Shea Freedom is a rising transgender singer-songwriter with a voice like an angel and lyrics that sing of equality and freedom. Shea’s new album “Stand Together Now” is nothing short of magnificent as it is filled with soft vocals that echo emotion and an acoustic guitar that mirrors the rhythm of his love-filled heart. It was a privilege to interview this talented artist that stands up for everything he believes in. Enjoy the emotional yet inspiring interview below and be sure to listen to the album and be moved to tears:
RC: Introduce yourself to our readership and please explain your music to someone who has never heard it before…
SF: I was raised by my mother who was a mechanic, visual artist, singer-songwriter and unfortunately an addict. Frequently I would be dropped off at my Navy Veteran Father’s house in Los Angeles, CA to receive the beatings & endure various forms of torture. When I was 6 years old living with my mom in Fullerton, CA and I had a sandbox crush on Adam P who I was sure was a girl because he had longer hair than mine. One day during a Sega session at Adams I quit playing the games early to run across the apartment complex back to my mom asking though tears “where’s my pee pee? what’s wrong with me? Where’s my pee pee?” That was the first time I had ever looked at my gender and everyone elses with curiosity.
The next year I entered the foster care system and thus, I never got to have these conversations with my mother or anyone at the 28 placements I would endure.
When I was 14 my mother passed away and I inherited her guitar. I also had to choose where to bury her so I asked my social worker where we had family and she said Sweetwater, Tennessee. At the funeral I would meet her brother and live with him for a few years before flunking out of that placement.
3 years later I was 17 in a foster home in Orange County California, attending school for Aviation. At college I found a GSA where I for the first time heard the word transgender and met a living breathing trans person. OMG I’m not alone! That’s me I lean that’s not me but OMG. They are like me. I’m like them! The flood gates opened. I told my foster mom I wanted to transition take hormones get surgeries I was Googling things like effects of testosterone and phalloplasty constantly. Telling my foster mom didn’t really go over so well somehow I think it was easier for her my being a lesbian.
Eventually I ended up emancipating into homelessness like 68% of foster youth in California do on their 18th birthday. This is the time where I really picked up the guitar because the statistics for foster youth are harrowing and I was going to fuck them by any means necessary. So instead of becoming a prostitute, a drug addict or a prison inmate like a lot of my peers I became a street musician never knowing what the hell I was doing just trying to earn some food to eat.
Ever since I could remember being able to pick up a pencil and put words on paper I’ve been doing it. So I would definitely say poetry and song writing his help me out through a lot of darker times.
It has been a lot of ups and downs however in 2014 I caught a break. I opened for Goddes & She who were featured on the showtime series The L Word. and in 2015 I caught another break opening for a band that I love and admire very much called Rising Appalachia. Look them up! Since then I’ve just been doing my solo thing trying my best to penetrate the system instead of playing the victim when nobody wants to listen. Gratitude to all those listening!
RC: What is your most favorite song off of your new album and why?
SF: Geez, Ryan! You know that’s a hard question, haha! I gotta say History is probably one of my favorite songs of the new album it’s where I got the title Stand Together Now from. I really enjoy this song because it’s slower than most my popular songs like “Choose Love, Turn The Page and Spirit of 1,000 songs”. I also enjoy it because the song is relevant. It’s written for the people whose history today is being written by the roads they walk has refugees. It’s relevant for water protectors in places like Standing Rock and those fighting against pipeline 3. It’s relevant for us trans & non binary folks who were once revered as sacred knowledge keepers, holy people and shamans in many cultures throughout the history of humanity. With this song I say no more division, no more comparison, no more shame, this is a song of hope and unification for all.
RC: What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
SF: I want to be able to play Red Rocks and have 10,000 people sing back to me “I choose love…. & we all have history…”
I also hope to one day be able to build a transitional housing community for transgender/ non binary and former Foster youth in the USA.
RC: I hope you accomplish all of that as well. We are rooting for you. Now tell me, what is your favorite thing about music?
SF: Favorite thing about music? What just one? We’ll Anyone who knows me knows I live to travel! So I’d have to say all the places music has taken me is my fave. BUUUUT really I love what it does for other people. When I get a message from someone saying that my music has moved them or gotten them through tough times or puts their kids to sleep my heart melts and my spirit soars. That is really my favorite thing about music
RC: How long does it take you to write a song? What song took the longest to write and record on this new album?
SF: You know every song is a little different. Some songs happen so fast I feel like I can’t even say I wrote them but that I merely channeled them, other songs however take months.
On this album it was History that took the longest to write and Like A Drum that took the longest to record. I think Like A Drum took the longest to record mostly because there was a vocal part that I just couldn’t nail so we had to do more than 6 takes on it haha I had the hardest time nailing “I play your boooody like a drum”. Also for me it’s a more sexy song and being pre-op I don’t always feel the sexy that I am. Ya know dysphoria so it was a harder to stop laughing be sexy and record it. We also recorded it on the same Day Kali Ma Summer which is a song about my last drummer who committed suicide so sometimes ya know your thoughts will be elsewhere but you’re in the studio and time is money so ya gotta get er done to the best of your ability.
With History it took a while to right because I wanted to incorporate my grandmother somehow and a bit of her history and growing up in foster care I knew her in the sense that I only had rare visitations with her. So I had to do some digging it was fascinating to learn about black history in Marshall, Texas and learning more about what it must have been like to exist in the 20’s and 30’s and 40s and all that time before now.
RC: What is one thing you hope that people will take away from this album?
SF: The belief that things do get better and the faith to chase dreams that seem untouchable.
Written by Ryan Cassata (Originally Published on Strange Fire Magazine)