Today’s Feature, July 10-11: Bryon Friedman

January 18, 2008 at 6:28 pm (Today's Feature)

July 10-11: Bryon Friedman

I find Bryon Friedman’s life a tale of “what if” events. What if he never left Atlanta, Georgia for Park City, Utah? What if he never had success as a professional skier, became a member of the U.S. Ski Team and traveling around the world, all the while putting his stories to music? Or what if Bryon never hung up his skis after a severe leg injury in a World Cup downhill in Chamonix, France in January 2005? All these events, the ups and downs, have brought Bryon Friedman to where he is today; Santa Barbara, California-the beach, the sun, his music. Not many athletes can say music, let alone a singer/songwriter, would be their “retirement plan” (so to say). However, I think it is the polar opposite of lifestyles in which Friedman has encountered that makes his story so unique. For the greater part of his life, he was set on getting down that hill as fast as possible. He was a competitor, a champion and a national hero. Now his life is music, which he’ll admit was there all along but sometimes it just takes little time (or an injury) to point us in the right direction, allowing our true passions to surface. Thus is the case with Bryon Friedman. His December 2006, release, Road Sodas, is a folk rock, acoustic work that unveils Friedman’s natural ability. Friedman and Road Sodas have become popular fixtures on the indie and west coast circuits, as well as finding fame on Sirius Satellite Radio (The Coffee House). His voice is smooth, calm and true; no filler, no sound machines, no tweaking. You will hear on the album what you would hear at a live show. Throughout Road Stories, you can’t help but think how this laid back, west coast troubadour, was once more worried about speed and strength, rather than creating stunning music. You also can’t help but wonder what if Friedman decided his leg injury was just a hurdle, a small obstacle in the life of a professional athlete? What if he stayed in the mountains, rather than the beaches? Luckily, wondering if Friedman never decided to become a musician, is something, we don’t have to worry about. Check out his XXQs to find out more.

XXQs: Bryon Friedman (PEV): How and when did you get involved with music?

Bryon Friedman (BF): I’ve been involved with music in some shape or form for most of my life however, I didn’t really get seriously involved until 2005. That’s when I broke my leg skiing and had a lot of time on my hands to devote to playing and songwriting. At first it was just a way to cope with my emotions but it eventually turned into something more. Some of my closest friends suggested I record an album and start sharing more of my music so I did and “Road Sodas” is the result.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music?

BF: It was exciting. I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t know what to expect but I loved every second of it. After spending a 15 hour day on our first day of recording I knew the process was going to be fun and I couldn’t wait to get back in there the next morning. Building a song and an album from scratch is an amazing process, which is very rewarding in the end!

The cool thing about my first recording session was that I found the studio online, it’s called Cornerhouse Studios, and I decided to give the owner a call. He was very easy to talk to and seemed like he knew what he was doing so I booked the time and showed up a month later. I had never been to the studio prior to our first day of recording so it was a little stressful because I didn’t know what to expect or how it would work out. As it turned out the studio is an old brick house with a lot of character built over 100 years ago. Craig Sowby, the owner, was great to work with and I’ve been back twice since to lie down a few scratch tracks.

PEV: What can people expect from your latest release, “Road Sodas” and how is it different from other music out right now?

BF: People can expect a nice relaxed acoustic sound without an overproduced feel, which I feel is different than a lot of the bells and whistles you hear these days. A good description of Road Sodas is music you can rock to, sleep to, groove to, or just plain ignore depending on the mood that you’re in. We are a four piece so a lot of the songs are played with a full band, but two are stripped down to just me and my guitar doing live takes. Overall I think it flows nicely and the sound is very clean.

PEV: Tell us about how your song, “How Can I Get Back”, was chosen for Sirius Satellite Radio (Coffee House Channel 30). How does it feel to be a part of such a large platform?

BF: “How Can I Get Back” is a new song that is currently unreleased. We recorded it during our live in studio session with Sirius this winter and they liked it so they chose to play it on their Coffee House channel since it fits the acoustic vibe. The song is about feeling good again and realizing that it’s ok to have a rough patch every once and a while because it makes the good times feel that much better. As for being on Sirius, of course it feels great to be a part of such a large platform and I’m excited that it was chosen for and is being played continuously. So far there has been some good feedback and I’ve had people contact me asking where they can get the song. We are going to release it on iTunes soon.

PEV: For many years, you were a professional skier, traveling the world skiing the most beautiful yet challenging mountains (guitar in hand). After a severe leg injury in a World Cup downhill in Chamonix, France in January 2005, you decided to leave the ski life behind. How has this affected your music?

BF: I haven’t actually left the ski world behind for good. I’m still on the U.S. Ski Team and have the opportunity to come back and race World Cup again if I can prove that I’m healthy and able to do so. Regardless the injury has affected my career, life, and music tremendously. I would say breaking my leg was the catalyst that led me to write more, play more, and eventually record “Road Sodas.” Because of the injury I had all this time on my hands and was able to put myself out there by playing more shows and putting an album into the world. I would say that being fortunate enough to ski around the world gave me a lot to think and write about and those experiences have undoubtedly influenced my writing.

PEV: What is the best part about the west coast beach life?

BF: For me it’s the surfing. I’ve spent the majority of my life skiing and trying to master the art of arcing a turn on snow and now I’m trying to figure out how to do the same in water, only instead of the water being frozen it moves towards you at 20-30 mph. Learning a new sport at this stage in life is a humbling yet valuable experience and I can’t imagine my life without it. I firmly believe the ocean and mountains can heal all wounds and I look forward to surfing and skiing for the rest of my life.

PEV: In all your travels, which city offers the best environment/appreciation for music?

BF: Although I’ve never played a show there I think Austin, Texas has the best appreciation and environment for music. My college roommate is in a band there called The Band of Heathens and they are doing quite well. Their music isn’t mainstream, but that doesn’t necessarily matter, especially in Austin or Texas for that matter. Everyone seems to come to the show to “listen” and enjoy the craft of the songwriters as well as their musicianship, which is what it’s all about. When I get a chance to play to a crowd that really listens to the songs I get really excited and thank the audience for “listening.” Of course there are times when it gets rowdy and everybody is letting loose but it’s important to an artist when people come to the show and respect the vibe if it’s going to be quiet. That’s the type of respect a lot of musicians get in Austin.

PEV: Is there a certain atmosphere you surround yourself in when you write music?

BF: It really depends on the mood that I’m in. Usually I like to be secluded when I sit down to write music, however I’ve written songs next to people on airplanes, in cars, trains, and with friends. There’s something about traveling to foreign places that makes you reflect and transcribe what you are feeling at that moment so I write a lot while I’m traveling. Then again often times I won’t write until I’m home and it’s late at night when it’s quiet and I can focus on the task at hand without distraction. I also find that after exercising, surfing or skiing I’m in a clear state of mind, which in my opinion is the best for creating new ideas.

PEV: What drives you to continually create music?

BF: You know when you hear a song and you immediately feel the chills run down your spine? That’s what drives me to write music. That feeling of euphoria, nostalgia, and excitement is why I love it so much. I guess I strive to pass that feeling along to others and hope that I can affect them the way I have been affected by music.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your success?

BF: My friends kind of laugh at me and take it for what it is. To them I’m still Bryon the skier who occasionally picked up the guitar and wrote songs to make fun of them. However they also encourage me to write more and do more with my music, as they would like to see me take it as far as it can go. My family is very supportive of everything. My parents just want me to be happy and work hard towards achieving my goals and my brother is always keeping an eye out for me as he is in the music industry now.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you? And what is the best and worst part about “road-life”?

BF: The good far outweighs the bad. My favorite part about life on the road is the constant state of awareness to your surroundings that goes on. Each new country I visit my head is constantly on a swivel taking in as much of the culture and landscape as possible. I love the experiences such as walking down a street in a random city, poking my head into a shop to check it out, and after a few words with the owner he invites me and a friend to join them at a BBQ out back. The next thing you know we are drinking their wine, eating their food, and singing their Chilean folk songs with complete strangers. Come to think of it, maybe I should write a song about that experience?

The worst part about road-life is living out of a bag for months on end. At times you feel groundless and wish you could just stay put for a while. The catch 22 is that once I do get a chance to stay put for an extended period of time I get the itch to hit the road again. The reality is I’m a spoiled traveler.

PEV: If I were to walk into your house/and studio right now, what is one thing I would be surprised to find?

BF: You would probably be surprised to find an old 1930’s standup piano that I bought on Craig’s List for $250. I’m not much of a pianist but I can play enough to get around a few songs and helps me write new material as is lends a different perspective.

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what do you like to do?

BF: Right now I like to surf whenever I’m not traveling or performing. I’ve also been working with a documentary filmmaker here in Santa Barbara who was interested in my story and wanted to do a project with me. If all goes as planned it will get into the Santa Barbara film festival next year.

PEV: People can download your music from your website. What is your opinion on the heated debate over downloading music off line?

BF: A friend of mine burned a copy of my album for another friend who apparently coaches ski racing. In turn he burned it for all of the 17 others, young kids that he coaches, and so it begins. In my case since as a fairly new artist I think that file sharing is good because it allows my music to travel places it never could without the internet. I firmly believe that if someone really likes your music they will buy it from you, even if they already got it for free.

PEV: What can someone expect from a live Bryon Friedman show?

BF: I usually start off the evenings with a couple songs that I perform alone and then the band jumps in and we get things moving. A lot of my friends will ask us to speed it up early on but I think it’s important to gradually build throughout the night and finish strong when everybody has waited with anticipation for some of our faster songs. We’ve had a few shows when the night moved from a quiet listening audience to everybody up and out of their seats dancing around and singing along. We also throw in a couple covers each show…lately we’ve been playing a Ray Lamontagne song “How Come” and Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic.”

PEV: What is the best part about playing live?

BF: The energy, the sound, and the rush. When I was rehabbing from my injury I couldn’t find the same rush that I felt while ski racing until I started playing shows. Although skiing is a much quicker fix I find that playing live music provides a similar rush, only it’s more drawn out and tends to last longer. There are certain moments during a show when everything is noticeably fluid, the band is totally locked in, and it feels like everything is in slow motion. It’s those moments that I can take a step back, breath deeply, and realize how truly amazing the feeling of playing live is.

PEV: If you could collaborate with one artist, living or passed, who would it be and why?

BF: That’s a tough question…I would have to go with Brett Dennen since he is one of the most talented song writers out there right now. Judging from his lyrics he just gets it and it would be a lot of fun to learn and collaborate with him.

PEV: Who do you think is an artist to watch for on the scene right now?

BF: This may seem redundant… but although he’s already broken through so to speak, I would watch for Brett Dennen. The guy is an amazing songwriter, very poetic yet real, and addresses a lot of political issues in a creative and non-invasive manner. He’s very unassuming and if you see him live, which I highly recommend, you’ll ask yourself, “is that sound really coming out of that guy’s mouth?” In my opinion he’s our generations’ Dylan, unfortunately nobody pays much attention to folk anymore. I think Brett Dennen is going to turn folk music around.

PEV: What’s one thing the fans would be surprised to hear about Bryon Friedman?

BF: That I have and insatiable appetite for chocolate chip cookies and Will Ferrell quotes.

PEV: So, what is next for Bryon Friedman?

BF: Right now I am just trying to get my leg back to 100% so I can be a functional skier again. Regardless of whether or not I return to competition I’m planning to record another album next year and play as many shows as possible in the meantime. I hope to grow as a musician, songwriter, and performer and continue to chase down my second dream job if I am forced to retire from skiing. Of course I’ll be surfing as much as possible along the way.

For more information on Bryon Friedman, check out:


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