It’s been six years since Tim Freedman released his last solo album. This weekend when he headlines Mullum Music Festival punters have an opportunity to sample tracks from Australian Idle plus a few blasts from the past.
Tim, are you the new Australian Idle? Idle harks back to a nostalgic sense of Aussie identity before the whole Idol phenomenon… but really, can you truly manage to do absolutely nothing… and do it well? Musicians are peculiarly evolved for leisure. Waiting around for shows has honed our skills in diverting ourselves, even before mobile phones and portable DVD players. I’m working hard at the moment but I can’t wait to revert to the company of friends, the pleasures of the table, and joy of watching healthy children grow.
This is your first new album in six years – did you feel the heat of public expectation… what were the influences for you in this project? I took some money from Sony a few years back, and they started asking quite forcefully where the promised album was. I didn’t feel the expectation because I’d been off the radar for a while, and all I wanted to do was write a bunch of songs that could be the core of an exuberant night out at the pub, with overloaded melody and backing vocals.
How do you approach each recording project? Do you have the songs pretty well chosen, or does the studio production and the full picture of the album as a whole end up making those defining choices? This time I started with the concept. I sold it to the record company as 70s piano pop, to Gilbert O’Sullivan what Wolfmother is to Led Zeppelin. Usually I write a few songs after the recording has started, because the vibe is getting more focused as you move into it. Don’t Be Proud and There Was a Time were like that this time.
What do you think are the most important qualities that you possess as a songwriter? As Martha says to George in Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf – ‘phrasemaker’. And then they stop trying to kill each other for a few minutes.
What are the stories or experiences that inform your songwriting narrative? This album is full of stories about other characters. For the most part I left myself outside of the songs. There is my homeless band astrologer, who had a tough job because as everyone knows we Sagittarians don’t believe in astrology, a friend in hospital, a sad fellow in a pole-dancing joint and a cranky man drifting out to sea composing his will in his head.
Do you think it’s important to tell the truth in songwriting… what is the truth anyway when it comes to story? Is it better to just go for the best ending? The truth is if it’s believable. If it could have happened, then in the listener’s mind it did happen. Rarely does reality present itself readymade for art.
What song or movie that you saw most recently moved you? Woody Allen’s latest moved me because I was so relieved he’d made something bearable. The Paris stuff from the 1920s is brilliant. Musicwise I’ve loved the Middle-East album and the Husky album.
What about the Mullum Music Festival – why did you choose to play a smaller festival? I attended the Gala Night last year and I loved the vibe. The promoter Glenn Wright used to book The Whitlams in the 90s at his venue under the Harbour Bridge – the Harbourside Brasserie – and we’ve been friends since then. I like a lot of the artists on his label Vitamin Records – Lucie Thorne and Sal Kimber for example – and they usually play his festival. I actually played the Mullum High School at the year 12 formal in around 1995 in our first line-up. Yes, I’m going around in very big circles.
What do you think of the line-up? If you have time who will you be going to see? I’m playing in Melbourne the night before, unfortunately, so we are only there for the Sunday. We’re clashing with Jimmy Willing so I’ll miss his indomitable energy. I’ll catch Husky, whose latest album is brilliant, and Jordie Lane, who had a great record last year. They’re both on the Sunday afternoon.
If you could only see one act at the festival who would it be? I’m sorry to be missing Abbe May. Some of her stuff on Youtube is blistering.
If Tim Freedman were programming a festival, who would be on the bill? Randy Newman, Mose Allison and Dr John would be a great start.
Catch Tim Freedman and the Idle at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall as part of the Mullum Music Festival on Sunday at 7pm.