A grief moment: Brooklyn singer-songwriter releases album about loss

Musician David Roche poses with his guitar
Sad songs say so much: David Roche will release his upcoming album “Griefcase” at Freddy’s Bar on Nov. 21.
Photo by Derrick Watterson

He’s unpacking his emotional baggage.

A Brooklyn Heights singer-songwriter will launch a jaunty, upbeat folk album about death and despair with a concert at Freddy’s Bar on Nov. 21. The tunes on “Griefcase,” deal with personal loss and political turmoil, but their cheery melodies make them less painful to perform, said the artist. 

“For what it’s talking about and what it’s dealing with, it doesn’t feel like a down record,” said David Roche. “It’s helpful for it to be that way.” 

The pop-infused folk record grew out of several losses that Roche and his family suffered through in 2017, including the death of his sister, his mother, his brother-in-law, and his wife’s best friend. 

The personal tragedies prompted Roche to turn to music, and he worked with his wife, Mary Mullally, and daughter, Oona Roche, to craft the album. Mullaly co-wrote one song, Oona sang another, and all three family members contributed to the album’s opening tune, “Grief,” whose lyrics contain the album’s title: “All the baggage to deal with, the griefcase is a heavy lift.”

Working with his family is a familiar endeavor for Roche, who comes from a musical background. 

“It’s always been in the family,” Roche said. He sang background vocals for his sisters’ famous folk trio, the Roches, which performed with Paul Simon and released more than a dozen albums over their decades-long career. Roche has released two albums prior to “Griefcase” — the first in 1985, and a second in 2008, which also featured songs written by Mullally. 

The songs on “Griefcase” blend tragedy and heartache with political commentary, mentioning gun violence, global warming, and the broken immigration system. Roche said that he is not trying to deliver a policy statement through his songs — instead, he is reflecting the polarizing political atmosphere we all live in. 

“It wasn’t really a conscious decision, but I think people in this country are experiencing grief in a way that we haven’t before,” he said. 

Despite the serious themes of the album, collaborating with his family and with accomplished producers David Kumin and Stewart Lerman helped to relieve some of Roche’s suffering.

“Being able to make the record and work with such high-level people, it was like a dream,” he said. “I’m just grateful for the chance to be able to do it after such a hard time.” 

David Roche at Freddy’s Bar and Backroom [627 Fifth Ave. between 17th and 18th streets in Greenwood Heights, (718) 768-0131, www.freddysbar.com]. Nov. 21 at 8 pm. Free.