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Frankie Five: Frankie Lee debuts his ‘American Dreamer’ video pentology

Frankie Lee on the farm (Photo courtesy Frankie Lee)

So here’s something I’ve never done before. Each week, the Friday Five is typically the space where I round up and share some of the coolest music videos to emerge from the Minnesota music scene that week. But this time around, I couldn’t resist the idea of reserving the entire five spots for an ambitious new project from alt-country artist Frankie Lee.

Not only is this your first chance to peep the official music video for the single “Where Do We Belong” and the visual album American Dreamer, but it’s also your first chance to hear the rest of the music on this stellar new EP.

I sent five quick questions over to Frankie to ask him about this new project, which he will be celebrating with a big release show at the Turf Club tomorrow night, March 21.

Andrea Swensson: Where did you get the inspiration to create visuals accompany the entire EP? (Please say Beyoncé, please say Beyoncé…)

Frankie Lee: A film maker named Erik Nelson had approached me about about a year back about doing a project with a few songs from Middle West. I’m not big on looking back, but was interested in working with someone who wanted to do things a little differently. Shooting came together last fall with the new songs I was recording for American Dreamer. Some are left as rough demos other completed mastered songs.

Did you write the songs on the EP with these visuals in mind, or did the video concepts come later?

They came later. I usually have a pretty clear picture of where the songs come from and the settings that inspire me to create them. Bringing them to video form was not something I had ever really thought about before. When this project started the rule was that nothing could be staged, no special effects, and no major shifts from the day to day life I’ve been living in MN the past few years. What you see is what you get…what you hear is what you get. We went from there.

How does American Dreamer compare to your first EP, Middle West?

The songs from American Dreamer came to be after a serious farm accident that happened to me last spring (2014). I couldn’t play and couldn’t work (at the farm) and was being forced to slow down my life for the first time in almost 10 years. During that time I would drive out to my mom’s house (where I grew up) and walk around my old hometown. I started healing and started playing her old upright piano. The songs reflect what I saw and felt while healing back home. Most of the record was written on that piano. Most of the songs came from that town.

What draws you recording EP-length releases as opposed to full-length albums?

I think I’m drawn by good songs to put it simply. If you look at it like writing… I’d say I prefer the memoir / essay / short story rather than the epic novel or sweeping narrative. Maybe I read too much Sam Shepard and not enough Tolstoy? Truth is, I don’t really think about it… I’m just giving people what I think is my best.

What are the songs that we’re hearing on American Dreamer?

“Scratch Off,” “Buffalo,” “American Dreamer,” and “High and Lonesome.”

Frankie Lee, “Where Do We Belong” (single)

Frankie Lee, American Dreamer