12 Oct Frank Viele Pens Heartfelt Tribute to Thank His Mom for ‘Trying to Raise a Man’
Connecticut singer-songwriter Frank Viele’s wizened, beautifully weathered vocals and impeccable guitar playing are the byproduct of decades of hard work that began when he was just an adolescent. But the artist he would someday become was informed less by practicing, and more by a certain loving, inspirational figure: His mother Lynda.
But it wasn’t always easy. Viele had somewhat of a challenging childhood, and when he was a teen, his stepfather passed away. Relationships with step siblings got complicated. And at times, it felt like the world was burning all around them.
Yet she always put him first, in spite of life’s difficulties.
That’s why his latest single, “Trying To Raise A Man” — a deeply reflective torch song he recorded in Muscle Shoals, Ala. — truly tugs at the heartstrings. Buoyed by a beautiful, fingerpick guitar melody, Viele’s song doesn’t shy away from emotional catharsis, as he reflects on the unique experiences that shaped his life’s trajectory. Yet, while Viele acknowledges that “time ain’t on our side”— a nod to the idea of time as a thief, which is a common theme in his most recent work — he also offers the listener a sense of hope.
We caught up with Viele to talk about the single, which comes out Friday, October 13, and why he and his mom are now “stronger” for the harder times:
Rockmommy: Can you tell us the backstory of this song? How did you bring it to life?
Frank Viele: My mother lost her husband and I lost my step father when I was 16. There was a terrible mess of things that surrounded that situation for years later, but no matter where my world took me, I promised myself I’d always be with my mom on Mother’s Day.
When the pandemic hit, it was the first Mother’s Day I couldn’t be with her due to quarantine protocols. So I started that Mother’s Day on my phone digging through Spotify looking for songs about moms. I was trying to find some comfort in music, simply because that’s the place I’ve always found my sense of peace. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a song that I felt truly spoke to my relationship with my mom.
So in what seemed like no time at all, I sat alone in my living room and two hours later this song was a reality.
Rockmommy: Looking back, what do you think made your relationship with your mother uniquely challenging?
Frank Viele: Due to the aforementioned situation, when I was younger, I definitely tried to hide my concern, vulnerability, and sadness under a veil of “tough guy football player.” But when I was alone, I was listening to very emotional music and discovering songwriting and guitar as an outlet for my troubled mind.
My selfless mom, on the other hand, believed in me and never wanted anything going on in her world to get in the way of my future. So it was definitely a back and forth between me subconsciously and consciously wanting to care for her and her wanting to not burden me.
Rockmommy: How did you approach this tune, musically?
Frank Viele: I dug deep looking for songs I thought conveyed sincerity when referring to a parental figure.
It’s easy to write a love song and make it feel real and not hokey. That’s not the case when writing about your mom. The easy song to write and record would’ve been like “mom you’re the best” or “mom you’re beautiful” — which is all true about my mom. But that tune would’ve come across like some inexpensive stock Mother’s Day cards from Walmart and that’s just not me.
The songs I felt connected the most in this world were “Grandma’s Hands” by Bill Withers, “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and “Father & Son” by Cat Stevens. So I gave it an understated backbeat just like Bill Withers did on “Grandma’s Hands”. Different than his, but specifically I looked for a groove that would make the song vocally feel like I’m telling a story. Then there’s something about the overdriven power of the electric guitar that sets up a beautiful juxtaposition for the sincere lyric in “Simple Man” from Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The guitar solo in “Trying To Raise A Man” I feel takes a similar approach. Lastly, “Father & Son” by Cat Stevens is written as a conversation, and I didn’t write this tune that way. However, as I tried to finish this song in the studio I was looking for a way to create that conversational element. That’s when the backing vocals came in.
Rockmommy: Is that Kala Farnham on background vocals?
Frank Viele: It sure is! This vocal was recorded on my last trip down to Muscle Shoals and Kala accompanied me. A male vocal counterpart on “Trying To Raise A Man” didn’t feel right to me. So as I sat in the control room of the studio with Kala next to me as we were listening back to the song, I did the one thing you’re not supposed to do. I raised my hand and said to my producer, “hey, can my girlfriend take a turn at a background vocal here?”
As she started, my other producer, James LeBlanc, turned around and gave me a look as though he had just found an unexpected hundred-dollar bill in his pocket. Kala’s vocal counterpart added that conversational aspect to the tune and when you hear the phrase “Trying To Raise A Man” as a duet between a man and a woman, it adds a deeper layer to the song.
Rockmommy: I love seeing photos of you and your mom on social media. How has growing older, and becoming a working man, with all the trappings of life — home ownership, bills, and so forth — changed your perspective?
Frank Viele: I think the cover art to this single speaks to this. If you look at the art closely, you’ll see an adult male figure looking in the mirror to try and find the strength to fight against the burning world outside his window. In the mirror he sees a flashback of his mom tying a tie on a much younger version of himself. There’s a window in that scene that shows her world burning outside too. The fire outside of the window in the mirror image ties to the bridge in the song, which states “people tell me I’m strong, but this world can break a man, and it’s you that taught me to hold on, and how to hold a heart in my hand”.
Rockmommy: What would you tell your 16-year-old self if you could go back in time and spend a day with him?
Frank Viele: A few things. I would tell myself that sometimes being there for somebody doesn’t necessarily mean “fixing the problem” but rather showing kindness and support can be more powerful. And I would just teach myself the true meaning of empathy. I don’t know if I would’ve listened, but I guess that’s the funny thing about life. Sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to learn.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.