Sunday, May 25, 2008

Influences: Tim Freedman

It all started in March, 2000. I was enjoying my last night of freedom before entering the whirlwind that was The Barbeque King (then making its first appearance as part of the New Ideas Festival, appearing this summer at the Toronto Fringe). A friend of mine suggested that I check out an Aussie band that had come to town.

That band was The Whitlams and it was the first time I laid eyes on Tim Freedman. He was raw charisma on stage. And the lyrics blew my mind. They gave away a sample tape that night and for the next few days I could stop listening to it, especially a song called Charlie No. 3. It spoke to my soul in a way few things in my life have. I quickly bought the album that had been released in Canada, Eternal Nightcap, and an addiction was born.

Once my show opened I spent hours trying to find out as much as I could about him, reading every interview I could find. I discovered a man with a wicked way with words, who took his craft seriously but not himself, a man who had dealt with an incredible amount of recent tragedy and turned it into emotionally honest, awe-inspiring art. Someone who lived life on his terms unashamedly.

Charlie No. 3 had a distinct effect on how I viewed staging. I was working on another show and was waiting for the set to arrive in the space. I threw on the album and when this song came on, I saw a story play out on the bare stage in front of me. A representational version of the story of the song, using dance and movement. For the first time I could see beyond the use of text, something I used a few months later when I directed storyteller Jean Bubba in her fringe show, Serendipity at Fifty.

Charlie No.3 - Tim Freedman (Live at The Basement)



I also went back to writing. Over the next 4 years, I wrote a few short stories (fiction and fanfiction), some poetry, and I wrote a book for a musical inspired by what I had experienced. (I'm still looking for a composer/co-lyricist for that project, which is stalled at the second draft until I do.)

I found myself drawn to him in a way I had never been drawn to anyone before. I met him briefly after the show that first night but nothing logicallly explained why this was happening to me. And thus my transformation was born. Over the course of the next 4 years, I found myself throwing out practically everything I had ever understood about myself and the world I lived in. No part of my life was left untouched - personal or professional.

It wasn't until my last trip to Australia that I finally understood what it was about him. I saw the band play at a special event at the Adelaide Festival and realized what I wanted was to be him. To be that alive, that present, that in the flow of creation and performance mixed up at once. All along Tim, by being himself, was showing me myself. And once I realized that, I could close the book on what I call "the Tim years" and move on with the next chapter of my life.

When I returned after that 3-month trip (that had me truly living on the edge), I couldn't go back to living the life I had before. I had to find a way to live in my art. I made the sacrifices so that I was no longing living a partial life but was being in the present and in the moment. (It's not always easy but I'm much happier in doing it.) Six weeks after my return, I met someone with whom I felt a strong connection (the thing I was missing the most) and he became a large part of my life for the next few years. I would check in on what Tim was doing every once in a while to keep up to date but that was about it.

The most recent album, Little Cloud, came out two years ago and I haven't even heard it (apart from the video clips and sound clips made available by mainstream media outlets). At the time, I was broke and had lost touch with the friend who used to supply me with Whitlams music. And while I was curious, that chapter in my life had closed. I wanted to hear it but I didn't need to hear it. I know I can download it but it doesn't feel right somehow. Partly because I know it's his own record company and I want him to get paid for his work. And I guess I want to hear it the way Tim intended it, with the lyric sheet in front of me and the album cover in my hand.

This week, I find I really want to get my hands on it. A few things have sparked this. One was finding out about the cd giveaway they're doing, which made me think about what is lacking in my collection (I'm also missing the video DVD).

Another is that this week has been in many ways about building a new vision of my future for myself without restrictions by looking at what really jazzes me, uncomfortable as some of those truths may be. And one of those uncomfortable truths is that Tim is still the one who inspires me. He may always be my muse, even though it's been four years since I've laid eyes on him and there's a good chance I may never see him again. I don't know what form it's going to take in the future. At the very least I suspect they'll be more Whitlams songs appearing as pre-show music, and I do hope that musical makes it one day. What I do know is he's had more of a hand in shaping who I am as a person and an artist than anyone else - and for that I am forever grateful to him.

I also came to the realization that I still hope that someday, somehow, we might actually be friends. That may not be the best way to interact with a muse (and with circumstances as they are I have no idea how that can even be accomplished) but the hidden dream persists. I find myself wanting him to read this blog entry and sees what I've become, the inspiration he continues to be.

I agonized on how to finish this post but decided to let Tim do it. This is Best Work from Torch the Moon. He wrote this song about his muse but the sentiments fit for me in so many ways.

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