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These days it’s a relief to come across a “new” artist with proper experience behind him, a little history, both a backbone and a backstory. The quotation marks are necessary here, because Paul Freeman, though to all intents and purposes a “new” artist, is a musician whose decade in the music business to date informs, enriches and emboldens his debut album 'The King of False Alarms', which will be released this Spring, to such effect that it’s difficult to believe it isn’t his fifth, his sixth.
Paul’s songs are impeccably crafted, both rich and well-rounded. As with the music of his favourite artists – Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty – you listen to them with the knowledge that here is someone who has, in the very best sense, lived. He’s been through the mill, had highs and lows, and come out the other side. That he brings it all to bear in such an understated fashion is testament to his talent. You don’t need to shout to be heard, after all.
“It was clear to me from the age of 14 that music was all I wanted to do,” he says. “I was willing to risk everything to follow my dream, and I suppose, in one way or another, I have.” If only all new artists could claim the same.
Paul Freeman was born in Newport, South Wales, at the height of the New Romantic era. But Spandau Ballet and their ilk was to have little bearing on his music-loving father, and so it failed to leave much of an imprint on him, either. “My father was a music fanatic,” Paul says. “He named me after Paul McCartney, he rocked me to sleep to the tune of Band On The Run. The music he listened to was pretty much the music I listened to throughout my formative years…”
It wasn’t until the 90s, specifically 1994, that Paul happened upon a band that suddenly spoke personally to him. That band was Oasis, the album Definitely Maybe.
“It was the first time, I think, I could really see the link between my father’s favourite music and something that was specifically relevant to me too,” he notes. It was the track Rock ‘n’ Roll Star that affected him the most. “I played it over and over again, and suddenly it was all clear to me – like, okay, this is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”
Being what he calls “hopeless” at school only made his unswerving ambition so much easier to pursue. He emerged at 16 with just one GCSE to his name – woodwork, useful in a flood – and promptly took the next bus to London, ambitious and opportunistic and unwilling to let any half chance pass him by. A sort of friend of a vague associate knew somebody who had a recording studio just outside the capital. Paul shored up and quickly inveigled himself there, bagging a period of work experience which was soon extended indefinitely. He never really left. It was here, in time, that he fell in with Jeff Barrett, Heavenly supremo, who took him under his wing. As a result, even before his 18th birthday, Paul was moving within some of the most intimate, and influential, circles in the music industry.
By 20, he and a friend, Findlay Brown, had formed a group, Boedekka, a band that had started out as a kind of modern day Simon & Garfunkel, but that soon turned into something louder, heavier and more psychedelic. They signed to Boy George’s More Protein label, and were steadily going places when Paul’s songwriting reputation began to precede him. After three years of working with Brown, he suddenly found himself penning songs for a post-Take That, pre-comeback Mark Owen. They wrote a couple of Top 20 hits together, as well as hatching ideas that Owen would later see to fruition on Take That’s The Circus album.
By now, Paul had relocated to Los Angeles, where he played guitar with Shania Twain and later James Blunt, the latter requesting his services on 'You’re Beautiful'.
“That kept me in rent money for several years…you can have your own opinion about his music – everybody does! – but James is a lovely, lovely human being.”
Paul was also at work on a selection of his own songs, which he eventually self-released as an EP. For something that didn’t have the weight of a major record label marketing team behind it, the EP nevertheless went out far into the world and proved a steady seller, a regular on the US iTunes chart, and eventually topping an impressive 60,000 sales. One of its songs then featured on an American TV series, which brought Paul to the attention of legendary record industry mogul Clive Davis, who promptly signed him to BMG in early 2009. When Clive Davis knew he was exiting BMG a year later, he kindly released Paul from his contract, and with the master tapes in his possession, he was now able to start afresh. “A major relief,” he says.
He was immediately proactive, sacking his manager in favour of self-management, and heading out on a succession of US tours, opening for the likes of Joe Cocker and Todd Rundgren-who said’If there was any justice Paul Freeman would be a household name,but then so would I-so there’s no justice’.
But momentum for his music was building, and Paul began to crave a return home. In mid 2011, he signed to Universal Estupendo Records in the UK (“to make the album I always wanted to make”), and was handpicked to support Roger Daltrey on his British and US tours which took him through to the end of 2011. In late March 2012 Daltrey asked Paul at short notice to fill in for his usual guitar player at a charity show in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Paul flew in from Los Angeles,rehearsed the next day learning around 20 songs, ,and the following day found himself onstage at a packed Albert Hall, perfoming his new single Tightrope and then backing Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, Steve Winwood and jamming with Ronnie Wood.
Last year Paul toured the UK and Europe with both Chris Cornell and Chris Isaak. Recently Robbie Williams has covered one of Paul's songs 'The Promise', which will feature on Paul's debut album.