Tom Freund Is Oddly Upbeat In 'Two Moons'

California-based troubadour Tom Freund sings of skateboarding kids, impending doom and Happy Days lunch boxes on his new album, Two Moons. NPR's Lynn Neary talks to him about the record.

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LYNN NEARY, HOST:

Back in the early '80s, Randy Newman famously sand about the City of Angels.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE L.A.")

RANDY NEWMAN: (Singing) It's like another perfect day. I love LA. We love it.

NEARY: Singer-songwriter Tom Freund offers his take on Los Angeles right out of the box on the first track of his new album "Two Moons."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANGEL EYES")

TOM FREUND: (Singing) Funny how when you leave L.A., you got to drive into the desert. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

NEARY: Tom Freund joins us now. And of course, he is in NPR West in Culver City, California. Welcome to the program, Tom.

FREUND: Hey. Thanks so much, Lynn.

NEARY: Now, Tom, I'm a New Yorker, I have to tell you. And you're originally from New York.

FREUND: I still consider myself a New Yorker.

NEARY: You still consider yourself a New Yorker.

FREUND: Somehow. Somehow. Isn't that weird?

NEARY: (Laughing) Is it easier being a musician in LA do you think?

FREUND: I find that, although very spread out, I run into some of the greatest people out here, some real heroes of mine from the past and comrades of the present. It's - I don't know - the end of the 10 freeway. It's where a lot of people meet. It's pretty good.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANGEL EYES")

FREUND: (Singing) Freedom and it brings the peace when I need it. Believe me when I tell you you make it possible to do the things I do.

NEARY: Well, that sort of an LA feeling. That kind of an upbeat, California tone makes it's way into a number of the tracks on this album. Let's listen to part of another song. This one is "Let Me Be Who I Want To Be.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET ME BE WHO I WANT TO BE")

FREUND: (Singing) Did a back bend in the sun just to see my see my lucky one. Flew a kite up in the air. You can't tell me that I don't care 'cause I'm basically hooked on this life.

NEARY: You know, I read this one description of this. It called it an oddly upbeat anthem.

FREUND: All right.

NEARY: Tell us about this song.

FREUND: It's funny. The inspiration of this occurred on a bike ride by the beach. And sometimes I just write song like journaling style and then head back home to pick up an instrument after, and see what I can come up with. What's cool about this song is a lot of people have come up to me and said, you know, I feel like that. I feel like what you're saying in this song. So I guess, on some level, I've hit a nerve.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET ME BE WHO I WANT TO BE")

FREUND: (Singing) And you don't have to be with me. But let me fly my freak flag. Let me shine my light on. Let me be who I want to be. Yeah. All right.

NEARY: What struck me about your music - not all of the songs, but some of the songs do have these kind of upbeat lyrics. But then the music seems to have a kind of melancholy feel. Do you agree with that?

FREUND: I have been accused of melancholy, for sure.

NEARY: (Laughing) But that juxtaposition of the upbeat lyrics with the melancholy feel - is that a sort of intentional thing that you do?

FREUND: I don't think it's intentional. That may have to do with some heroes of mine. Right when you said that, it struck me like Joni Mitchell "Hejira" record or something. I guess a few of my favorite records have always been maybe laced with melancholy. But I think the lyrics still have a lot of hope in them.

NEARY: Now I know you said, at the beginning, that you still think of yourself as a New Yorker. And I understand that "Mind Of Your Own" had something to do with hurricane Sandy, which is not immediately obvious when you first hear it. But let's listen to some of that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIND OF YOUR OWN")

FREUND: (Singing) The autumn winds are blowing back a wave up in the sky. I've been pulling my wagon all day, but you don't even try.

NEARY: So how did Hurricane Sandy inspire this song?

FREUND: Well, it more had to do with a place - sort of an end of the era. We had a summer place out on Fire Island, Long Island growing up. And this house - this old house, it battled through a lot of storms. And I - living on the West Coast, I would get about a year a week out there. And I'd always get a song going out there. It's an inspirational spot for me. And this last hurricane hit really hard out there. And it flattened a lot of Fire Island and a lot of special memories. And our house sort of did make it mostly, but it was also a time for the family to let it go. So a lot of things were going on. There was a lot of letting go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIND OF YOUR OWN")

FREUND: The tides are rising with hurricane-force winds. We almost lost our house and with it, everything.

NEARY: You dedicated this album to your mom. Can you tell us why?

FREUND: Yeah, of course. Part of what I was saying in "Mind Of Your Own" song is - was sort of an end of an era. And one of the biggest reasons it was the end of an era, besides the moving away from the house on the beach that we had, was that my mom passed on. And she was a real guiding light for me, a very important person my whole life, showing me lots of sides of things and always being able to call her and talk to her no matter where we were and laugh about stuff. And part of these songs have to do with her passing. It's like I don't know if I've dressed it specifically, but I feel like they're in these songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIND OF YOUR OWN")

NEARY: Tom Freund. His new CD is called "Two Moons." And he joined us from the studios of NPR West. Thanks for being with us, Tom.

FREUND: Thanks so much, Lynn.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIND OF YOUR OWN")

FREUND: (Singing) Waiting for the sun to rise. Waiting for you to open your eyes.

NEARY: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. B.J. Leiderman wrote our theme. I'm Lynn Neary.

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