“When I first heard the album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan I had this strange compulsion to learn how to play the guitar,” Eddie Berman says, also noting Dave Van Ronk, Mississippi John Hurt, and Leonard Cohen as early influences. “I never really had any interest in playing music before then, but as soon as I started fingerpicking, I never stopped and it all snowballed from there.”
His fourth album Broken English (released in January) is a modern folk commentary on our tenuous American life–written before the pandemic. Though performed on guitar, the songs were written on the banjo. “With the fingerpicking, flat-picking style I play there’s sort of the bones of the melody baked into whatever I’m playing. When I come up with a progression I like, I turn on a recorder and just start singing to it off the top of my head — sometimes gibberish, sometimes fully formed thoughts, usually a combination of the two. And then at some indeterminate, later point, I’ll take all that subconscious/left brain shit and try to turn it into something more coherent.”
Broken English follows 2014’s Polyhymnia, 2017’s Before the Bridge, and 2019’s Frontiers, a continuation of Berman’s poignant and thoughtful songwriting.
“I think I’m part of that long line of musicians and songwriters that make very lyrically focused (mostly acoustic) music with roots that stretch back to the earliest days of humans singing along with a single instrument,” he says.
Berman had no idea Broken English would be so astonishingly apt by the time of its 2022 release. “The album is mostly about rootlessness and disconnection in an increasingly isolated and atomized world,” he says. “And weirdly it was all written in late 2019, months before any word of covid hit the headlines. I ended up having to record the whole thing remotely with my bandmates. It was kind of life imitating art imitating life… or something.”
Here’s a day in the life of Eddie Berman.
Date November 28, 2021
Time I woke up 7:30 a.m.
Every day starts with Playing with my daughters and a strong cup of coffee.
Breakfast consists of A4-egg omelet with cheddar and chives from our garden in the style of Jacque Pepin, by way of Kenji Lopez-Alt.
To get going I always I make a pour-over coffee with a V60. We’ve been getting an Ethiopian bean recently from Coava Coffee Roasters here in Portland, OR.
I don’t feel dressed without I don’t really feel dressed without my jeans. I’ll wear the same pair almost every day until the knees and crotch fray and split. I’m not a sweatpants guy. My genetic mix of Catholic and Jewish guilt doesn’t permit such comfort.
Before I start working I must Feel inspired. I’ve always been in awe of songwriters that have that regimented ability to sit and write for a set period of time. I’m always noodling on the guitar–and whenever something interesting happens I record it. But I can’t write any words unless I’m in that rare, particular headspace.
Currently working on Along with videos, artwork, and stuff for my upcoming releases, I’ve been in the early stages of writing a new album. I’ve got tons of melodies and guitar parts that I’m going to start shaping into ideas.
But I’d really love to be Working on a tan somewhere warm. We didn’t travel anywhere in the first year of our second daughter’s life, we figured – ehh, we’ll start traveling again when she turns one. And then a week before her first birthday the whole world shut down in March 2020. We’re ready to get the hell out of here for a bit.
Book I’m reading I just started Volume III of War and Peace. After always thinking of that book as some punchline of something so ridiculously dense and impossibly long, I read that that reputation is all bullshit and it’s just the most beautiful page-turner ever. And it is absolutely the most beautiful page-turner ever. At least the first 600 pages are, I still have about 600 to go. By the time I finish it, I’ll be promoting my next album.
I don’t know how anyone ever Gets anything accomplished with kids. Every day feels like a series of tasks where 95% go horribly neglected.
If I had to play one album on repeat, it would be There’s an album of a pianist named Ivan Morevec playing Chopin: NocturnesI found on Spotify that I listen to constantly. I know nothing about Chopin or classical music–I don’t even know what the hell “nocturne” means–but I just love listening to it.
The perfect midday consists of I love my kids to death, but my wife and I finally got a few hours off parenting when her parents visited recently (our first time off in like 18 or 20 months). We got some coffee, went on a hike, and then ate some insanely delicious curries at Eem, a Thai BBQ fusion spot in North Portland. That was a good afternoon.
To help get through the day I need A second or third cup of coffee and some exercise.
Not a day goes by without speaking to My wife and kids.
My daydreams consist of What I’m going to cook next on my smoker.
In a perfect day, in a perfect world:
Things would be very, very different from the current world. Although if I’m in a more zen-minded place, I’d say the world is perfect just as it is in all its beauty and horror.
I’ll always fight To be the change I’d like to see in the world… Always trying to live a cleaner, simpler, kinder life that’s more connected to the world and people around me.
Currently in love with My wife and daughters. Also this super spicy crispy Korean tofu dish I learned to make recently.
Hoping to make time to watch We’re watching two different shows right now, one’s an Australian show called Frayedand the other is a Norwegian show called Welcome to Utmark. We didn’t know shit about them going into them, and they’re both incredible.
By my bedside I always have An insulated water bottle and two pairs of headphones tangled together.
To help get through the night I If I can’t sleep I’ll untangle my headphones and watch Seinfeld until I pass out again.
Bedtime Is usually after we’ve stayed up too late, starting to dread an early wake up from our two year old.
When I think about tomorrow, it’s always It’s always a day away.