Freeway and I enjoyed a bonding moment of our own as we wrote
songs together on his porch overlooking Interstate 95 one
unusually warm early October afternoon, just a few days before
our headlining gig at the Heartbreak Lounge. Buck, Craig and
Friday couldn't make it that day, but Freeway and I decided to
work on some songs anyway. We were the driving force behind the
band right from the outset.
"Was your papa really a gravestone?" Freeway asked me with a
serious face while he was tuning his guitar.
"Yeah, that's the only way I saw him," I said, looking up from my
notebook of song lyrics. "He died when I was 10 months old. My
mother used to bring me to see him in a cemetery up in North
Providence when I was little."
"How'd he die, man?" Freeway asked.
"I think my uncle killed him," I told him.
"No shit?" Freeway said, his bushy eyebrows raised above his
curious brown eyes and long eyelashes.
"I don't know for sure," I continued. "My mother told me he
drowned on the fishing trip and to never ask my uncle what
happened. I have a feeling my uncle and my dad fought over my
"She's the stripper, right?" Freeway asked. "Wow. Two brothers.
That's some freak-ass shit right there."
"You got parents?" I asked Freeway, who apparently was managing
to pay the rent of his tenement apartment on his own. Friday, I
had learned in earlier jam sessions, was more of a drifter. He
would stay with Freeway only when he wasn't shacked up with
various girlfriends in South Providence.
"Not really," Freeway said, shaking his head. "My father left my
mother when I was real little. My mother comes over here
sometimes, but she's always kind of been in and out of my life …
in and out of jail, too."
"What for?" I asked.
"Drugs, stealing shit mostly," he said. "Before I got this place,
me and Friday were living in a tent city downtown. He's from a
fucked up family, too. Poor brothers watch each other's back.
That's why we gotta be a package deal with this band, man."
"That makes sense," I said. "We all got each other's back now,
Freeway. That's what a band is all about."
"Thanks man," he said, grinning. "Same here, same here. It's also
about making music. We better get back to it."
"True, but I also just realized I never asked you how you learned
to play guitar so fucking good?" I said.
"Friday got tired of listening to me bitch about wanting to be a
guitarist some day, so he stole this Les Paul for me about two
years ago," Freeway said, confirming that his guitar really was
hot. "Now that's some straight-up friendship, right there, man.
How many brothers would steal shit for you and risk getting their
"Nobody," I said.
"I've played the guitar every day since," Freeway said. "I owe
him that. I also found a mentor downtown, a bluesman by the name
of Bubba Sims. He spent some time with me, taught me some things.
The rest I learned on my own, man, listening to the greats …
Hendrix, Page, Richards, King, Clapton. I could go on and on."
"Someday some kid will say that about you," I predicted, drawing
a bashful grin out of my guitarist. "'I grew up listening to that
legend named Freeway Wilson,' that's what they'll say."
Our conversation paved the way for our best songwriting session
yet. Freeway conjured up some beautiful hooks and melodies and I
thumped along with some catchy, walking bass lines and sporadic,
simultaneous combustions of lyrics.
Later, Freeway debuted for me a song he had been working on solo
for quite a while, he said. He sang it beautifully with his
unique ghetto-tinged twang, and played a moving guitar piece to
go along with it.
"This is called, 'Too Quick,'" Freeway introduced it. "It's a
tribute to Jimi, Jim Morrison and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin
because they all died so young, man:
"Raiding red houses
Searching for the key
To unlock Spanish castles
That guard the magic
Of your time and place
Big dreams flying on a little wing
All the songs you never got to sing
The Axman, the Lizard King and Moby Dick
Death came and took y'all too quick
Lives too thin, legacies too thick
Break down the door that stands between us
And let us in
Fill up the shore that stands between us
And let us swim."