The artist formerly known as Gene Ween has officially hung up the cape on his eccentric alter-ego of two decades, but it seems to have lead singer/songwriter Aaron Freeman into a new and comfortable state of grace.
Finding his softer side in the ethereal poetry of 60’s songwriter/artist Rod McKuen, Freeman’s first solo record Marvelous Clouds is a reconfiguration of classic McKuen tunes that are as buoyant as the clouds themselves. Freeman will be playing live at the High Noon Saloon on September 16th (tickets here), but he was nice enough to answer a few of True Endeavors’ questions via email before what is sure to be a marvelous performance.
True Endeavors: What was the first song you heard of Rod McKuen’s? What was your initial reaction after hearing it, and why did you select the 13 songs from his catalogue that make up Marvelous Clouds in particular?
Freeman: I remember being in the town of Toco, Trinidad in the late seventies. It was the National Steel Pan Convention I’d come to participate in. I was fully prepared. Unfortunately, during the dry season, the steel used in the pans tend to pitch themselves and are often in need of last minute adjustment. I was told to bring my main pan to a hut nestled on a cliff at the very end of town. As I approached the hut, cats and birds came to greet me, followed by a most beautiful voice. Peeking through the entrance, I locked eyes with none other than Rod McKuen. Apparently, he’d been busy in Amsterdam performing the year before and was now in need of some rest and pan playing. Rod and I enjoyed the day together and when I left I had a list of 13 songs. We parted, and I returned to town with a new friend, and a list of songs I would eventually re-record for Marvelous Clouds.
What were the challenges in reinterpreting McKuen’s songs using your own music sensibilities?
Very simple: I re-recorded the songs myself. I stuck to the root chords and melodies, the rest I let myself interpret. What you hear on Marvelous Clouds is from Rod, filtered through Freeman and put on tape.
I’ve seen you perform numerous times at large, outdoor festivals. How has it been touring in more intimate settings? Has it been an enjoyable experience, or does a smaller venue present its own unique distractions?
I’ve always appreciated the fact that a man needs to learn to sing and play an instrument. It’s the same reason I often wear blue jeans. If the apocalypse strikes and all of the shitty bands are swept into oblivion, well hey, at least I have my guitar…and my jeans! I won’t always be playing in these small acoustic settings, but I love to know I have the option.
I’ve read that a solo album is something that you’ve wanted to do for a long time. What’s something else that you’ve long wanted to do and haven’t yet gotten the chance?
I’ve always wanted to be a cartoon character. I figure I have many voices in my arsenal that could lend themselves well to the world of animation and I’ve always loved the medium. I’m trying to get my foot in the door right now but it’s a competitive business. Eddie Dingle needs to be animated; it’s what the world needs.
You’re well known for being able to play a wide range of musical genres. Have you ever considered producing a hip hop project? Who would be someone you’d like to collaborate with in the genre?
Not sure about hip hop though I love the music. I’m playing around with the idea of a concept album based on the prophet Elijah produced by Skrillex. More to come on that for sure.
What’s something you think fans would be surprised to know about you?
I was an Eagle Scout.
–interview by Austin Duerst
Related Content: WTF Podcasters Chat with Ween’s Aaron Freeman
Filed under: Indie, Interviews, Music Shows This Week in Madison, Singer-Songwriter Tagged: | Aaron Freeman, gene ween, High Noon Saloon, Interview, Madison WI concerts, madison wi music, Marvelous Clouds, ween