Eleanor Kaufman – Interview – Fred Rudofsky

Written by on December 29, 2023

Eleanor Kaufman – Interview – Fred Rudofsky.

Equally at home in jazz, soul, and folk, singer-songwriter Eleanor Kaufman brings them all together in “Luna Fina”, an upcoming EP certain to appeal to anybody who loves a vocalist with a gift for lyrical turns and strong melodies. I first met Eleanor in 2018 at MASSMoCA during a Neko Case / Ray LaMontagne concert. During intermission, we chatted about all sorts of music and, at one point, even sang a bit of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” together, like Prine and Bonnie Raitt would.  We’ve been friends ever since.

During the recent holiday, I chatted with Eleanor about the road to writing and recording songs for her new EP, due out in early 2024.

Where were these songs for this EP recorded? 

The songs were recorded in my apartment in Brooklyn, and at Greenpoint Recording Collective – a studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn– and some of the vocals were recorded in Nyack, NY.

How would you describe the process, especially compared to what transpired on other recordings you’ve done?   

Long, vulnerable, character-building, but also exciting and wonderful.  I decided to put out an EP two years ago, which was also the start of a big career transition and what would become a challenging personal time for me. Writing the songs, recording the album, and releasing the songs has taken longer than I initially envisioned, but in the end, I am happy I took the time I needed.

This is my first album release since 2017, when I released Be My Honey with my band, Eleanor & the Tasties. Since then, I have released three singles. My goal for this collection of songs was to be able to play all the songs on my own on the guitar. In the past, I would work with a guitarist and other musicians to bring the recorded versions to life, and even involve them in the writing process, but I really wanted to work independently on these new songs and bring them to the studio mostly fully baked. So, unlike other recordings, this process for me was all about building my confidence as a guitar player and as a solo songwriter, and then eventually translating that into a studio setting as my own session musician.

I am so grateful for my collaboration with Dylan McKinstry, whom I met during this process, and who has been an awesome partner on these songs– adding his expertise in a way that never took away or altered the vision I had, but elevating it in subtle and important ways.

What was the inspiration for the album’s title? Which came first, the song title or the artwork? 

The song “Luna Fina”, which means “The Fine Moon”, is the first song I wrote in Argentina when I traveled there in 2022. The song is about the delicate but powerful journey of embarking on an unknown journey- the mystery, the beauty, the hardships of being vulnerable while paving new paths. I decided that the name would also be a good album title because, in a way, each song speaks to the idea of embracing an unknown journey…to quote the lyrics of “Luna Fina”: “The journey is long and full of life, and you never know when you will arrive…I follow the road, however open, however closed.. don’t stop looking at what shines in your sky.”

Tender journeys involve dipping into unknown places. The artwork is a photo I took of the road where I lived in Argentina. In the distance, the Pan de Azucar mountain peak is rising as a reminder of the goals and hope that keep you trekking on your journey.

Is this project a song cycle–in other words, are the compositions somehow connected?  

The five songs were independently conceived, but they were completed or written around the same time period, so my mind was in a similar space while working through them. Conceptually, they are all about different things that happened at different points in my life, but they all speak to the idea of uncomfortable and important journeys.

You’re an old soul in a digital world, El. Several months ago (March 2023), you released a trio of songs, cut live with a small combo in direct-to-vinyl mono, a bold move no less, at Leesta Vall. I love those songs. What did you learn from that experience? How have these songs evolved from that session since then? Will all three be making an appearance on LUNA?

I learned that I miss playing live with a band. I learned that less is more and not to overcomplicate things when working with a band, but at the same time, how preparation is key for making a live recording session successful and fun.

The time and effort put into practicing with the band and feeling prepared made this experience what it was. We were locked in as a band before heading to the studio. Once we got to the studio, we were able to just have fun playing the songs over and over again. All three songs that we recorded at Leesta Vall are on the album.

The songs have naturally evolved because in the studio, you have lots of fun tools at your fingertips and a great engineer with new ideas to explore. I see live performances and studio settings as two distinct spaces where you can play around with the tools and people at hand to create two different sound experiences for your music.

When and where can people get ahold of “Luna Fina”? Where can they learn about this imminent album and other projects and gigs, too? 

I have been releasing the songs from the album as singles and on December 29  will be releasing the fourth song off the EP, called “Without You”. The final song, which is also the title track (“Luna Fina”), will be released mid-January and at that point the full album will be released. You can hear the EP on any and all of your favorite streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon Music, etc. ). You can learn about upcoming shows and announcements via my Instagram @elmelodies .

I also have a mailing list if anybody is interested– they can email me and I can add them at [email protected] .

Anything else you’d care to add, El?

I guess one more thing to add is that there has been a big change with my sound since I’ve dedicated myself to learning the guitar; I now write all (most) of my songs on the guitar and have stripped out a lot of the bigger sounds of a backing band. My sound now is much more stripped down; I’m letting my voice be the prominent instrument and the guitar and other instruments support the vocals.

I’m already working on my next album ☺.  Can’t wait to share more music with you!

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