DNA test provided singer Ed with new take on his talentOctober 18, 2012 - 7:00am
Americana fans are in for a treat when Ed Romanoff plays a free show upstairs in the Róisín Dubh on Monday next, October 22. The Brooklyn-based songwriter has just released his self-titled debut, at the age of 53. Could he be called a late bloomer?
“I’d say that’s fair!” he laughs.”I don’t if there’s anything later than the word ‘late’ – but if it didn’t happen now, I don’t know if it was going to. Part of the reason I started late was I thought I was tone deaf. The family I grew up in, my father was tone deaf and I thought that I was like him.”
Although he played in bands in his thirties, it was only at the end of the last decade that Ed found his feet as a writer.
“I was writing stuff down on napkins, but I really wanted to learn about song writing,” he says. “So in 2009, I started taking some writing seminars and I met some really great artists. People like Josh Ritter, Mary Gauthier and Darrell Scott, and I started learning how they were doing what they were doing.”
Mary Gauthier is a highly acclaimed songwriter – one of her songs features on Bob Dylan’s radio show for the American station, Sirius. Gauthier and Ed Romanoff struck up a friendship and co-wrote one of the standouts on Ed’s album, Breakfast for One on the 5th Of July. It won Best Lyrics at the 2011 International Songwriting Competition and the 2011 USA Songwriting Competition.
While meeting Gauthier has helped Ed in his craft, it also led him a life-changing revelation.
“She liked the song we wrote together, so she took me on the road,” he says. “Halfway through she wanted to take a DNA test, because she’s adopted, she wanted to learn about her biological family. I took a DNA test with her because she wanted someone there, she was nervous.
“When my results came in it said that I was Irish and not Russian. I took another test and it confirmed that I was, in fact, Irish. So it turns out that I’m not tone deaf, and the father I grew up with actually wasn’t my father.”
Unsurprisingly, this discovery found its way into Romanoff’s songs. On St. Vincent De Paul he wonders “If we met on the street/Would I know his face?” The results of the DNA must have had a profound effect on Ed.
“At first I didn’t believe it, I was like ‘that can’t be’,” he recalls. “I got my brother to take it, and it turns out we’re half brothers. And that’s when I started to think ‘man, there might be something to this’.
“It kind of gave me the sensation of falling; I would wake up feeling like I had just landed,” he adds. “It messed with my identity a little bit. Looking in the mirror, I started to wonder ‘well, who do I take after?’.”
On a more prosaic level, his Ed’s friendship with Mary Gauthier has shaped his approach to song writing.
“She’s a diligent worker,” he says. “The song we wrote together, we probably put 80 drafts together. Every single line she goes through, closely, and every single word. It was very eye-opening for me to see that. When we were going to record it, she said ‘if anybody asks you, tell them that we wrote it in the cab on the way to the studio!’.”
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.