Regular readers of the blog will be well aware of our our love and admiration for Union Music Store. What you may not be aware of is that Union co-owner, Jamie Freeman, is a rather fine recording artist in his own right. To set that record straight we caught up with Jamie to chat about song writing, band leading and his new video.
Your debut solo album ‘Just You’, is still bearing fruit with the video release of ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ Have you been pleased with the reception to the album?
I’ve had some great response to it, and I’m really pleased with it as a collection of songs. But we didn’t really have a plan for it, so we didn’t approach it the same way we do now with other Union artists. ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ is actually the first proper video we’ve done for any of the album tracks.
What prompted you to release the video now?
Religion is rife with hypocrisy. The song was mainly prompted by the religious rhetoric during the Iraq war. Imagine if all those western Christian politicians actually followed just one of their God’s top-ten rules; thou shalt not kill. How different would the world be?
I’m an atheist, I think religion is bunk. That stance is only strengthened when I see how many people are prepared to bend their religions to whatever political or personal need is present at the time.
The record packs a real emotional punch – was it a challenge sharing that much of yourself in song?
The point of songwriting, for me, is to convey some emotion. Love, anger, loss, whatever it is.
I’ve written some properly sad songs, but funnily enough I got a tweet from someone who watched the video and said it moved them to tears! I hadn’t expected that, I must say, but they obviously heard something in it that touched them.
How do songs manifest in the Freeman brain-box?
Well, from my previous answers you know I’m not about to say they’re a gift from God, but they do sometimes just appear out of thin air. Often a line or a phrase will lead to an almost fully-formed song and it flows out pretty quickly. Other times I might leave an idea kicking around for months or years then really work at it. Usually the old adage ’20 percent inspiration and 80 percent perspiration’ is about right! I do try to work on the lyrics, because I can’t bear songs with sloppy lyrics, or words that are just there to fill space or make a convenient rhyme.
I know when I’ve got a lyrics right because it will often – regardless of the subject matter – make me choke up! It’s embarrassing as I often write on the train in public. I’m quite soft…
You’ve been playing live with the Jamie Freeman Agreement for a while – what’s it like being a band leader?
The band are great and it’s been really exciting, after years of playing solo, to have this bunch of people making your song come to life in a different way. It’s an amazing thing to have these actual, real-life human beings playing your songs – it’s awesome! Magic can happen when a bunch of musicians play together, you can’t beat it.
Is there an actual ‘agreement’ they need to sign-up to? Where did the name originate from?
Haha! An actual agreement, perhaps written on parchment, would be excellent. The name is just a rhyme really, it just sounds good. It’s kind of a play on the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Stevie will almost certainly remind me she came up with the name, but like all the good ideas, as band leader, they tend to become mine over time… in my head at least!
What is next on the agenda for you and the band?
A second album, once I’ve finished producing The Self Help Group’s debut album, which will be Union’s next release.
Your image is part-mod, part-cowboy has this ever led to any major fashion faux-pas?
Almost certainly! But I draw the line at cowboy boots, I’m more a brogues person!. I’m a mod, I just look for those crossover reference points; like Levis 501s or Converse for example. Amazingly I have another mod in the band now, Joe Ellis. He’s pretty hard-core, a very cool looking guy! We’re not an American band (except Jessica of course), we just play American-influenced music. In the age-old tradition of British bands!
The Beatles were trying to play American rock’n'roll, but the skiffle influence made it come out differently enough for the Americans to think it was something new. I think our folk influence means we’ll never be a ‘country’ band. That’s cool, the Americans already have that covered.
You produce your own material and you have overseen some excellent work by other artists. If you could bring in someone to ‘twiddle the knobs’ on a new Jamie Freeman record which producer would you go for & why?
Jack White would be a good candidate; he totally gets it. Or T Bone Burnett. I’m hoping to have Richard Smith produce something in his Nashville studio for the next album, he’s been offering to record something for me for ages, and he could certainly put some good pickers together for a session! Steve Earle isn’t strictly a producer but I would love to spend a while with him in the studio.
Neil Young or Bob Dylan? Why?
Neil, for me. For no particular reason, he just floats my boat more than Bob. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bob – he’s a bonafide songwriting genius. I think it’s Neil’s guitar that does it for me, electric and acoustic. As one of CSNY, Neil’s was one of my very earliest influences; my Mum played De Ja Vu a lot, so aged four I could sing along with ‘Our House’ and I assumed it was about my family home. I always wondered why we didn’t have ‘…two cats in the yard’!
If you could curate your own dream festival who is in the line-up?
I’m gonna say The Levellers, in a pathetic attempt to ingratiate myself with the Beautiful Days people! Seriously though, Neil Young and Crazy Horse would headline. Larkin Poe are there. Emmylou Harris of course. Phantom Limb would be excellent. And late on the Saturday Steve Earle invites The Agreement on stage to join him for Copperhead Road… Well, it’s my fantasy after all!
Finally, which of your tunes would you recommend people listen to as an introduction to what you and your music is all about?
Tricky… The album is fairly evenly split between the folky, English-sounding ones and the more country ones. Lilly’s Boarding House is kind of a ‘calling card’ track, but the title song ‘Just You’ is probably more representative.
We always ask what are our guests top 3 Dylan albums so, what are yours Jamie?
Let’s see… Everybody Know’s This Is Nowhere, The Beach, Rust Never Sleeps… Oh, Dylan, sorry My all-time favourite is Bringing It All Back Home; that’s the sound I was consciously going for with Thou Shalt Not Kill – Dylan going electric (did you hear the ‘Judas’ reference at the end?). After that I don’t have too strong opinions, but I do like The Times They Are A-Changing and I have a soft-spot for John Wesley Harding. You might think I’d be into Nashville Skyline, but really I’m not. It’s not a great record in my humble opinion. Don’t tell him I said that!
Thanks to Jamie for his time.
The Jamie Freeman Agreement play a FREE show tomorrow, 22nd September, at Union Music Store http://unionmusicstore.com/
Next up after that is a support slot with Blame Sally on Saturday 27th October http://www.wegottickets.com/event/182729