A Handmade Life
What would happen if Joni Mitchell, Kurt Weill and Carl Jung collaborated on an album inspired by folk tales? Scary? Intriguing? Stunning? Probably all of those descriptors. Chances are you’d get an insightful mixture of beautiful melodies, haunting lyrics, moody and eclectic instrumentation–and one long journey through the psyche of humanity’s greatest desires, pleasures and fears.
This is exactly what acclaimed singer/songwriter Jill Freeman has created on her album “A Handmade Life.” Using old folk tales as her starting point, Jill explores the subconscious underpinnings of these timeless–and often very disturbing–stories and how they reflect the human experience. “A Handmade Life” is made further compelling by the music that blends a singer/songwriter sensibility with intricate arrangements and instrumentation, painting cinematic pictures that urge the listener to join Jill on the entire trip.
Jill began writing the songs that would eventually populate “A Handmade Life” a number of years ago after reading several books that explored the psychology buried in many fairy tales.
“Fairy tales are like dreams, filled with deep symbolism about the human psyche,” says Jill. “They carry the voice of our subconscious. I wanted to dive into those dreamy stories, swim deep, and see what I came back with. This album is the expression of what I found there.”
Jill began a “sonic diary,” recording melodies, words and even “found” sounds on a digital recorder. These recordings set the tone for the album, with many of those original sounds and arrangements ending up within the tracks of the album.
Producer Joel Wachbrit helped further arrange the songs and brought in a wide range of renowned musicians who have played with such artists as Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin, Bruce Hornsby, Michael Bublé, and Steely Dan to add striking textures to the songs. The result is an album of great emotional depth in words, music and overall “vibe.” This is true virtual reality–you feel as if you’re standing in the midst of a theatre production as the characters invite you in to experience the ride along with them.
“A Handmade Life” poignantly opens and closes with “The Light That Leads Me There.” The first version is very sparse featuring Jill singing over ukulele in an outdoor, urban environment that suggests the singer’s homelessness. It’s as if this is a prelude to sleep–the beginning of a dream. The words set the stage for the rest of the album, reflecting life’s hardships and pain and the hope for something better: “You see my aching search for loving kindness is the light that leads me there.” The album ends with an extended interpretation of the song with full instrumentation and additional lyrics to further explore the opening sentiments and the personal quest for wholeness.
The songs between these two versions take the listener on a twisting journey of self-exploration within the themes of different fairy tales. For instance, “Completely Unaware” offers a soaring ballad based on “The Wizard Of Oz” where that place “somewhere over the rainbow” challenges the Scarecrow to question whether he was better off without a brain. The Cinderella story is re-examined in “Walking On Glass,” a cool percussion-driven number that would easily fit in a speakeasy as it follows a young woman on a wild adventurous evening foray. Inspired by a particularly grim (Grimm?) story, “The Robber Bridegroom,” “Sweetheart My Dream Is Not Over” combines a sweet melody with an out-of-control circus motif as a young woman wakes from a disturbing dream and confronts her lover. “A Little Bit of Red” based on The Brothers Grimm’s “Little Red Riding Hood” is a jazz-flavored journey with a splash of Gypsy tonalities set in 11/8 time that looks at the excitement and fear of a young girl’s sexual awakening. Along with the other songs on the album, Jill shows that many familiar fantasy tales may very well reflect our deepest emotions.
“A Handmade Life” marks a new chapter and an impressive evolution in Jill’s long career as a singer/songwriter/performer. A native Los Angeleno, Jill began her professional career in music over 20 years ago. Her trio The Life Is Grand Band became stalwarts of the L.A. music scene, gaining an avid following for their tight vocals and original songwriting–a great feat at a time dominated by synths and drum machines. Their song “Feel Like Makin’ Art” was included on the Fast Folk series which is now part of the Folkways Smithsonian collection.
Following the dissolution of the band, Jill went on to develop her own personal style of songwriting. She released her debut solo effort “Songs About Sex and Depression,” garnering tremendous reviews for her idiosyncratic and highly personal songwriting. The Album Network wrote, “Her music is soft and sensual, with a vulnerability and honesty that will immediately endear it to any listener.” Sing Out! Magazine said, “This CD has been a long time coming, but well worth the wait for this intimate collection of songs from an artist who is both a distinctive songwriter and a gifted singer,” while Music Connection concluded, “This is some damn fine music by a very good performer.”
Over the years, Jill’s songs and singing voice have been heard on film and television including “New Girl,” “Roswell,” “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Access Hollywood,” “Dr. 90210,” “The Young and the Restless,” “Melrose Place,” “True Hollywood Stories,” “The Oranges,” and “The Big Squeeze.” Her song “Kisses Good” was also recorded by EMI artists Once Blue and appeared in Touchstone Pictures’ “Mister Wrong” starring Ellen DeGeneres. Additionally, Jill collaborated with blues guitar legend Robben Ford for his release “Keep On Running.”
With “A Handmade Life,” Jill takes her songwriting to a whole new–and deeper–level. These may not be the fairy tales you want to read before you go to sleep, but they are certainly the ones that will touch your soul. Crank it up and let your imagination run free.
Press inquiries, contact:
Dawn Kamerling, The Press House
Phone: (646) 322-4903