When We Were Free is a five-piece rock band from Birmingham, Alabama that blends elements of blues, desert rock, and progressive rock. The roots of the band lie in a friendship forged between Jarrod Meadows (guitar) and Mikael Guzman-Karlsson (drums) in 2009, while they attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for graduate school. What started out as casual summer jam sessions soon evolved into their cornerstone of creative expression. Afternoons after class were spent experimenting with different sounds and styles as the two blended and expanded each other’s musical influences. While Meadows was strongly influenced by heavy metal and hard rock, Guzman-Karlsson had a strong interest in progressive rock and blues. For the next two years, Meadows and Guzman-Karlsson honed their sound with two goals in mind: grooving and experimentation.
Early in 2012, the duo met Eric Lee, a fellow classmate with lighting-fast capabilities as a lead guitarist. Lee’s experience playing in classic rock cover bands invigorated the music with aggression and bite. Later that year, graduate student Ian Thornell joined the band as a bassist. Thornell shared the group’s musical influences and soon proved to be a strong asset, contributing both in songwriting and low-frequency support. Impromptu jam sessions became more thoughtful as the group began to create a more cohesive and refined sound. With the music as rich as it had ever been, the group sought a vocalist who could layer on additional melodic and lyrical depth. A flyer was posted around campus, and first year medical student Chris Graves responded enthusiastically. Graves, who had a strong choir and theatre background, fit into the group well with his willingness to experiment with different vocal styles and lyrical subjects.
In October 2012 the five started playing at university functions under the name When We Were Free. The name captures a notion of unrestrained creativity, a notion that was born in the early days with Meadows and Guzman-Karlsson and grew with the addition of Lee, Thornell, and Graves. Making music is a safe haven, a break from academic life, and an avenue for individual and communal creative expression.
When We Were Free’s first EP is entitled "Time Traveler."