jack-freeman

It’s post midnight and Jack Freeman is anxious. The good kind of anxious. He’s happy, making certain that the next project he releases, Spotless Mind is absolutely in tune with what he’s been building towards for the past two years. Yet in the interim, the 25-year-old singer is giving people an EP in Bliss (out today), a short sample of what he’s been working on with the help of The Problem Solvers and TrakkSounds.

It’s often Freeman gives interviews to the press, those that constantly eye for the same thoughts and opinions. This is rather different. There are no hints of his ideas in regards to Houston’s R&B scene or what he’d do to fix it, just a linear focus on him. In a way, Jack Freeman is absolutely free to create what he wants to. In a series of candid Q&A moments, Freeman kicks in about a myriad of thoughts from his own music leading to people getting laid, his love and respect for Donny Hathaway and getting over the fear of performing initially.

D&D: Here’s a random start, how does it feel that people openly tell you that they have used your music for sex?
Jack Freeman: It’s actually kinda funny. [Laughs] No women ever admitted to it though. Mainly guys are like, “Yo is it awkward that I have sex to your music?!”  I’m happy to be the point guard to encounter. Just as long as they’re finishing the lob like Blake Griffin, I’m proud.

But women will tell you they’ve felt something after hearing a track like “Nobody”?
Yeah it’s happened. I’ve heard a lot of things about that song in particular. Besides it being a turn on (because let’s face it. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman that wasn’t turned on by a guy who could sing).  The thing that resonates the most is that a couple of women actually told me it made them cry. Which was indirectly the purpose. When you listen to the lyrics you can’t help but imagine with I may have been going through when I wrote it. And even more so when I went to record it. I purposely let the guitar loop and sang it once all the way through. There’s only like 3 background tracks on that song for that purpose.

It was made to make you feel everything you feel when you hear it. So when it plays the first thing a lot of women say to themselves is, “Whoever this is about had to be someone he felt strongly about. Because no one had ever said anything remotely close to that to me”. [pullquote]It’s about saying the things men are afraid to say because of pride or just lack of words. You just play that for her and it tells you exactly what most men feel sometimes.[/pullquote]

R&B in particular is complicated these days. You’re one of the few still hard lining with a sort of traditional sound. Ever think to say forget it and drop a verse like you do on stage?
[Laughs] Nah, not for the long term. But, I do drop a 12 on “Bliss”. I actually filtered it a lot because even if I did want to rap I don’t like my rap voice all that much. It’s not as recognizable is some of my favorite rappers. So I leave it to the pros.

Speaking of “Bliss”, it’s the center part of the EP. Why give fans a teaser as opposed to just saying, “I’m dropping Spotless Mind right now?”
Here’s the honest truth. Chris Rockaway & me have been working on Spotless Mind for over a year now. Well during that process I had outside things going on that were in turn damaging the business end. Trusting people I shouldn’t have trusted, and waiting on people to do what they said they would and not coming through. So we stepped back for a minute because I’m not in the business of bad business. So I slowed down the pace (the first couple months of making the album was at kind of a feverish pace). I got invited to come do some writing at IMix studios with Bruce Bang, Steve-O, TrakkSounds and The problem solvers. I’m in there 5 mins and I hear a beat from TrakkSounds. I told him “I’m taking that. I’ll have something in a min”. I knocked out two reference hooks for something else, came back to the beat and wrote/recorded “Ridin”.

So as I’m finishing another hook concept for The Problem Solvers, they were like “So, what you wanna do now? You wanna make something for you?” I oblige and a little while later we had “Mr. Incredible” the next week I came back in and we had basically had this EP structured out. It was a really organic thing. I wasn’t even gonna put them out until after Spotless Mind but I didn’t see the point. And just as God would have it, during the time of the Bliss sessions we started really locking in on Spotless Mind again.

I haven’t had an album in two and a half years, so why not give more than one now? Bliss is the tip of the iceberg.

To hold all that back, does it feel weird to have a project almost three years old in Dark Liquor that people still run to?
It kinda did a little bit. Because I look back in where I was in my life when I wrote it. [pullquote]I had virtually no idea what I was really doing, how to write and structure my music and it ended up molding my style. That’s when I decided to do it the way it felt to me. If I did to want a hook I didn’t write one. If I didn’t want a bridge, then fuck it. I just wanted it all to feel good and not sound so predictable.[/pullquote] “Summer Of Love” was actually the first song I ever wrote. It’s just weird looking back on that. It’s almost been 4 years.

Freeman in a 2011 promo shoot for 'Lynnie's Juke Joint'.

Freeman in a 2011 promo shoot for ‘Lynnie’s Juke Joint’.

Do you remember the initial feeling you got when you performed some of those early tracks like “Slow Dance”, “Figure It Out” and how now you don’t even think twice about being on stage?
Yeah man I remember performing “Figure It Out” for the first time and I just kept thinking to myself “Wow, people like this song!” [Laughs] But then as I got more comfortable on stage, “Slow Dance” just became something I knew I could get people to move to. It wasn’t even a debate when I made it i just knew I could get people to dance to this.

Nowadays when I perform I feed so much off of the energy of the crowd. I can’t have zombies in the crowd bc it’s kind of weird to me. I make feel good music and I want people to show me, or their friends/spouses how the music feels to them. And when people are receiving it the way I intended it helps push me. I bare a lot more of my soul in my music than I do anywhere else, and to know people are listening is incredible. Makes performing so much easier.

Donny Hathaway is your biggest inspiration, an interesting figure to translate into today’s R&B crowd where sex as opposed to real life situations seems more topical. Would you dare cover Donny in your sets now that you’ve become confident as a performer?
My father retired last summer and we had a surprise party for him. My sister and I put together a medley of music for him and she made me do “A Song For You”. That was the one time. If you weren’t there you missed it. [pullquote]I could never bring myself to attempt to touch any of his songs. The only way I’d do it again is if, for some reason, they’re doing a big tribute and someone I admire requests that I do it.  It would almost literally have to be Lalah Hathaway herself.[/pullquote] I feel that strongly about it.

Do you think championing for Donny as you do has played a role in the craft of your own music?
I think it may have in some aspect, but I have such a long way to go to get that level it’s not even funny. But I enjoy a lot of different artists almost the same. I kinda take the styles and the things I like about all of them and try to fuse them. That way I don’t sound like anyone, but maybe you can feel the energy of them all in my music somehow

I mean, we’ve spanned a lot here. What on Earth goes through Jack Freeman’s head at 4 AM when he’s on Twitter just wide awake? Is that a reason why Spotless Mind is called that?
Honestly a lot of things, and nothing all at the same time. I really have a lot to think about as far as music goes. I’m always thinking about how I’m gonna do this or that, and I try to ease my mind with movies or TV shows. Because of it, My sleep schedule is so out of wack it’s crazy.

jack-freeman-jet-lounge

Spotless Mind is loosely based on the movie concept (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Basically a movie about a couple who live in a world where they can call an agency to come over, strap a machine to your brain and cleanse your mind of any memories that you choose. [pullquote]I essentially, want people to unlearn most of the perceptions they have of me, musically.[/pullquote] I think some people are kinda set on the idea that I’m a tree hugging, flip flop wearing, incense burning neo soul n*gga.  Besides the fact that I don’t know what the hell “neo soul” really is, I’m so much more than what you’ve heard thus far.

Spotless Mind is actually a collection of songs that sound nothing like each other. However when you put them together it all makes sense. It’s like you don’t even miss anything. I don’t know, man. I’m excited about it. I really am.

Jack Freeman is the singer, his EP Bliss is available now on iTunes, Bandcamp and can be streamed on Spotify. Brandon Caldwell is the writer, you can follow him on Twitter at @_brandoc