little corner of the sky and then maybe they speak of a mutual friend that hasn’t crossed my mind in a while. These things tend to weigh on me, they inspire and excite me too! I’m a sucker for nostalgia because the past can be indescribably beautiful and perfect. Looking back has little to do with the reality of a memory. It has a lot more to do with the impact of an experience and how it unfolds over the years, how it stands the test of time. My new album ‘Apt 16’ covers such ground. I lived in a few places in New York City when I was just eighteen and nineteen and this album harvests a lot of the light and darkness that I used to walk through. The lovers I had, the people I was lucky enough to know well, the corner deli on avenue A I used to frequent, the barber shop I never entered but always looked into through the large yellow windows, the small cafe where I used to drink hot chocolates and try to read James Joyce, the same cafe where I’d later perform my first few songs at. This album chronicles some of those spots, a few of those memories.
JD: A lot of your songs deal with love, falling into and out of, hearts breaking, hearts overflowing. I think love is everywhere, sometimes two people, sometimes a whole nation, (good love/bad love) small acts of kindness, the wild outdoors. Do you see parallels in love that move beyond romantic forms into the universal and back again into the smallest, perhaps most powerful, of forms?
SF: Absolutely! I think most of my breakup songs are actually about the passing of time. They’re about having to say goodbye to your yesterdays. I can’t be too sure but I believe a lot of my writing tends to be a sort of mourning of the passing of time. The tick of the heavy clock that echoes through all our homes. It’s on every one of our walls. A lot of my songs are remorseful about not being able to possess the past that you used to be inside of. The minutes you used to dwell amongst. There’s lots of hope in these sort of songs too. They guarantee you a certain level of beauty and significance, no matter how mundane the situation may be.
JD: What have you learned since we last talked, about life, music, love, family, friends, poetry, pain, happiness? Where is your heart at these days?
SF: I’m a lot more patient than I used to be. I’m learning to say no more often, especially if my gut is telling me to say no. I’m learning about the long road and how desperately I want to walk it. I think the whole music industry is geared towards the short game, the passing moment. Everyone wants you to blow up and go viral but I’ve had friends who’ve gone viral online and they can’t even sell as many tickets as I can. I’m learning to stick to my guns, follow my convictions. I will not compromise so I can fit in to some fad so people can easily digest me and then shit me out like diarrhea. I want to be the kind of food that makes your life healthier and more fulfilling. I do not want to be something flashy and oily, something you throw down your throat and regret the morning after. My albums are going to be organic, farm to table, grass fed, locally sourced, cruelty free, free range, healthy albums.
JD: What are the albums and who are the songwriters that you cannot get out of your head these days? Who should we be looking into, with our ears and hearts wide open?
SF: The new Felice Brothers album, Undress, is a masterpiece. It’s a truly beautiful record. If you wanna know what the Catskills sounds like then listen to the Felice Brothers. One of my favorite bands, Cage The Elephant just released a beautiful album called Social Cues. It’s a consistent body of work that lives strongly up to their previews four records. I’ve been listening to Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra a lot too. Two greats that were masters at interpreting and embodying a song. To truly inhabit a song is one of the rarest forms of performance these days and it’s something I strive to do, it’s a trick I’m slowly learning to pull off.
JD: What's next for you? What does your tour schedule look like for this album? Any new poems, new songs percolating?
SF: I’m pretty much booked almost every weekend for the next four months. I’m not sure how it happened but I’m going to be touring around the Catskills mostly but I’ll get to Canada and New England too. Maybe I’ll even make it to England one of these days, who knows. I’m extremely inspired to be recording and writing these days but I’m working hard to also appreciate what I’ve already done so hopefully the next few months will just be focused on sharing the songs from my new album and making sure that everyone I perform for can listen to the album whether on Spotify or with a physical CD or whatever. I just want to get the songs to the people who need them most. There’s a good chance I’m going to put together a live band to play with more consistently as well but for that to happen, fate will have to pull its own weight.
Also I just want to say that I absolutely love reading everything you guys publish on anti heroin chic. It’s sort of a Mecca for underground poets and I’m truly grateful that a blog like yours exists.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.