MICKEY FREELAND aka Mickey Free aka Bow N Arrow is a very talented young man. Lately he's been working in his brother Chris' studio Beat Babies recording, mixing and engineering Baltimore bands like Noble Lake, Sri Aurobindo, and most recently Jana Hunter. Some might say that he is personally responsible for recommending that all of Wham City relocate to Baltimore from SUNY Purchase. He is definitely responsible for running in a Baltimore rap-pack including but not limited to Jones the Rapper, Height, PT Burnem and AK Slaughter, and for mastering a turn of phrase that would embarrass your mother even when his mother is in the audience.
What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
I'm a producer/rapper/mix engineer. But the most fulfilling thing I do is waiting tables. I'm just now finishing up producing/mixing the new Height record.
How long have you done these things?
About 12 years.
Why do you do them? How does it make you feel?
Well, I don't really want to do anything else, and aside from making people laugh, there's not much else that I'm naturally very good at. I'm not stupid; I'm sure I could do other things, but i have actual nightmares about going back to school, you know? This is the the thing for me.
When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what you are? What happened?
Actually, I kind of had that recently. Last fall I had kind of a nervous breakdown after my first big music "break" fell through. It tour me up and I thought I was gonna be a failure. I was on some "....and I never even graduated COLLEGE!!!" type shit, real miserable, defeated and scared. Anyway, I started to come out of it, and started playing more shows again. I played an awesome show at the Zodiac in spring I guess, and the crowd reaction was just great. I got off stage and I had that glowing feeling. I was watching the next group ( I believe it was AK Slaughter), and they were great, and I felt great, and I just thought, "THIS is what I do. It's really all I'm gonna do (music in general, that is)". And that felt fine. I mean, I'm still scared about the future all the time, but now I feel like I'm just going with my DNA, you know?
How has your life changed or not changed to accommodate that moment's effect on you?
I'm REALLY trying to worry less about the future and just do what I feel like I have to do. if I feel like I'm loosing steam, I'll try to remember that we only get ONE shot at this life thing. Thats really amazing (and scary) if you think about it. So you have to make a big attempt, you know, even if it ands up as a big failure. It's pretty good just to try in a lot of ways.
How has your work affected your life in return?
It's a double edged sword. The more I focus and get done, the better i feel about what I'm doing and the path I'm on. But the stakes get higher, too. The more you believe in yourself, the more it hurts if your dreams get dashed.
Can you tell me a little more about your relationship to rap music?
I started rapping at about 11 as a joke, cause my brother Chris began a novelty rap group and I said "that stuff is so dumb, any one could do it" he said "prove it" and I came up with this: "I'm running for Rapper, in the next election, cause I'm mo fresher than the produce section". he was impressed and I joined the group. With in a few years myself, my brother and my best friends Dan Keech, Bob Sherin and Mike Romano had all begun listening to rap seriously and started rapping seriously. I guess because we were already music geeks we appreciated rap for how great it was a bit earlier than some of these other white motherfuckers in the game of life.
Is it how you started making music in the first place?
In a way yes, but I started playing guitar soon after and that was my main instrument until the end of high school. I was in a couple rock bands with my brother and the rest of those previously mentioned dudes. We were actually all in the band SUPER BASS QUAD which in ways was a precursor to Oxes, my brothers popular math rock band. He played drums in SBQ.
How does rapping make you feel? Do you find you are able to say things that you couldn't otherwise?
Well, I tend to say whatever it is I'm thinking most of the time anyway. But lately in particular, I'm finding that I like to put even more of my own thoughts and opinions into my tracks. Rap is a great medium for putting your own strange take on things out into the world, because it follows a pretty rigid structure in general, but the subtleties you bring to the table are what really sets you apart. For a long time I just focused on flow and snappy lines, but now I'm really making an effort to put as many of my own personality quarks into a track as possible. I was/am scared to do this, cause the things I think about the most are Race, Sex, Depression, Comedy, History... topics that are either controversial, disgusting or just plain boring. But I think I can maybe say a lot with a little, which is what you're trying to do in a rap verse. So instead of just finding different ways to say I'm awesome, I'm hoping that if i put enough honesty into my rhymes, even if people are put off by the subject matter, they'll be able to dig where I'm coming from cause the format/delivery is inherently entertaining. Hopefully.
To answer the first part of your question, rapping makes me feel pretty great. I struggle alot over lyrics, but once I'm satisfied and I'm actually performing it's the shit. I guess you kind of feel like you're a bard that happens to be rocking the fuck out of the king's court while telling a cool story (that totally made sense so just keep reading). Plus if I perform well I might get to blaze sex with an impressed female.
Tell me about your relationship with your brother Chris Freeland and what you've been up to with him lately.
Chris is the milkman's son. He's four years older. He is absolutely, 100% the person most responsible for getting me into music and developing my own sense of humor, which is how me and him first became close. Around the time that I was in middle school, I think he saw that I was finally smart enough to have a not-totally retarded sense of humor, and also to appreciate music for the first time. It was like a project for him. He took me to shows and let me hang out with his cool friends, who are now my cool friends. Since then I think we've really both been sounding boards for each other. We're closer than ever right now, in large part due to the studio that chris has started. We've both been into mixing and recording our own music for a while now, but since Chris got a Pro Tools rig 2 years ago, that aspect of his creativity has really taken off. At this point, he's basically recording bands full time. I began assisting him this past year, after learning some of the basics interning at Lord Baltimore Studios. I believe us working together in his studio (called Beat Babies) is really opening up a whole new chapter for us creatively. I never really learned music theory, but I know what sounds good. Me and Chris come from the same perspective that way; we just love production. We both kind of see it as a part of the creative process to mix/engineer/produce an artist. It makes me feel like I'm in the band for a few days, offering what I can. I get a HUGE thrill being able to help someone get the sound they have in their head to come out of the speakers. It's great. I'm just impatient with myself and I always want to be better than I am. But I guess that's good? Anyway, Chris and I really work well together because we see eye to eye on music; we hear a song and in many ways we already know how it should sound, and often times we're thinking the same thing. He is also insanely diplomatic in a recording situation, which is fucking crucial.
What does humor mean to you? What does humor mean?
Sometimes I wonder, if I could only be funny, or only make music, which would I choose? And I think in a way I'd rather be funny. If I couldn't joke around I'd go nuts. There are people I know and admire for whom making music is like breathing; they can't help themselves, their understanding of melody and song structure is that strong. Jenn and Andy from Wye Oak, Dave Heumann from Arboretum, Cass McCombs. I look at them and wonder where that comes from. I never felt like I had that. I've got a basic feel for music that I've built upon, but it didn't really come that naturally. Humor is different for me. This sounds big-headed I guess, but since I was fairly young I just felt like I knew what was funny about a situation. Something happens and my brain just says "say this, it'll be awkward as hell!". I guess I just see how every situation, no matter how mundane, is totally ridiculous on some level, so why not have fun with it, you know?
A sense of humor is so important to me because I think it's really a window into someone, and society in general. By sharing a joke, or observing one's reaction to an off-color comment, you learn a lot. You learn what their hang-ups are, you may learn what their turn-ons are, you can tell what their politics are or if they're practical or a dreamer. I love to make leap-of-logic, abstract kind of comments and see who picks up what I'm putting down. Usually it's one of my best friends who's on my page already. Humor is like mortar to a friendship, at least with my friendships. It's what makes my brother and I so close. When we were young, The Simpsons molded us and made us realize that comedy is high art. I think if you can joke about something, it's like the easiest way in the world to find out how you really feel about it, and that is invaluable. Plus, it's easier than reading a dumb book.
First ten words that come to your mind when you think of David Lee Roth. Don't think, just write. David Lee Roth: GO
Paramedic. Blond. Sunglasses. Leopard. Hair. Hot. Wild. Happy. Strong. Satisfied.
Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Do you think success makes people like us, artist types, happy? Do you think most creative people feel they need recognition to be validated?
I think the thing that makes creative people truly happy is the freedom, time and space to achieve their desired ends, with true success as a measure of how much of this type of freedom one is able to sample within their lifetime. Success is completing a project to your own satisfaction: you feel happy because you were able to do it your way, and maybe sharing it with others brings happiness. Sometimes not. Happiness is not always the thing to shoot for; speaking for myself, these days I'm happiest doing a crossword puzzle or listening to people talk about Huey Lewis & The News. Sometimes happiness feels like something else entirely, like nausea or vertigo. As for validation, some people want to be acknowledged elaborately, some people would rather just do their thing and wear sunglasses and not make a scene, and some people won't show the world their gifts until they've penetrated the veil. Its a matter of taste as well as a matter of survival; whatever it takes to get you through the month. The good news (slash bad news) is that, these days, recognition of things and people is at an all-time high.