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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.’’


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

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