Review Fix chats with Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer Freddie Nelson, who discusses his new album “Shake The Cage,” as well as his creative process, goals for the future and working relationship with Paul Gilbert.
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About Freddie Nelson:
Nelson first came to international attention in 2010 when he collaborated with guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) on their album, UNITED STATES. Together they wrote, performed, and produced the recording that was released on Mascot Records and toured Japan and Europe shortly after.
Flash forward to 2017 and it’s now time for the Pittsburgh-native to SHAKE THE CAGE with his self-produced debut solo album, due out July 7.
Review Fix: How did you first get involved in music?
Freddie Nelson: I knew at a very early age this was the path I was supposed to be on. I was the youngest of six boys, so I was exposed to some great and very diverse music from the time I could speak. Also, my dad was a fan of classical music so I had a big dose of that as well. We would trade listening time. He would listen to a half hour of what I wanted to hear, then I would listen to a half hour of his music. It was his way of exposing me to some of the great classical composers and I’m really thankful for it now.
Review Fix: How has working with Paul Gilbert helped your career?
Nelson: In a number of different ways. First, it’s definitely created more visibility for me on a global level. We wrote an album together called “United States” a few years back. After that, people around the world started paying attention to what I was doing. Secondly, I think it’s raised my level of playing. He’s one of the greatest guitar players on earth, so just being around that caliber of a player has an effect on how you approach the instrument.
While we were touring for the “United States” album overseas, he would say, “Hey, do you want to do a guitar battle tonight?” and before I put the proper thought into it I was like, “Ya man, lets do it!” Then, I’m getting ready to walk on stage and thinking to myself, “Oh my God, what in the hell did I just get myself into!” So I was kinda forced to kick up my game.
Third, and most importantly for me, he is just an awesome human, so our musical endeavors together have spawned a great friendship.
Review Fix: What was the creative process for this project like?
Nelson: Man, a lot different for me. I didn’t have a band to develop the material, so I had to develop it piece by piece. It usually started with a guitar riff and a rough vocal melody, then I would try to fit a drum pattern that I liked against the guitar and vocal, then bass, keys, etc. The only problem with this process is that EVERY TIME I added an instrument to the landscape, I had to go back and RE-DO what I already had done on the other instruments in order for the song to keep growing and work correctly. I probably played each part a minimum of 100 times. And then there’s all the vocal beds. I’m sure you get the idea! The trickiest thing for me was separating the thought process from instrument to instrument. It’s a completely different approach laying down bass lines as opposed to drum parts or guitar parts. You have to wear many different musical hats.
Review Fix: What inspired “Hey Doll”?
Nelson: I guess it would be a mixture of some women from my past.
Review Fix: What are your goals for this project?
Nelson: I guess to try and set the bar a little higher for what people are willing to accept from the artists that create the music they listen to. We live in a time where things happen quickly. So at times, we are willing to settle for mediocrity just to get something faster. With the advances in technology, it’s become common practice to slap a song together, throw it out there, and try to make a quick buck. It usually winds up being the flavor of the month and then it’s gone before you know it. If you are going to have sustainability in anything, you have to put the work into honing your craft, and the time into the art itself. It doesn’t matter how far technology advances, there is no substitute for great songwriting, real emotions, and stunning performances. If people are going to spend their hard earned money on an album, they deserve these things. I’m not sure if I hit any of those marks on this body of work, but I’m hopeful people will be able to hear that I tried.
Review Fix: What do you think makes you different?
Nelson: I work hard, I’m passionate about what I do, I care about my performances. I’m sure a lot of people possess these qualities, but I’m also really good at ping pong!
Review Fix: What do you think you have to do to make your musical dreams come true?
Nelson: When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to be was a professional musician. I’ve been able to eat and pay the bills for a pretty long time thanks to music, so quite honestly, I AM living my musical dream, and I am grateful for it.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Nelson: Things are always happening. Different projects come up all the time. I write constantly, so another album is always in the works. Probably some touring later in the year. I’m a musical gypsy looking forward to the next adventure!
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Nelson: Yes, and I mean this: Be respectful and kind to one another….the universe will give it back to you.