Over the course of his career, Tom Freund has created a wide variety of albums. His first was a collaboration with Ben Harper and his last was a double disc live album. In between, he’s made full-lengths, EPs, a children’s CD and a Christmas album — but he’s never made an album like 2 Moons
This self-produced disc, out now on Surf Road Records, finds the Los Angeles-based Freund in a contemplative yet confident mood, where swirls of nostalgia blend with sharp-eyed views of life today. He delivers this CD’s main message in the standout track “Lemme Be Who I Wanna Be,” in which he declares: “I’m basically hooked on this life/it’s got a lot of problems/but it treats me real right/and you don’t have to agree with me/but let me fly my freak flag.” This oddly upbeat anthem of personal empowerment so impressed Canadian rock star Serena Ryder that she asked to sing on it. “Lemme Be Who I Wanna Be” represents a different type of song for Freund. “I’d rather just be honest and say ‘take me as a I am’,” he reveals, adding, “I felt that I didn’t have to dress up songs with clever couplets all the time.”
Freund, in producing and co-engineering this album, draws upon folk, rock, jazz and other roots sources for an urbane Americana sound. He blends in cool touches: woozy mariachi horns pop up in “Same Old Shit,” mermaid-evoking backing vocals in “Next Time Around.” He punctuates “Heavy Balloon” with a blast of electric guitar and guest Stan Behrens (of Canned Heat fame) lends an atmospheric harmonica solo to “Weekend Guy” (a co-write with singer/songwriter Brett Dennen, who contributes vocals too). Inspired by listening to a lot of old Squeeze music, Freund also mixed in some trippy keyboards and old-school synths to flesh out tracks like “Me and Bernice and “Lemme Be Who I Wanna Be.”
The “Lemme Be” lyrical theme translated to the recording of 2 Moons
as well. Freund brought a “this is the way we do it” approach to the sessions, which were done in studios across Los Angeles (from Echo Park to North Hollywood to his own setup in Venice). The recording went exceptionally well. “I knew what guys to grab and how to get it done,” he confides. “There weren’t wasted takes or wasted hours.” He used a core of group of musicians he knew (drummers Michael Jerome and Michael Iveson, keyboardist Chris Joyner and bassist John Button) and, he says, “every time we got together, something good happened.” Some talented friends lent Freund support too. David Immergluck (Counting Crows/John Hiatt) weaves his pedal steel through 2 Moons
, while “Angel Eyes” features vocals from Ben Harper, who did an album Pleasure and Pain
with Freund in 1992.
Freund himself plays guitars, ukulele, keyboards and bass on 2 Moons.
An in-demand bass player, Freund got his first big break in the mid-’90s playing for the Austin-based roots-rock cult heroes the Silos. He settled in Venice, California around the time of his 1998 solo debut North American Long Weekend
. Over the years, he alternated between making his own music and working with folks like Mandy Moore, Rachael Yamagata and Graham Parker, who has hailed Freund as one of “the best singer/songwriters operating today.” You can even spot Freund playing with Parker and the Rumour in the recent Judd Apatow film, This Is 40
Fans’ reactions resonate strongly with Freund: he feels that a job of a songwriter to help others access what they are feeling. “A real joy is when people come and tell me that a song or an album got them through something,” he says. If 2 Moons
, with its underlying message of hope in this messy world of ours, serves as an inspiring, encouraging soundtrack for listeners, “then I can say to myself: ‘okay, you’re doing something right for some people out there.”