We had to go all the way to remote, mysterious Kansas to find this guy, but it was worth the trip. Transplanted now to Hoboken, Freedy is a rockin' new member of the Bar/None crew. His debut release, "The Trouble Tree" , produced by Chris Butler (formerly the brains behind the Waitresses) shows the varied styles of songwriting Freedy can pull off; from the haunting atmosphere of "Gina" to the sun-dried desolation of "Tucumcari", appearing in the lounge with "Down on the Moon #2" and "Bad Girl", then shifting into overdrive with "Little Red Haired Girl", "That's What You Get", and "After My Shocks". As he says, "Most people have pretty wide musical tastes and I'm no different. My songwriting is just an extension of that - it keeps it interesting."
"Born in western Kansas a few months before the Berlin Wall went up. Moved around a lot, Arizona, Florida, back to Kinsley, Kansas. 1,563 highway miles from both New York and San Francisco. Some choice, right? There is a giant billboard with an arrow pointing to each city and the mileage. Kinsley's sad little distinction. Worked at a diner near the sign. I'd go outside on my breaks sometimes and look at it, wonder how far 1,500 miles was."
"Wasn't a music store in town, so I bought a guitar by mail order. I remember the UPS guy bringing it up the steps. A big moment. My younger brother tuned it for me, showed me some chords and that was it, I was lost for anything else."
"I was 16, listening to ZZ Top, Led Zep, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, David Bowie. Read about Costello's 'My Aim is True' in Crawdaddy and had someone drive me to the nearest record store (35 miles away in Dodge City) to get it. I probably bought it just to be different from my friends, but it ended up really opening my eyes. Then, when I moved to Lawrence, KS for one semester of school and six years of restaurant work, I heard all this new music I couldn't believe. I remember sitting in my dorm room one afternoon, skipping class, and hearing Pere Ubu's "The Modern Dance" for the first time. Standing up, staring at the speakers. Another big moment. So I was introduced to a lot of new (to me) music at that time. Neil Young, XTC, Embarrassment, Talking Heads, The Fall and you know, the whole mob of other bands. I also picked up on country/western. My parents had listened to C/W almost exclusively, but I thought it was kind of novelty music. C/W didn't connect with me until I started liking all this other music. When I opened up my mind it came in too, you know. I realized that I'd been overlooking this beautiful thing all my life."
"Bought a 4-track a few years ago and started writing my own songs. Didn't do the band route really. Had one band that lasted about three gigs. Kind of kept my music to myself. Looking back, keeping a band together and playing a lot would have been a more direct route to where I am now." Where Freedy is now, is hanging out at The Trouble Tree . Why don't you come in and join him?
l992 was a remarkable year for Freedy Johnston. His second album "Can You Fly" was released in April. It has since graced the Top Ten list of many major magazines including People, Spin, Musician and Billboard. He has toured extensively across America with artists like Soul Asylum, Matthew Sweet, the Lemonheads and They Might Be Giants.
With his strong musical vision and distinctive voice, Freedy Johnston has delivered a remarkable listening experience. Two years in the making, the album brings together sixteen musicians on thirteen songs. Can You Fly is a truly resonant labor of love.
In addition to Freedy's unique song craft, "Can You Fly" also features some remarkable performances. Syd Straw cameos on the achingly beautiful duet "Down In Love", and Marshall Crenshaw plays a tasty honky-tonk six string bass solo on "Remember Me". Other players include Hoboken heavy-hitters Chris Stamey, Dave Schramm, Kevin Salem and Jared Nickerson. Despite all the players, the arrangements are never fussy and the songs are allowed to stand on their own.
Freedy Johnston's songs are often open to wildly different interpretations, but they always seem to ring true on some hidden level of the listener's heart. From the cinematic jump-cut style of "Responsible" to the metaphorical tale of love and death in "Mortician's Daughter", this second album firmly establishes Freedy's stature as one of America's great songwriters. Can You Fly finds us privy to a rumble at the crossroads where the Replacements, Pere Ubu and the Mekons face off against Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. What follows are a few biographical notes by Freedy himself.. ..when you're done here, listen up and take a trip inside your own piece of sky. Can you fly?
Reviews"A perfect balance of hard-rocking dread and catchy-pop uplift. With songs like "The New Sunshine," a jittery anthem for a post-greenhouse-effect inferno, or "Responsible," a heartbreaking ballad sung by a parent to a lost child, you could never tell in advance whether Johnston was going to fling you heavenward or grind you into the dust." “ Scott Rosenberg