Tricia Freeman’s made the big move to California at the age of 19 and immediately bought a guitar and a “how to” chord book. The rest just came naturally, from singing those country and blues songs at the local saloons, to performing in the stage production of “Godspell”, to performing at all sizes of venues, from local taverns to major festivals up & down the west coast. Tricia has also shared the stage with the likes of Spencer Davis, The Little River Band, Olivia Newton John, Missing Persons, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Eddie Money and in 2007, she opened for Al Green & John Fogarty at the Doheny Blues Festival in Dana Point, California. She has toured Europe from Finland to Germany on several occasions, with different line ups, performing songs from her own CDs and a blend of cover tunes that she makes completely her own with her bold original sound, that can only come from living the songs she sings. As an artist Tricia Freeman is at home on the stage and gives the audience much more they would have expected. She has a bold, humorous presence that will have you rolling with laughter between songs and after you have caught your breath she will dazzle you yet again with her powerful voice and give-it-all delivery. This singer/songwriter promises and delivers a great show, no matter what size the venue or the audience. You will always get the real thing with Tricia Freeman.
Tricia, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. It seems that now-a-days what is important to fans is not only the work of their favorite artists but the back story as well. Would you tell us a little about the road that got you here today.
I was born in Kansas but raised in both Kansas and Texas. My father, a Dr. and my mother, a nurse, both loved music. My Mom especially loved blues and Jazz, while my dad played everything from jazz to Classical to Salsa. My mom remarried, so, as young kids, we moved down to Texas and became Hog farmers, so suddenly I am introduced to Country Music as well. When I moved back up to Kansas, it was time for rock and roll, then later – diggin’ Hillbilly music. I still wasn’t in any bands and just sang a bit on my own. I moved to California when I was 19 or so and bought a guitar, chord book and became a vegetarian, (for a few weeks anyway!) Anyway, I was in Palm Springs and we used to go out in the desert 4-wheelin’ at night and we would all sit around the fire and play and sing. My friends said, “sing louder, you sound good”, so I did and the rest is history! My Ethel Merman voice came out loud and proud, Ha ha ! Then I started singing anything that I could play and met more musicians to play what I couldn’t and my voice grew to what it is today.
I’m often surprised at how many singer/songwriters I have chatted with were not performers when they started writing songs. You were a performer first then started writing – how and why did that happen? How has that shaped your songwriting?
When I first started singing, I just wanted to get some gigs and perform. I love being on stage ! I have always been a “performer”, even when I was young, I always tried to get attention by making everyone laugh, (that’s how it is when you are the dreaded “middle child.) Once I moved to California from Kansas, I started playing guitar more and more and found that I could come up with melodies, even with my limited playing ability. I could come up with melodies even from a drum beat, because it’s all about how it “feels”. My lyrics at first always came from an outsider’s perspective looking at others in situations, but as I became more comfortable, I put more of “me” in the songs. It is hard to reveal yourself in your music, because then people feel that they “know” you, yet they really don’t have a clue !
What has to be in a Tricia Freeman song? What motivates you to write?
I like my lyrics to be diverse and creative, using just the right word even if it is obscure and I have to work on my phrasing to get it to work right. I like to show all of the styles that I love to sing. I sometimes just make up songs on the spot with my band: I see someone in the audience, or see something happen and I just come up with something. Some are better than others, of course ! My band is used to it and they follow me along. They are great! Anything can motivate me to write, really. I can hear a story, a joke, a drum beat, have a bad day or a good day. If I am inspired while I am driving, I use my phone and record whatever comes into my head, because I tend to forget melodies even if I scribble some lyrics down that pop into my head.
Many songwriters and performers have rituals they need before sitting down to write, or before they go on stage. Do you have any you would be willing to share?
I have no rituals for writing really, but I do like to finish a song in one sitting if at all possible. Sometimes I go back if I think it needs another verse, but I like to finish as soon as I can so I don’t lose the flavor of the song. Before performing, I like to talk to fans and friends for a bit before the show, it makes the whole evening more personal for everyone.
You write alone and you also collaborate, that is something I believe every songwriter should do. How do you find the experience? Tell us what is different for you in writing alone and in writing with others.
As I mentioned before, I have limited ability on the guitar, so when I collaborate with others, I try to work with people that can understand a “feel” that I am trying for, but just can’t play and sing it the way I want to hear it. Richard Bredice and KK Martin did that on several songs on my new CD,”Everyone Can See”. Lyrically I can get stuck sometimes, and Robin Knuckles came to my rescue on the CD also, for the song “Time to Call a Friend”.
You are a dynamic performer. What is more important to you writing or performing?
I must say that I love performing, but if I could sell just one of my songs, you will be amazed at how fast that changes ! Ha Ha ! Nothing compares to being on stage, though. It is such a glorious gift and I will be performing on stage until they get the hook !
You play a lot of smaller venues and you play large venues – would tell us if there is a difference for you in presentation, or in preparation. Which do you prefer?
The larger festivals and venues mainly mean just more rehearsing, because we have a specific time allotted so we use a specific set list. Running though it over and over. With my smaller venues, I just do whatever I feel like. It’s like everyone showed up for a party as far as I’m concerned. I talk to everyone I can and try to make it a show no matter what the size of venue or crowd. They deserve your best efforts, no matter what your day has been like, so I try to keep ‘em smiling.
How do you see yourself as a performer, as a songwriter? How do you think your fans see you?
I think they can tell that I enjoy myself up on stage and am there for their entertainment. You just can’t take yourself too seriously, I think they are often surprised when they buy my CD and hear the diversity of music styles and lyrics. They always think of me a bit differently, once they have heard the CD. It feels good, that’s all I can say. I am blessed to have been given this gift.
Let’s chat a bit about your new CD, “Everyone Can See” I have had that in my car and have been playing it non-stop for three days. I have to tell you I am a fan. Tell us about how this project came about.
Several of these songs have been around for a while and I started adding them to my sets. They got such a great response that it seemed like the next step. I had several people encourage me to record another CD, and a few even threw in some dough to get it started: My Mom, (Marie Carlson, who passed away recently), Granville and Sidney Kirkup, Tommy Davies, and other great friends.
The CD opens with a big country rockin’ number “Thought You Was the One” You voice is big upfront and in charge- great lyrics and hook. KK Martin’s slide work is impressive. There are some arrangements and instrumental surprises in this one. Give us the story about how this song came to be from songwriting to finished cut.
This is an example of how both Richard and KK knew what I was talking about when I said, “I want this to be a real down home, back porch, Delta feel”. I tried to explain what I heard in my head. I had the verses, then I wrote lyrics to a bridge that they came up with. They listened to what I wanted, and when I came back to the studio, they had this song ready for me to sing. It couldn’t have been more perfect, it was like they were in my head !
One of the best written songs for me is your ‘Going Back.” Tell us about writing this.
This was a song that started when I saw friends of mine constantly “going back” to bad relationships, and included some of me in there. It is full of heartbreak and desperation, when you just can’t understand why you weren’t the first choice, when the “winner’s” faults and cruelty are so apparent to everyone else.
Of all the songs that show you as a poet as well as a songwriter is “Let It Go” The free flow lyrics, clean refrain and lovely repetitive guitar riff is wonderful – very different from most of your work. Where did this one come from?
Believe it or not, I wrote this on a day that a friend of mine, Kerry Chester, (who plays all of the keys on the CD), was hosting a songwriting showcase. I really wanted to bring something new, because I hadn’t written a new song for a while, so I just laid on my bed and started strumming and the song just flowed from me. I love that song. I ended up writing the last verse while recording the CD, I had one more that I felt it needed.
Your song “Everyone Can See” was probably my favorite tune on the CD, not because it was commercial but because it isn’t. Such a lovely song paying homage to the songwriters and the great female singers of years gone by – sang with heart and feeling and musically brilliant. Tell us the story of this delightful song.
My Mom took me to Hawaii about 15 years ago, her husband had recently passed away, and she was needed to do something. Anyway, while on Kaui, I mentioned that I would love to record a song using the ukulele. Well, she went and bought me this beautiful Koa wood Uke, that cost about $500.00! I never recorded anything with it until this CD and I wrote the song with my Mom’s Uke in mind with the ¼ note simple strum. Once in the Studio, of course, Richard Bredice just took off with it and made it this gorgeous song, once again, knowing what I heard in my head. My mom loved that song, it was her favorite.
Every cut on the CD is wonderful and a treat. Your vocals are without restraint, powerful, spot on, and memorable. The players are skillful and creative, and the production is flawless. Tell us about the crew that joined with you to give us this, soon to be, wildly appreciated CD.
I can’t say enough about Richard Bredice and his Bredice Studios in Irvine, Ca. and K.K. Martin who both took on these skeletons of songs with a singer who tried her best to get them to hear how the songs sounded in her head. They helped me set the tone of this CD, even though it was filled with such a variety of styles, it was so perfect. Richard’s production and playing combined with KK’s madcap skills couldn’t have been more perfect for my eclectic songwriting styles. Add to that the rhythm section for all to die for with Baba Elifante and Frank Cotinola, then Kerry Chester bringin’ all his style on piano/keyboard, Chris Wynaught on Sax/Clairinet and I got to wind it all up with Daniel Blank playin’ that fiddle, as only he can.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I have several new musical projects that I am working on with some other players plus I am really working on getting booked for some road shows. I am happy to just open a festival for some other acts. I just want to get out on the road for a bit, ya know? I really could use a manager, I have been doing this on my own for a while now, and I could use some help
Is there anything we didn’t hit on that you need to say to your fans?
Please keep coming to the shows and supporting live music and I will keep working hard to keep you all entertained ! I play with the best players around, Eddie Keating, Johnny Vila, Stanley O’kane, Larry Green, Pat Hennessy, Robin Kunckles, Dave Tyson and the list goes on and on with these great players. Lucky me getting to sing and play with this group of talent.
Thank you Tricia Freeman for the gift you are and for being so generous.
“Everyone Can See”
Photography by Sue Bustamante
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