Tim Freedman - “Man About a Dog”
Iconic wordsmith Tim Freedman brings his “Man About a Dog” solo tour to regional Australia over the next few months. This journey over the mountain ranges, through fertile landscapes fed by newly filled dams lands Tim in Orange this Saturday 24th April, in peak autumn glory. As Orange transforms from the luscious green of a bountiful summer to the poignant beauty of streetscapes teeming with fallen leaves in their golden hues, a night spent listening to over 20 years of Tim Freedman’s musical storytelling takes you down a similar path. Enjoy his recently released track “Man About a Dog” written as he drove through post-drought country NSW, as well as Whitlams’ classics that you still remember word for word, all with the intensive intimacy of a captivated audience member at Orange Civic Theatre.
I was lucky enough to catch with Tim ahead of his performance in Dubbo last Saturday. I sat opposite the man who shaped my love of music in my teenage years, in a green room that was actually green, and discussed touring in the Central West, cool climate wines, Gough Whitlam and music, both new and old.
We started by discussing his current tour, and the difference between playing a small stage in regional NSW as opposed to the Enmore theatre in Sydney He explained that although the different venues require a different style of show, his love of performing and versatility as an artist means he enjoys himself wherever he is.
“It’s always good to be the only show in town and one often is when you go to a regional center. Although I must say since last November it’s almost felt like that in the cities as well. I was the first to go to Launceston and Hobart and they’d forgotten what musicians look like. So, I’d walk into a room and dust off the piano that hadn’t been used in 10 months.
Legend has it, that country audiences don’t get as much choice as the cities, but frankly I find the city shows are just as much of an event as the country shows. People are always excited to go and see music if they know the songs, and if the performer takes his job seriously. I don’t find the enthusiasm to be that different to be honest, however I’m looking forward to getting out into the regions more because I really like working. You can only play in a city twice a year so if I can find towns to go to every two years then it just fills out my professional life. There’s nothing worse as a musician than not working enough.”
We discussed Orange’s cool climate wines, and Tim revealed a knowledge of white wine vastly superior to mine, and spoke of enjoying the atmosphere of wine country such as ours.
“There’s just something so peaceful about rolling hills and grapevines. I know Orange has some good whites, especially it’s Rieslings. It’s a very civilising influence, a vineyard, as enjoyed in moderation.”
He played to sold out audience in Mudgee on Sunday at the Pavillion and enjoys the openness of a winery as a concert venue.
We discussed his new song that was released on Thursday, “Man About a Dog”. Most of Tim’s lyrics tell of his tales woven throughout capital cities, but last year’s lockdown and his escape to the slower life we live out here heavily influenced his songwriting. His lived experience and immersion in natural surroundings as well as the beauty and pure relief that rain brings us is evident here.
“The drought broke. Basically, it rained and the whole land came back to life. A week later I was driving through the bush, and it was amazing to see the difference it makes, especially up on the North Coast with just how quickly it revives. Soon the rain it slapped the land, like it slapped it awake “two birds escort me in”, it was just so beautiful. I was driving along, they were flying the same speed next to the car and you go ‘Oh, I’m getting escorted in’ and for that fleeting moment, often you just feel that even though you are in this piece of tin you are occasionally part of nature while you’re driving.”
When asked what Whitlams fans can expect from the rest of the album he compared it to previous albums such as “Undeniably the Whitlams”.
“So far, we’ve released a slow ballad, and this mid-tempo folky song. The other half of the album is shorter and faster. There’s a bit more energy in there. So, the next track we’ll release is rock and likewise it’s all over the shop, like we’ve always done. So not reinventing the wheel.”
I described to him how in 1998, I had fallen in love with The Whitlams after they released their third album “Eternal Nightcap” I had then spent months searching for their first album from five years earlier and the joy of finally finding it. When asked how he felt about the gravitation towards digital access to music he had only positive things to say.
“Frankly I think it’s only good. Because I think even though you don’t get that $30 from the person who searches out your cd in the store, more people can listen to your music on a whim, and ever since Spotify cured piracy, I think it’s encouraging music listening. Even though you don’t get a lot of money from a million streams if you’re a touring musician like me, you can see the benefit in the fact that people can become familiar with your repertoire and they’re more inclined to come to the show. I’ve always been into the old-fashioned model which is go to them, get $30 out of them, play music to them. Because I love it and it’s a much better business model. We cut our teeth touring and we were known as the hardest working band in the business at the end of last century.”
As a pillar of the music industry in Australia, I asked if he had any advice to share for those who were to follow. The talented musicians of tomorrow, destined to walk in his footsteps.
“You’ve got to enjoy getting lost, for hours at a time, in your own musicianship. With the phone turned off and the computer in the other room. Once you’ve learned how to concentrate and enjoy it, remember that it might take 10 or 15 years to write something that you’re actually proud of. No rush, shut the door.”
He spoke of his time spent with Gough and Margaret Whitlam with fondness and respect, describing a blossoming friendship but refusing to describe it as more than a friendly acquaintanceship. When asked whether they had indeed come over, played chess and drank claret, as mentioned in the song “Gough”, he replied:
“No, not over to my house. but about 3 years later they invited me to lunch because I was donating some performances to a charity that was close to Gough’s heart- a young scholarship trust which gave money to disadvantaged Tafe students. So, he, Margaret and I went to lunch.”
He then went on to describe a growing relationship, as he escorted Margaret to the theatre and delivered lunches to Gough’s office as his mobility decreased. His love and admiration for both Whitlams evident as he reminisced.
“I used to take Margaret to the chamber orchestra, she was just as amazing as he was. She kept his feet on the ground, and she was very charismatic as well. She was a little bit less theatrical; he had a sense of drama. Even when he was just talking to you in private, it’s like he was reading a script and you were a part of it. With his witticisms and funny observations, you just knew you were talking to a first-class mind, every moment. I treasure all the minutes I spent with him.”
After wrapping up our interview I was fortunate enough to stay and watch as he posed for our photographer and sat down to perform a soundcheck. Let me assure you, Tim Freedman, alone on the spot lit stage with our Steinway grand piano, playing the opening bar to Buy Now Pay Later (Charlie No. 2) transcends time and space. Come Saturday night, you’ll no longer be one of the 502 fans seated in the audience; you will be instantly transported back to the person you were when you attended your first Whitlams concert. A fleeting glimpse of your early existence. For any time spent in the presence of this compelling, quirky and deeply talented storyteller is a privilege.
Limited tickets still available HERE.