The Nineline Theory
Maybe Freelove, a career musician, finds these words an apropos reminder to shift gears even when the brakes have been put on, as they were in 1991 when her contract with Chrysalis/Ensign was canceled just months after releasing her solo debut, Smells Like Truth. Maybe they strike at her core because she's had to struggle with the dilemma of doing what's right versus doing what's expected. Or maybe they appeal to her because she knows what her music does to people. Whatever the case, Freelove takes Einstein's philosophy one step further: "Shift your consciousness a little bit and then it's more fertile," she says.
Of course, she's only human. But in conversation with the woman, you're convinced that not only has she figured out how to achieve empowerment and serenity, but that she's also trying to offer it to her audience. Admittedly, that sounds a bit smarmy. But then, if you had to pigeonhole Freelove, you'd call her a folk singer. So, it doesn't sound ridiculous when she says, "Sometimes, I get a feeling like this song can give you a little bit of fresh air about another place to visit in your mind. Because new thoughts can happen there."
That's what she saw happening among the sold-out audiences at New York's Bottom Line last year. The gigs were two of many East Coast shows in support of her newest, indie release, Songs From the Nineline. The live recording received critical recognition from media outlets like Billboard, the music industry's tip sheet, and limited airplay on the East Coast and here in Austin. But more than anything, it attracted attention from record companies with deeper coffers than her local company, Nineline Productions.
"Our intention is to negotiate with a company that really, really wants to do what I do," says Freelove. "I've got bodies of work that have not been released yet, so we'll want to be with a company that's interested in licensing this music from us, and in creating new music."
That's quite a firm, powerful statement coming from a person who once felt she shouldn't even express herself musically. "I love feeling like I've been heard, more than ever now," she says. "But I used to be quite ashamed, embarrassed. You know, the process of me being able to do this has been getting over shame for doing it the way I do it."
And the way she does it -- in a uniquely piercing, haunting, and fairly anti-classical style -- didn't necessarily jibe with her experience as a child growing up in Europe and the Middle-East, with a family moved around by IBM. In her first artistic incarnation, Freelove would've been a painter -- she attended the University of Maryland and earned a degree in studio art -- before allowing herself the freedom to go public as a songwriter and vocalist. But after moving to Austin in 1980, music became a more important part of her life and by 1986, she had formed Two Nice Girls.
"I had a lot of fun with Two Nice Girls up to a point, but then it wasn't fun anymore," she says about her brief time with the folk/rock band she left in order to pursue her own solo career. "It was more about having a position, being attached to a position of feminism and lesbianism, and I was not attached to those positions," she says. "I was very attached at the time to making music the way I wanted to make it, so that's the way I had to head."
Now, she says, "I'm nicer. I'm 10 years older, I'm clear about what I want to do, who I want to be, what I want to show, and what kind of music I want to be playing."
Freelove insists she'll get signed whether she plays South by Southwest or not. "But it doesn't hurt to play and have people who have never seen you come and appreciate you," she laughs. And yet, history is on her side. Freelove got signed to Chrysalis/Ensign through connections made at the 1991 music festival, and Two Nice Girls landed their first record deal with Rough Trade after a chance meeting with their future manager at a 1986 SXSW showcase.
"It amazes me how Two Nice Girls has opened doors for me," she reflects. "I had quit after the first album was made, but it made a lot of money and had a very huge touring audience, and industry people know the success of that." Solo and settled now, she's ready to finalize a new record deal and tour again. "I very much want to be out playing!"
And she's confident that it will happen soon. "Most of the industry at this moment in time are coming to me," she says, with a tinge of awe in her voice. "They're hearing something different from Two Nice Girls, something different from Smells Like Truth, and I think they're hearing the new incarnation, whatever that might be."
What that might be depends on your perspective, but from her vantage point on stage, Freelove might call her incarnation "The Nineline." If pressed to further define the Zen Buddhist term for "the beyond the beyond," she says. "The Nineline" is the name she's given to the arena of the non-physical. "When I'm performing," says Freelove, "it's visceral, it's spiritual, it's energy. Everything is known. It's theatre, and I give it to you." n
Laurie Freelove's SXSW showcase is Friday, March 14, 11pm at Ruta Maya Coffee House.