One of Hoboken’s celebrated musicians is back on the music scene with a highly anticipated album and a West Coast tour. Freedy Johnston, best known for his 1994 hit single “Bad Reputation,” recorded his most memorable work on Hoboken’s Bar None record label in the late ’80s, and remembers the glory days at Maxwell’s and the long-gone club Live Tonight.
His first new album of original music in over eight years, “Rain on the City” packs a diverse musical punch with radio-ready rock songs, heartbreaking ballads, and even touches of soul and bossa nova rhythms.
“Hoboken is always changing, but back then, it became an overnight sensation.” – Freedy Johnston
At the time, some of the most reputable music magazines touted Johnston as one of America’s best new songwriters. The artist was featured in Rolling Stone and Spin magazines among others, while the Village Voice called Johnston’s “Can You Fly,” a “perfect album.” Even National Public Radio music critic Tom Moon included the album in his book “1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die,” released in 2008.
“I lived right up by Maxwell’s,” he said. “I remember Lisa’s Deli and Antique Bakery. I really miss Hoboken. I loved living there.”
In fact, Johnston got his start at Live Tonight, where he played with the likes of Kate Jacobs and Tom Vincent.
“After eight years, I’m just happy to make another record and to know that people are still listening.”
Working out of Nashville Tenn., the musician played at the famous Bluebird Café and collaborated with legendary Nashville session cat and former Elvis Presley keyboard player David Briggs on the album.
“Nashville is a whole different thing,” Johnston said. “Music is in the culture. There are so many great players down there. Everybody and their kid can play, and play really well.”
Why so long?
With all of Johnston’s success in the ’90s with his album “This Perfect World,” eight years seems like an eternity to keep fans waiting for a followup.
“I tried to [make the new record] a couple of times on my own,” Johnston said. “There were two or three failed attempts before this one finally took.”
Johnston was trying to produce the album himself, but the project never fully took shape.
“I learned that I need a supervisor in the room, saying ‘Lets get this done,’ ” the musician said. “Otherwise I’d spend all day on it.”
Although the record was finished almost two years ago, “Rain on the City” was finally released three weeks ago.
“Every musician would want to change something on an album,” he said, “especially being recorded so long ago. But this album is pretty rocking. I really don’t have any expectations.”
Johnston is expected to kick off his major-city West Coast tour in early spring. “We got a few gigs coming up,” he said, “towns that I usually go to. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago. There’s about 10 all together. I certainly have enough to get done.”
In addition to the tour, Johnston said he is already writing songs for another album, which he would like to get done by late 2010. “I have a lot on my plate already,” he said.
The musicians of Madison County
Although Johnston will soon spend most of his time on the road, he said that his adopted home is Madison Wisc., where he spends most his time. “I worked here several years ago,” he said.
Although he joked about the weather being “75 degrees on his way to the beach,” the musician just can’t seem to stay away from frigid Wisconsin.
“I’m a secret Wisconsian,” Johnston said. “I made a lot of friends here, and now I can’t get away.”
Sean Allocca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org