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Listen Then See: Eleanor Friedberger

By Lizz Kannenberg in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 20, 2011 4:30PM

Eleanor Friedberger
The Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger's first solo effort may be called Last Summer, but lead single "My Mistakes" has become a staple on our soundtrack of Summer 2011. The Oak Park native's gradual development as a confident singer and songwriter has spanned the Furnaces' career, and Last Summer bridges the gap between the lazy, handwoven warmth that's hard to capture even for veteran recording artists and an exciting sense of urgency usually reserved for the most precocious musical rookies.

Chicagoist had an opportunity to talk to Friedberger this week about the old and new of putting out a solo effort, growing up a music fan in Chicago and breaking out on her own. Here are the highlights:

Chicagoist: What do you remember of the music scene in Chicago? Were you guys playing around here before you moved away?

Eleanor Friendberger: I was not, I left Chicago when I was 17 to go to the University of Texas in Austin, which is where I saw a million shows. I went out to see bands practically every night of the week in Austin. But I did go see shows as a teenager and living in Oak Park was great and really easy because it was the last stop on the CTA and I could take the El downtown with my friends. I have some really great memories. My first concert at the Rosemont Horizon was Robert Plant and the Black Crowes, I think I was 12 or 13. I can remember going to see the free shows in Grant Park - I think I saw the Replacements' last show ever in Grant Park, and that was awesome. I think I saw Wilco in Grant Park once, but maybe not. I remember seeing Big Audio Dynamite and the Smashing Pumpkins...the Pumpkins show was a big one at the Aragon Ballroom. For some reason this Big Audio Dynamite show is a really strong memory because I went with a group of six girlfriends and at the show were six boys from our high school. We were sophomores and they were seniors, so it felt like a really big night out.

C: Yeah, but those are the nights you remember.

EF: But I guess I wasn't that cool, because it was until I went to college that I started seeing lots and lots of shows. Though I remember seeing my brother - he played in bands in college, so I take that back. What I would do is I would go down to Champaign where Matt went to school, and he was part of a real big local scene down there so I would go see those bands. I guess Hum was the most famous band at the time down there, and I would see my brother's bands play. That was exciting for me - beginning when I was old enough to drive, I would go down to Champaign on the weekends to see him play and his friends' bands play.

C: Speaking of your brother, what's the difference or the feeling of touring on a solo record after touring with him for a while?

EF: It's only just begun, so I don't really know. Last week was the first - I did three shows with a new band. I've only been on stage without my brother a handful of times, so it is like a totally different thing. In the moment, I'm not looking around saying, "Woah, God, where is Matt?" but yeah, I don't know - it's totally different. I don't have that protection or that buffer or the comfort zone of him, but I also don't have to...the things I get annoyed with about - that's not there. So it's a little bit of both. We'll see - this trip I'm about to take for two weeks is more like a promo trip and I'll be completely alone, so it will be really different for me.

C: Was Matt involved in making your solo album at all?

EF: Ha, no. Yeah, a lot of people have asked me that, which I think is really funny. I mean, it's a fair question, and he even offered. He was like, "Do you want me to play bass?" And I was like, "No, I don't want you to have anything to do with it!" I mean, I had help, I had a producer who did an amazing job, this is something I did on my own.

Listen: Eleanor Friedberger - "My Mistakes"

Eleanor Friedberger plays the Hideout tonight at 8pm, $5