Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger
What have been your career highs and lows?
It's all a high. The fact that I'm still doing this after eight years and haven't had to get another job. There isn't a low. I'm the luckiest person in the world. And it keeps getting better because I am still learning. A low, I guess, is when I'm not working. We've played to ten people, which is demoralizing, but is it really that bad? I could be doing a lot worse things. I'm gonna knock on wood. There are times where I get stressed out and nervous about things, but it's not bad. I sing and make music, it's pretty good!
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
The meanest thing was probably said by my brother. It's more like a dirty look from my brother, he does that a lot. I don't think he's aware of it. If something sounds wrong or I make a mistake, he automatically scowls. That feels bad.
What should everyone shut up about?
I wish people would stop talking about food. It's so food-centric where I live right now. All people care about is food.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I'm self-deprecating, I like that. People think that I'm easygoing, which I can be, but I'm also very neurotic. I dislike that. I'm not that easygoing and I wish I was.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Going for a bike ride, having several alcoholic drinks, watching a movie. In New York they have movies in the park. If I could do that and have a nice picnic, and a bottle of wine, then ride my bike home, that would be a nice Sunday. I drink and ride all the time.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
I moved into a house that I got to renovate however I wanted, and the one piece of advice someone gave me was, "Just move into the house now but don't do anything for a whole year. Just feel it, get to know the space and you'll know what to do." But instead I was so impatient that I didn't listen and went ahead and made a million plans without thinking it through. I regret that. I made a lot of mistakes. And no, that's not what my song ["My Mistakes"] is about. That song isn't about regret. What I'm talking about is making a mistake I regret. I don't always take time in making decisions.
What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Kicking out is a harsh way to say it, but if someone's not good enough. That's the biggest reason. And you can apply that to bed for sure.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of good-natured, good-humoured people. And they love music I think maybe even more than Americans. Every time I'm in Toronto I have a really good experience. I often think, "Yeah, I could live here."
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
It was either Paul Simon's Graceland. Or maybe a 45 of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics. I'm not sure which one came out first. That's the first record I remember having. It was when I had my Fisher Price record player.
What was your most memorable day job?
When I first moved to New York I was a temp at CitiBank for two years. I was moved out of different departments but the best was when I was a secretary for a woman who was going on vacation. It was 2000, there was kind of a boom happening and I got hired to do nothing but check her voice messages on her phone. If something sounded urgent I'd have to pass it on to somebody else. But CitiBank had a corporate membership to all of the banks in New York, so she was like, "Just come in for a few hours in the morning and afternoon and then do whatever you want." And so every day I went to a different museum. And got paid to do it.
How do you spoil yourself?
By procrastinating. Cleaning is one thing or running errands. Those are what I do to spoil myself. I'll go shopping instead of doing something I should be doing. And then the cleaning is the reward.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
When I was in college I thought I could be a TV or film producer. I don't know why I thought that. I just feel it's something I could do in a creative field. But I think I might rather work in retail. I like talking to people and I'm good at selling things.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
A good voice. Someone who can talk in a nice way. One that is very seductive.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Recently I was on a flight from New York to Chicago, in coach as I always fly, and John C. Reilly the actor was also in coach. I thought that was funny. And after the flight I had to check my bag at the gate and he had to check his bag at the gate too. So we were both waiting and I was totally staring at him. He probably noticed I was staring at him. And then they moved carousels and so I sprinted over to it to get my bag. On the way back we made eye contact and I smiled at him and he kind of smiled at me and I thought, "Oh, that's nice." So when I go out to the curb where my mom is picking me up I turned around and he was standing right in front of me and he says in a deep funny voice, "How are you?" And I said, "I'm fine." A few weeks before that a friend had a similar experience where he was selling ice cream from an ice cream truck and he acted with her in a similar way. So I had a notebook in my pocket and said, "Sorry to do this but would you give me an autograph for my friend?" And he said okay. So my mom pulled up and I said, "My mom's gonna think you're giving me your phone number." And he laughs. He asked where I'm from, because he's from Chicago too, so we started chatting a bit. And they I asked if he wanted a ride, to which he smiled and said, "Nah, it's okay." And he leans down to the window and says, "Hi mom." Then I got in the car and we drove away. It was a nice experience.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Both of my grandmothers. One I've never met and I'm named after her. I have a bunch of her stuff and I'd love to serve her dinner at her table, which I have. That would be really nice. I would make some Greek food. Some lamb, salads, spanakopita.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Nothing! Are you kidding me? She's living vicariously through me. She used to play guitar and sing when she was young, so she loves it. She loves following me on the internet and seeing me perform.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Oh god! Ronnie Lane's "Done This One Before." He's one of my favourite singers.
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