10 Questions with Freedy Johnston

Kevin Keating
Freedy Johnston (Credit: Scarpati)
Freedy Johnston will be performing at the Cafe Du Nord on Thursday, May 24th and recently took time out of his schedule to speak with us. Below, we've got 10 questions with the man himself.

Be sure to get tickets soon to his show at the Du Nord here.

SFBAC: For those not familiar with your work, you've been described as the 'singer's songwriter' and named by Rolling Stone 'songwriter of the year' in 1994. How would you describe your music and your influences?

Freedy Johnston: Oh man, I really appreciate all that smoke of course.  Everybody likes to be liked.  I love my little songs, even if some of them still live at home.  But please, we share the planet with [Jimmy] Webbs, and [Merle] Haggards and [Tom] Pettys and other deities.  I just want to meet Paul [McCartney] someday.

SFBAC: You took a bit of a break between your 'Right Between the Promises' and 'My Favorite Waste of Time' albums. How did the break affect your two most recent releases? (ie. 'Favorite Waste of Time' and your 2010 release, 'Rain on the City'.)

Freedy Johnston: The first decade of this century was not my best decade, that’s all I can say.  Ha ha.  But, it’s over and it’s great to be back making a new record every three years or so.  “Rain on the City” came out in ’10, and my next album, “Neon Repairman” will be finished in ’12.  My advice: Kids, keep making records somehow, no matter what life deals you.

SFBAC: You generally seem to write with several recurring themes throughout your lyrics. Themes of loss or bad luck. How much of that comes from your personal experiences?

Freedy Johnston: Well, I’m just as morose and depressed as about any other songwriter I’ve met.  That’s why I write songs I guess.  But, I don’t really write about my life directly.  Who can be a trusted narrator, right?  Or maybe I’m just embarrassed to talk about myself.  Regardless, when a song idea comes out, it always has a time/place, character, point of view, right from the start.  And it’s really tough to change that.

SFBAC: Would you prefer to be on the road or in the studio?

Freedy Johnston: I’m a pretty lucky guy, to get to choose between being in a recording studio or a music club, but my choice would be out on the road.  Nothing like traveling and playing for the folks.

SFBAC: Do you have a favorite venue in SF?

Freedy Johnston: Hey, that’s not fair.  I love ‘em all.  Great American, Yoshi’s, Slim’s, Noe Valley, Bottom of the Hill, Café du Nord, and the Phoenix Hotel because I have played there by the pool.

SFBAC: Of all the places you've toured in the past, what cities stand out and why?

Freedy Johnston: There are many more places I haven’t been, but Galway stands out for the wild weather and wilder crowd, Amsterdam for the coffee, and Valmy, Wisconsin for the gig at a log cabin bar in the woods.

SFBAC: What was your biggest break?

Freedy Johnston: Meeting Mr. T at KFOG in the late ‘90’s, and getting a photo of him holding me in his arms.

SFBAC: What’s currently in rotation on your ipod/phone/car/bus?

Freedy Johnston: Around the house I listen to WKCR, or Radio Neptune or Dub Xtra.  And lots of others of course.  I love any far-off radio station on the web.  On the CD I listen to my Led Zep and my Beach Boys box sets and stare out over the lake.   We just bought a new turntable for the Percy Faith and Mancini and Carpenters.

SFBAC: Of all the artists you’ve worked with over the years, who stands out and why?

Freedy Johnston: T. Bone Burnett.  Because he’s just the best.

SFBAC: What artist(s) would you want to collaborate with in the future (who you haven't already worked with)?

Freedy Johnston: I’d sure love to record with Jason Bonham someday.  I’m sure he hates hearing it, but he sounds just like his dad.

SFBAC: Thanks for your time Freedy and we're looking forward to your show at the Du Nord on May 24th!

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