Making songs without The Whitlams.
Producing a solo album helped Tim Freedman realise he wasn’t afraid of growing old, writes
James Wigney ON the surface, the idea of The Whitlams frontman Tim Freedman making a solo album is a little odd.
After all, the lanky singer- song writerpianist ( pictured) has been the driving force and the one constant of the much- loved band since it formed in Sydney nearly 20 years ago.
After the untimely deaths of the other two founding members of The Whitlams, Stevie Plunder and Andy Lewis, and as the composer of the most enduring hits such as No Aphrodisiac, Blow Up The Pokies and You Gotta Love This City , surely Freedman is The Whitlams.
Not so, says the man himself, pointing out that the once- revolving line- up has been constant since 2001 and has put its own ‘‘ musical character’’ into all the albums since then.
The primary motivation behind Freedman’s new solo album, Australian
Idle, is to take a break from The Whitlams to explore new ideas with new people, free of expectations.
‘‘ You can’t get past my voice and my piano, but the main point is that it’s a different show with different songs and a different band,’’ Freedman says.
‘‘ We have had a very loyal crowd over the years so I think they will appreciate seeing something new.’’
Australian Idle, however, was a long time coming. Although he continued to play gigs with The Whitlams and the band put out a greatest hits collection, Freedman hadn’t written a song in four years before he finally started work on the solo album.
But the time out gave him a chance to reflect on the changes in his own life and those around him, namely his elderly parents and his six- year- old daughter Alice, and how he related to them after the ‘‘ extended childhood’’ of being in a band.
When he returned to composing, however, he wasn’t sure what kind of album he wanted to make. He was certain, though, of what kind of album he didn’t want to make.
‘‘ I just didn’t feel like writing about my fifth break- up – I have done break- up,’’ he says. ‘‘ I didn’t want to write about ‘ Gee I drank too much the last six months and now I’m feeling sorry for myself’.
‘‘ If I can’t work out how to go out with a girl and not drink too much by the age of 46, I might as well retire anyway.’’
Instead he found himself inspired by the piano- driven pop of Randy Newman and Elton John – a formative influence in his youth in the ’ 70s.
With that sound as a framework, his aim was to try to write about the rogues’ gallery of people he had come across while living in inner- city Sydney. As the songs slowly came together, he realised what the album was really about.
‘‘ This is about the passage of time in a way – a pop album about the passage of time,’’ Freedman says.
‘‘ God knows whether pop is the right vehicle for those sorts of observations but you have to say something over the music.’’
Having recently seen great jazz pianist Mose Allison perform in New York at the age of 82, and after interviewing his hero Newman on his Australian tour earlier this year, Freedman is not afraid of growing old and continuing to perform. He’s just glad that with a wonky knee, courtesy of a soccer injury, he gets to sit down to do it.
‘‘ To be an old man is a great thing because it means you got through, and not all of us do,’’ he says.
‘‘ I think as you get older, you can imagine old age better because you are getting a few creaks and pains yourself. But I hope I have just learned to appreciate the luck of life, and being alive is the aim of every morning. I think I seize the day. I always just hope that all my friends who are my age are alive with me.
‘‘ I think one of the great things about having a kid is you just hope you will be sitting down with them in 30 years.
‘‘ You can’t control their lives too much but a lot of things can go wrong.
‘‘ I would just like to be taken out to dinner for my birthday by my daughter.’’
AUSTRALIAN IDLE is out now
Tim Freedman and The Idle will play at Launceston’s Country Club Show Room on December 2 and at Hobart’s Wrest Point Show Room on December 3. To book, visit tixtas. com. au/ home. aspx