Weary Artist – Andy Friedman

It will be another strange bend in the road when Andy Friedman makes a return visit to Manchester to play Boynton’s Taproom in the Millyard on Feb. 27. Last time he was here for a wedding and he killed some time writing music that appears on his new CD “Weary Things.” The city even found its way into one of the songs (“Locked Out of the Building”) when a local woman saw his New York plates and gave him a piece of her mind for going the wrong way on a one-way street. That barb of memory and a hundred others buzz like wasps sucked up a vacuum cleaner hose in his ambivalently dark country songs. “Weary Things” has gotten the kind of rave reviews that might swell the head of most musicians, but Friedman says he’s not really a musician, just an artist who plays country music and takes odd turns. Even his art career took off strangely when he got some cartoons published in the New Yorker.

A New Yorker cartoonist and a country singer? How unlikely is that? It’s pretty improbable. I was assistant cartoon editor for the New Yorker and was looking at fifteen hundred one liners a week. That really taught me how to get the bigness and darkness of a situation down to a single line. When you think of it, what better preparation for a country singer than that? I did that for six or seven years and could see each little cartoon as a country song in itself.

And you had some of your own cartoons turn up on those iconic pages? About 15 of them. My first published cartoon had a doctor and a nurse looking at charts of a guy on the operating table and the nurse is saying, “Dr. Horton and I have discovered something that we don’t like. Our hope, on the other hand, is that you’ll grow to like it.”

What kind of guitar do you play? Hmm. I’m not sure you can call what I do playing. I’d like to quote an old friend of mine who’s passed away: “The Martin Guitar Company has asked me to make sure to tell you I play a Gibson.” I have an old hollow-body Gretsch my dad gave me. There were only 200 of them made and I was not worthy to touch it, but when I started playing my dad decided to give it to me. He took it out of this vault in the basement and that weekend the house burned down. A firefighter saw the case burning in the garage and he was obviously a guitar freak, because he saved it. As it turned out the case was gone, but the guitar had only minor damages. That’s the guitar I use.

There’s a photo in your CD sleeve of a shelf of LP albums. They’re all tattered and worn but in alphabetical order. Was that a self portrait? Totally. Filed alphabetically and chronologically. My 2-year-old is potty training and recently, while he was just sitting there, I decided to try to teach him the principles of alphabetization. He said, “Daddy, can you be quiet. I’m making a poop.”

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