Monday, May 28, 2012

Sui Zhen

BECKY FREEMAN talks to RACHEL BARNES about her solo project SUI ZHEN and the ups and downs of being an independent artist.

Sui Zen is the Chinese middle name of Becky Freeman and the stage name for her intimate experimental folk solo project. Freeman started performing in 2003 but has been into music ever since high school. “I just kind of started playing because my brother was in a lot of bands so I would just open for them. That was almost a decade ago, which seems kind of crazy,” Freeman laughs.

These days Freeman has been focusing on finding her own sound and getting it out to the public. Despite the release of her first self-titled EP in 2007, being accepted to the Red Bull Music Academy in 2010 was the major turning point of her career. “It helped me find my own sound more so in the sense that it helped me to realised what was sound was up against completely different other people,” Freeman says. “It inspired me to keep doing what I was doing and keep progressing and experimenting rather than looking to other people too much.”

The academy did come at a cost after it forced Freeman to put her almost finished album on the back-burner. But after a few failed independent label negotiations, an unexpectedly long vacation to visit family all over the world, and some major life changes, Freeman is finally ready to send her new album Two Seas out into the world. “I think it’s one thing to be able to write music but it’s another thing to want to put it out and get really excited about it,” she says. “Music is so simple when it’s just an activity, but when you actively try to be a part of the music industry it becomes all sorts of complicated, so getting the motivation to do that is kind of difficult.”

As with any independent artist, Freeman sometimes feels as if she is pouring her money down a well, but she believes it is worth it when she gets to connect directly with her listeners. “I think people understand what’s involved when you’re doing it independently so you’ve got a bit of respect already, regardless of what your music sounds like, just for finishing a projected and putting it out there,” she says.

It looks like Freeman will be playing a lot of actual music in the future. Fox & Sui is a side project that she has underway with Andras Fox, who she met at the Red Bull Academy. Freeman is also working on more solo material and is trying hard to find a way to keep her music sounding full without the backing of a band.

She hopes to gain the backing of an indie label soon so she can have more of the fun and less of the organizational hassles. “I’d love to find a label for my Sui Zhen releases but it’s not something that you can really force,” she says.

Still working out the kinks of her national tour, Freeman says she would love touring as much as she loves writing her album if she was only able to tour more comfortably. With the logistical nightmare of organising gigs and places to stay set to continue, Freeman just wants to hit the stage: “I can’t wait to be actually performing the set, you know, like playing the actual music.”

Catch SUI ZHEN (with full band) at Black Bear Lodge on Wednesday Jun 6 with special guests Fanny Lumsden and Epithets. TWO SEAS is out now.

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