Shlomo Franklin says songs can help you ‘triumph over bitterness’

Shlomo Franklin interview

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SHLOMO FRANKLIN

“It’s my parents’ fault,” said singer-songwriter Shlomo Franklin as he discussed his show this week at Salt Gastropub in Stanhope, his music and his recently released EP, Don’t Love Anybody.

“It’s a biblical name. People don’t know how to spell it: Everybody adds a ‘c’ to the beginning and it’s just ‘sh.’ I’m going to put up a billboard one day, although I don’t care that much so maybe I won’t put up a billboard (laughs).”

Franklin learned a work ethic at an early age and attributes his upbringing to his musical style and influences. “I grew up between Monsey and Bethel, N.Y. In Bethel, I lived on a farm and I think that at first glance that’s where my music comes from a bit more, but a lot of my music is about religion and, I don’t know, being alive. I’ve certainly been alive at all times throughout my life so I think that it influenced it; it makes you either want to escape or find a better truth. Whether that truth is in another person or another place or another story or someone else’s story or your own story or something you twist to make it look like someone else’s story, or someone else … in the end it’s yours.”

There is something refreshing in youth, and a new approach to today’s often in-disarray music scene is always welcome, Franklin seems to keep a proper perspective on his music and life in general.

“That’s a great question,” he said when asked what keeps him in check. “I think that trying to see the bigger picture without seeing the smaller version of the bigger picture … throughout life, we’ll zoom out and look at the bigger picture and we think, ‘Oh that’s it,’ but we should really zoom out a little bit farther and see more. I like the really small picture and the really, really big picture but the medium picture doesn’t do any good for me. Hopefully on a good day, you’re up on the mountain and you see everything for what it is or you’re in the valley and you don’t see much of anything except what really matters. I try to situate myself in those positions and then stand back and let it happen.”

Don’t Love Anybody was released on May 18 and was produced by Grammy Award winning C. Lanzbom (Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen), Franklin says that the two clicked from the start and that they now have a bond. “They’re little songs; I love them a lot. I made it with a fellow named C. Lanzbom who has become kind of like my mentor and a dear friend and we made this record. He knows an all-star cast of great session players and we just recorded these songs in a studio …”

His voice trailed off into a reflective pause. Then he went on about where his work may fit, in today’s music world. “I’m 22 years old. I know it sounds cliché but I’ve never thought about genre. I don’t know, the songs just kind of do the driving and I just sit in the passenger seat and kind of give them directions when they need it. I’m along for the ride.”

Most songwriters are experience-riven, be it through broken hearts, death, job stress or being jaded by life and/or the music business in general. But at only 22 years of age, what drives him to write?

“That’s a really good question and I love your bluntness. Hopefully a song is born out of the triumph over certain bitterness. Hopefully your response to the bitterness is not bitter, but the subject or the seed of it is some form of terrible experience. The source of everything is the profound shock of me simply being alive, but my songs are not celebrating the shock but the calm that comes after the shock and the peace that comes with some form of triumph and the conquering of that experience.

“I find myself very joyful because I’m not in that anymore because I wrote the songs; songs are kind of like exorcisms of pain. So if the songs are successful, then you’ve succeeded in what you were trying to do, in which case you’re left with nothing but joy.”

When questioned as to what he thinks of his own efforts and how his music translates to the crowds with him either solo or with a band behind him, and how he compares to other artists who have produced both rock and acoustic or folk records, he was quick and candid.

“Absolutely, I think all of the great artists, they were/are sort of both. I think it depended on the geography or if someone was able to get a band, that’s what made it rock ‘n’ roll or folk or whatever. So I don’t really think about that. Ideally, I love playing with a band and I love playing solo as well. I think my record is a little bit of both.

“What kind of song is ‘Sympathy for the Devil’? Is that a folk song or is it a rock ‘n’ roll song? It’s just rock ‘n’ roll because they made it a little more groovy and put some instruments behind it and it’s got Keith Richards on it, but they could’ve done that either way.”

Franklin feels today’s climate is somewhat adrift from the days of big stage shows and presentations, but seems to feel it may be more of a generation gap. “Even Elvis was a performer and it was a production; I feel like that’s something that’s not necessarily missing, it’s just a divide between original songwriters and that kind of thing has maybe gotten a little wider? Maybe it’s just the way of pop music? I don’t know.”

Gaps or closeness, acoustic or electric, what can we expect when we go to a Franklin show?

“I don’t know but on a good day, really good stories and really good songs. And on a bad day, some really bad stories but still really good songs.”

For more about Franklin, visit shlomofranklin.com.

Franklin performs at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, July 6 at 8 p.m.; visit brightonbar.com.

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