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Freedy Johnston

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"It was time to come home," Freedy Johnston says of his recent return to the New York area, where the world-class singer-songwriter has reestablished the recording base that first introduced him as a vital musical force during the formative days of his career in the early 1990s.

2018 finds the much-traveled Kansas native not only returning to his old Jersey City stomping grounds, where he first made his musical mark in the early 1990s, but also reuniting with some of his earliest musical cohorts. The artist is easing back into active musical duty with a compelling new body of original songs that will form the foundation of a new full-length album due in TK.

The project marks a timely reunion with some of Johnston's earliest collaborators, namely producer Mark Zoltak, bassist Graham Maby, drummer Brian Doherty and engineer John Siket, who were originally the core of the artist's studio team on his 1992 breakthrough album Can You Fly.

Johnston's new material is also something of a personal renaissance for the artist. The songs continue to embody the salient qualities that have distinguished his most beloved work, while moving him into fresh new creative territory.

"These songs came out pretty easily, and somehow they feel more direct and funny, or more truthful and bitter, because of the way we recorded them," the artist comments. "I've always had this weird thing where I don't feel comfortable saying I've done a good job. But in this case, I think I have. As you get more experience, the more you learn to recognize when something is good or when it isn't quite done yet."

Johnston's new material coincides with projected vinyl reissues of his highly regarded '90s albums Can You Fly and This Perfect World, and with his budding parallel creative pursuit as a painter.

"How this whole period started was the 25th anniversary of Can You Fly," he explains. "First, I thought we should celebrate the anniversary with a reunion band with everybody who played on the record, and everybody said yeah. But the timing wasn't right, so that went on the back burner. In the process, though, I reconnected with Mark Zoltak, my old producer and manager from the early days. Mark was really the first guy who guided me to get my songs together, and the first person I really trusted to judge my songs. Mark suggested paring my new songs down to Graham and Brian and me, getting the three of us in a rehearsal studio and just jamming the new songs together, with no pressure at all. So we started doing that and recorded some of the new songs that way, and they worked out pretty well."

In his near-30-year career, Freedy Johnston has created some of his era's most enduring and emotionally resonant songcraft, first on such beloved indie releases as The Trouble Tree and Can You Fly, and subsequently on the acclaimed major-label albums This Perfect World, Never Home, Blue Days Black Nights and Right Between the Promises. In recent years, he's continued to thrill fans with such low-key gems as 2010's Rain on the City, 2015's Neon Repairman and 2012's At Least We Have Each Other, the latter a pseudonymous collaboration with fellow troubadours Jon Dee Graham and Susan Cowsill as the Hobart Brothers & Lil' Sis.

"I don't know what the future of my music holds, but I feel like I'm rebuilding on some level," Johnston reflects. "I've spent so much time over the years obsessing over how my songs were recorded. But when I hear the songs now, I realize that whatever I was worried about didn't matter, as long as the songs came through. One thing that hasn't changed over the years is that people still love and need music, and that I'm still in that business. In some ways, I feel like I'm back where I was in my 20s, when I was just an artist doing my work and getting by. That still sounds like a pretty good deal to me."

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American Songwriter August 2017 (link)

NY Daily News August 2017 (link) August 2017 (link)

Chicago Reader August 2017 (link)

Cleveland Scene August 2017 (link)

Kansas Alumni magazine March 2015 (link)

The Monitor (link)