We’re proud to present this interview with Andy Fraser (co-founder and songwriter of classic rock band FREE). The interview was conducted by our friend, super publicist and writer Shauna O’Donnell
Andy co-wrote the CLASSIC hit “All Right Now” and has released lots of great music. He is currently busy with many projects, including a very important benefit for Japan and talked with us at length about this and more…..Read on….
HI ANDY, THANKS FOR TALKING WITH ME. HOW ARE YOU TODAY?
We’re hot, were in Austin.
YOU HAVE A CAREER THAT SPANS OVER MANY YEARS, SO I’D LIKE TO CONCENTRATE ON WHAT YOU HAVE GOING ON CURRENTLY. MOST PEOPLE KNOW YOU AS THE SONGWRITER WHO WROTE THE FAMOUS SONG “ALL RIGHT NOW” WHILE IN THE ROCK BAND FREE, BUT SINCE THEN YOU HAVE DONE MANY GREAT THINGS. CURRENTLY YOU ARE OUT ON A NATIONAL RADIO PROMO TOUR AS SPOKESPERSON FOR ‘ARTISTS SUPPORT JAPAN.’ TELL US ABOUT THE CAUSE AND WHAT YOUR INVOLVEMENT IS IN IT.
The cause is for us to remind people that the Japanese people are still suffering. The residents of Fukushima, for example, tested positive for radiation about a week and a half ago. Most of the country is on half a day’s power day, which means lights go out, escalators stop, business comes to a halt and people’s houses are still in rubbles. They need help and we need to help like we would want to be helped. Our mission, along with around 70 artists, who include L.A. Guns, Keith Emerson, Roseanne Cash, Ron Sexsmith, Glenn Hughes, Paul Rodgers and artists from just about every genre have given of themselves maybe in an acoustic version of a song that everybody is familiar with on video. Our mission is to inspire people to send money to Japan, Red Cross Japan or any other charity you choose. We don’t take money, but we go around the country reminding people that this is still current and will be for ten years. The media has moved on to cases like Casey Anthony, but remember there is a whole country over there suffering.
HOW LONG IS THE TOUR?
It’s about two months; we started about three weeks ago in Vancouver. We came down to Seattle, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Rosa and L.A. for a few days. We went to Phoenix and we are now in Houston. This evening we fly to Denver, next will include Chicago, the east coast, Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburg and New York where we will do a couple of live shows. One will be on live radio and the other on TV.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT?
It was brought to my attention sort of early on by word of mouth essentially. I thought it was a great idea and I asked Tobi, whose album I was in the middle of finishing up, “What about adding one of your songs “There’s Always Hope?” He was right into it, as was his school, which is for actors and musicians. He came out in January, recorded the album over a period of three weeks. While he was finishing school, I was finishing the album. His school has been trying to raise money for Japan, so this couldn’t have been a better thing for him to be involved in from his point of view. So we said “We’re in!” Once we started talking to the people who actually set up the initial site, we got talked into being the actual spokespersons and here we are touring the country getting the word out.
HOW IS IT GOING SO FAR? ARE PEOPLE DONATING?
I can’t say, all we can do is go on the radio and TV and hope that happens. The Red Cross does not report to us, so we wouldn’t know. We just hope people will help like they’d want to be helped.
YOU ARE ENCOURAGING OTHER MUSICIANS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE SITE. WHAT DO YOU NEED THEM TO DO?
They need to upload a video of them playing a song, it can be casual or full-on, whatever they want to do. It is really the thought that counts. Any artist can make a home video with one camera and upload it.
SO IT DOESN’T MATTER IF IT IS A BAND BIG OR SMALL? ANY BAND CAN DO IT?
Yes, we welcome all comers.
YOU ARE INVOLVED IN OTHER CAUSES AS WELL RIGHT?
When it became clear to me about the extent of catastrophic climate change, I had received an email and for the first time it laid out super clear exactly what was going on. I was as clueless as the next person and just from reading the email, I was able to pick up words and lines and write them all down. By the time I had done so, I had eight verses to a song. I cut it down to like two and a half and came up with the song “This Is the Big One.” I really feel strongly about it and I’m trying to do my part with recycling and being aware of the good and bad that comes with plastic. There is good and bad and we need to be aware of what the bad side is and what we can do about it. It is on my latest album “On Assignment.” You can find it on http://mctrax.com/.
YOU HAVE YOUR OWN RECORD LABEL CALLED MCTRAX INTERNATIONAL. IT’S ALSO A FILM COMPANY, RIGHT?
Yes, so far we have done videos and we are going to get into film. My daughter has quite the career. If you look up Hannah Mermaid (http://www.hannahfraser.com/mermaid/ ) you will see her dream coming true. You will see that 20/20 just did a recent piece on her. She swims with killer sharks and whales. She makes it look easy and beautiful. She is also a very talented actress, so we are already talking about doing a movie with her and Tobi will also be involved. He comes out of an acting school, so it could be really good.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO START UP A LABEL?
It was because I saw that all the other labels did not know which way was up with the current digital changes in the world. First of all they tried to prevent it and now that it is here, they don’t know what the hell to do about it. They are signing up artists, they don’t know how to sell music anymore, but they will promote the music if you give them a piece of the product that you are going to sell like perfume, movies t-shirts or pieces of the show. I know which way is up better than that. I believe that it is all going to be streaming and download. Computers are already being made with disc drives, everybody has a smart phone, an IPad and they all want to stream all the content. Why do I need to give 70-80% to someone else for doing nothing? That is why I started the label and it is snowballing. I signed Tobi, who I think is going to be the next big deal.
IS HE THE ONLY ARTIST YOU HAVE SIGNED TO THE LABEL OR ARE THERE OTHERS?
No, he is the first one and I have been thinking about starting with number two. I have been so closely involved with the recording, the production and here we are on a tour together. I want to keep it more like the old independent labels, like Island, where it is a family thing. You really truly give each artist proper attention as opposed to these big conglomerates. A lot of our stuff goes through Universal and I don’t even have a face to put to most of the names I contact on email. That is how impersonal it is. I want to remain small, focused and to remain independent. We have good people doing the artwork, the videos and we have it covered. Now that everything is digital, we don’t need manufacturing plants, trucks to drive, TV’s and the rest of the stuff. It’s a different world. Apple knows where it is going and they have taken over at least 25% of the music industry, while these other guys in the suits are still trying to figure out what’s happening. Some of these labels are being bought by big manufacturers like Sony, who essentially want to sell you big box items. The big box items are no good without content, so they buy the movie studios. They will buy Columbia Records and make it Sony Records, so even if those departments don’t make money, there is the content for their product. It is so impersonal and so out of control.
BANDS ARE ENCOURAGING THEIR FANS TO BUY THE CD AS OPPOSED TO ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADING IT, SO THEY HAVE COME UP WITH BOX SETS FOR THE FANS. WHEN YOU BUY A CD THERE IS ALL OF THAT ARTWORK THAT IS INVOLVED WITH IT AND THERE IS MORE TO IT.
Well we do all of that too. When you download a song from the tracks, it comes with an E-card with the artwork and all of the lyrics. All of that is there and can be digitally done.
THAT IS A GOOD POINT. YOU STARTED OFF AT AN EARLY AGE PLAYING PIANO. I HAVE FOUND THAT A LOT OF REALLY TALENTED SONGWRITERS START OFF ON PIANO.
I’m not surprised to hear that actually. Before I was old enough to realize that expressing yourself was the important thing, a lot of technical theory was drilled into me, which I have come to appreciate. I hated it at the time. It has really helped me. It’s like using a hammer, once you get the skill down, then you can bang the nails without blackening your thumb. I’m very appreciative of it.
SO I’M CURIOUS, DO YOU STILL HAVE THAT OLD PIANO TUCKED AWAY SOMEWHERE?
(Laughing) No, when I left home at the age of seventeen, that stayed at my mother’s house. My mother is long time gone too. Recently, I Google Earthed the house I was raised in with that piano and that was nearly as good as flying back to England and walking around there.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE INTERVIEW. IT WAS AN HONOR SPEAKING WITH YOU. YOU ARE DOING SOME AMAZING THINGS.