The term “shoot the moon” roughly translates to mean perseverance in the pursuit of one’s goals. It’s a state of mind Roger Street Friedman knows intimately as it is not only the name of his second album, but an approach to life that has led to his becoming a full-time working musician. From a Sea Cliff home base that he shares with his wife Peg, 10-year-old daughter Allie and 5-year-old son Jonny along with a state-of-the-art, 600-square-foot recording studio, the Westbury native is living his dream.
Influenced by a number of lyrical titans including Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell and The Band’s Robbie Robertson, Friedman’s considerable talents resonate throughout the baker’s dozen-worth of songs that make up Shoot the Moon, along with this mindset of following one’s aspirations that make up the title track.
“Usually I record these things on my phone, put them away and come back to them. With this [batch of songs], these lyrics were a metaphor for my life right now. Get off your couch, take the bull by the horns and go for broke,” Friedman explained. “It’s a traveling song but traveling is basically a metaphor for doing your thing.”
Having first picked up a guitar at the age of seven because he wanted to emulate his two brothers, who were 11 and 18 years older than him, Friedman acknowledges how music was intrinsically woven into his life, whether it was childhood memories of his late father happily blasting Dvorák in the family’s living room on Saturday mornings, or when the family lived near a club in Lenox, MA during Friedman’s pre-teen years where he got to see artists like Mitchell, Randy Newman and Ronnie Raitt up close and personal. As a perceptive and creatively inquisitive student, ennui, and how he dealt with it, eventually led to his being placed into a class that would change his life.
“When I was in ninth grade, I was getting into a lot of trouble because I was so bored. So I was in the assistant principal’s office and he wanted to know what they were going to do with me. I told him that I wanted to take Mr. Schweitzer’s electronic music class, so he said okay. I said I wouldn’t get into any more trouble and I got into Mr. Schweitzer’s class,” he recalled.” He had two TEAC 3340 four-track machines and an EMS synthesizer, which is the small suitcase synthezier and we were doing all sorts of things with tape. At one point, I got into a band and my parents had bought me a four-track tape recorder and a little mixing board, so I was multi-tracking my own recordings in ninth grade.”
Music was never far away and while attending Hunter College, Friedman even ran a recording studio with high school friend Mike Lattanzi out of the basement of the latter’s family home in Brookville. Business disagreements and a desire to move out of his parent’s house and start making a living eventually found Friedman designing and marketing displays to retail stores. Or in his words, “…mannequins—sculpting them, bringing them to stores and selling stuff. I was hawking stuff or as Bob Dylan says, ‘Everybody is selling something.’”
But it would be the death of his parents while he was starting a family that included the birth of his daughter that led Friedman to reassess his life and record The Waiting Sky, his 2014 debut. Aided by respected Nashville-based songwriter/producer Felix McTeigue and Dylan sideman Larry Campbell, the singer-songwriter received enough encouragement and feedback to record an even more ambitious follow-up.
Along with having McTeigue and Campbell returning, Shoot the Moon includes contributions from Amy Helm, daughter of late Band founding member Levon. who duets with Friedman on the funky and brassy New Orleans-flavored title cut. Elsewhere, the guitar-playing singer-songwriter uses a Bruce Hornsby-flavored vocal style to drive home notions of following one’s passion.
The harmony-soaked jubilance and jangle of “Everyday” winds up being punctuated by lines like, “Well I have learned along the way/Things will just keep on changing/No matter what I say/All in all there’s just one choice/Make a joyful noise.” It’s all topped off by a stellar reading of the John Prine gem “Paradise,” a song Friedman was introduced to as a kid via John Denver’s version on 1972’s Rocky Mountain High. In the end, Shoot the Moon represents the serendipitous path the musician has taken and one he hopes to continue down.
“I always say the songs end up being letters to myself about these things I know intuitively but don’t actually do so well on a daily basis. If I had to sum up the inspiration for making the record, I’ve come to the realization that my life needs to be about making music and that’s what I have to do,” he said. “That’s where I find joy, time stands still and where I can lose myself. I feel like I’ve created something that’s meaningful.”
Roger Street Friedman will be appearing on Aug. 20 at the Third Annual Folk Festival being held at Morgan Park, Germain St., Glen Cove. Call 516-671-0017 or visit www.morganparkmusic.org for more information.