A Word With Guitarist Seth Freeman

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When people hear guitarist Seth Freeman play live, they stand and watch with jaws dropped and make expectable comparisons to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. While true, Freeman has found his musical voice through a lifetime of hard work, lots of listening & learning about the art of music from everyone around him, as well as technically knowing his instruments backward & forwards.

I caught up with Freeman for a phone interview during a short break in his busy tour schedule. The guitarist and his power trio will be playing four Big Island venues between Jan. 16 – Jan. 19, 2020. Ticket info can be found below.

Will this be your first time performing on the Big Island?
No [but]it’s my first time doing public shows at venues. I’ve been over there playing at estate parties, and I’ve done a lot of sitting in with some of the local musicians. But this will be my own first public Big Island shows.

How did you decide to become a musician?
It’s a family legacy. All of my family plays on my dad’s side. My grandma was one of 40 [musicians], and all of the kids and grandkids [too]. I’m a third-generation guitar player, that I know of, and the generations of musicians go back further than anyone knows.

Who influenced you the most as a musician?
My dad is the one that [was]over the top with it. [He] really pushed me, showed me a lot of music, and took me out the most. In the beginning, on my first couple of albums, he helped write a song and guested on a track.

Can you briefly describe your gear?
I really am a Stratocaster guy, honestly, but I play everything. I’m a lap steel player and a dobro guy too…. being from a bluegrass acoustic region… an acoustic player that also plays electric.

Can you tell me about your compositional process?
Some people sit and force it out and go about it differently. In the past, the way I went about it was, like, if something happened in life, death, or whatever it may, you reflect upon it, and write a song. I will write lyrics first, but I find it a little harder to create music to lyrics. It naturally tends to line up for me when you naturally sing something that fits.

What have you been listening to lately?
That’s a good question. I’ve honestly been so busy lately. I’ve been touring since August and just got home last night. I’ve covered almost all 50 states this year. A lot of Canada and three Caribbean countries as well.

There’s a band called Soul Live I like and Grant Green. I met this guy named Dwight Tokumoto who lives in Hilo, and he actually showed me a lot of more ancient Hawaiian lap steel guitar styles.

My secret is to pull from other instruments and non-instruments like vocals. My favorite slide place to pull slide licks from is Aretha Franklin’s voice. The way she sings and the way she connects the notes and the holes where there are no notes makes it all digestible. A lot of guitar players tend to be like an auctioneer. They just talk like this all the time (speeds up his voice) and never stop talking. [Aretha Franklin] has always been a big influence on me… a big inspiration… and I’ve been listening to her for sure.

Is there someone whom you’ve never collaborated with, but you’d like to?
It’s getting hard at this point. I’ve played with most of my heroes. I’d like to collaborate with Marcus King, a buddy of mine. We have a natural chemistry going on, and we come from the same place historically. We’re both products of musical families. I just feel like he would be cool.

The interviewed was edited for space, clarity, and continuity, and you can listen to the full audio interview below.


Seth Freeman Trio’s Big Island Tour Dates

Kawaihae
When: January 16, 2020. Doors: 6:00 p.m.  Show: 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Blue Dragon Tavern & Cosmic Musiquarium, 61-3616 Kawaihae Road, Kawaihae.
Cost: $15
Information: 808-822-7771.

Kona
When: Jan. 17, 2020. Show: 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Gertrude’s Jazz Bar, 75-5699 Alii Dr. Kailua-Kona.
Info: 808-896-4845 Venue: 808-327-5299
Tickets: $15. Gen. Adm. Adv.

Hilo
When: January 18, 2020. Doors: 8:30 p.m. Show: 9:00 p.m.
Venue: Hilo Town Tavern, 168 Keawe Street, Hilo.
Info: 808-896-4845.  Venue: 808-935-2171
Tickets: $15. Adv.

Volcano
When: January 19, 2020. Doors: 7:00 p.m.  Show: 7:30 p.m.
Venue: KMC Theater – Volcanoes National Park
Info: 808-896-4845.  Venue:  808-967-8335
Tickets: $15. Gen. Adm. Adv. and $18. Gold Circle.

Online info for all shows: www.bluesbearhawaii.com or call 808-896-4845.


Steve Roby is a music journalist, an L.A. Times bestselling author, and a Big Island filmmaker. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.

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