Arts Q&A: American singer-songwriter Dean Friedman on the Allman Brothers, Howard the Duck and Iain Banks

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, American singer-songwriter Dean Friedman

American songwriter Friedman returns to Belfast's Crescent Arts Centre in April

1. When did you think about a career as a singer and what were your first steps into it? After getting an acoustic guitar and learning four chords, I wrote my very first song at age nine, titled, I'd Love to Take a Swim With You in the Summertime. I played it for my 4th grade teacher whose brother was a lawyer in the music industry and a week later I was offered a publishing contract by Elevator Music Publishing (which promptly thereafter went bankrupt). It wasn't until a few years later that I started getting paid a few bucks for coffeehouse gigs that I decided to take it a bit more seriously and send out some demos, which landed me a record deal.

2. Best gigs you've been to? My first proper rock concert was seeing the Allman Brothers Band play at my alma mater, City College of New York, in 1970. Duane Allman was still alive and played an awesome slide-guitar solo which reverberated around the stadium with a two-second delay, which he them played a harmony line to. It was insane and sounded amazing.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band? Deee Lite, the funk trio who made the classic, Groove is in the Heart. In my opinion, the greatest New York City dance/funk band ever.

4. The record you'd take to a desert island? Heavy Weather by Weather Report, endlessly listenable and fascinating, featuring brilliant compositions, superb arrangements and astounding performances by jazz-fusion greats, Joe Zawinal, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Alex Acuña and Manolo Badrena.

5. And the book? Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I've tried reading it about 20 times, and intriguing as it is, I've never managed to get past page 14. I figure stuck on a desert island I'd finally get to read the damn book.

6. Top three films? How to Train Your Dragon: greatest flight scenes in cinema history; The Incredibles – reminds me of my family, with all their latent, fun and potentially dangerous, super powers; and District 9 – totally plausible sci-fi tale of extra-terrestrial refugees and sadly way too reminiscent of how we currently mistreat refugee populations.

7. Worst film you've seen? Howard the Duck. I was (and still am) a huge fan of Howard the Duck – there's a picture of me reading a Howard the Duck comic on my debut album – so I had high expectations for the film which, sadly, turned out to be horrendous.

8. Favourite authors? Both Iain Banks and Iain M Banks. Ever since his first novel, The Wasp Factory and through his epic Culture sci-fi series I've been enthralled with his writing and the strange and fantastical, yet oddly plausible, worlds he conjures up.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team? Softball.

10. Ideal holiday destination? Atsitsa Bay on the Island of Skyros, a tiny Greek island in the Aegean Sea. I've been there twice with my family, conducting a songwriting course with the Skyros holistic holiday people. Idyllic place, delicious food and lovely people.

11. Pet hate? Traffic tickets and flight delays.

12. What's your favourite:

Dinner? Corned Beef on rye, with pickle and coleslaw on the side

Dessert? Anything with almond in it.

Drink? Boyland Soda – black cherry flavour.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other? My younger brother, Aram, who's simply nuts and is excited about everything; and my friend, Brett, who's kind of like an adopted big brother. We were room mates back in my college days, living in the Bronx, playing our guitars, writing songs and fantasising about women and music careers.

14. Is there a God? Wait, let me ask her.

:: Dean Friedman plays Belfast, Crescent Arts Centre on April 19 and it's a BYO event. Tickets from or

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