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Don't mistake Mark Fredson for a newcomer. A larger-than-life frontman, songwriter, pianist, and producer, he's been releasing albums since his sophomore year of high school, back when he landed his first record deal as a teenager in Port Angeles, Washington. His music deepened and diversified throughout the following years, touching everything from the outlaw country of Margo Price's breakout song "Hurtin' (On the Bottle)," which she co-wrote with Fredson, to the theatrical, guilty-pleasure pop sounds that fill his own solo debut. 


Going to the Movies reintroduces Fredson as a meticulously melodic musician whose songs mine the influences of another era — the piano balladry of Billy Joel and Gerry Rafferty, the musical melodrama of Meatloaf, the hook-driven anthems of Tom Petty, the soft-rock smoothness of AM Gold radio — with a modern approach. He recorded the songs mostly at home and mostly alone, obsessing over the placement of every last analog synthesizer sound and vocal track along the way. Despite those solitary origins, Going to the Movies is full-bodied and cinematic, shot through with a sense of over-the-top spectacle and super-sized swagger that's playful, yet still genuine. Fredson approaches the album with a mix of straight-faced sincerity and turned-up-to-11 showmanship. The result is a one-man pop/rock opera of sorts — a pristine blend of inspirations both past and present that he describes as his own version of "classic bedroom pop."


By the time Fredson began recording Going to the Movies, he'd already become a local luminary in his adopted hometown of Nashville, TN. He moved to the city several years after high-school graduation, looking to expand the regional success of his band, The Lonely H, to the national stage. Fueled by Stones-y swagger and a contagious appreciation for American rock & roll, the guys were true road warriors, with a schedule that included as many as 200 shows per year. The experience molded Fredson into a true frontman — a tall, towering bandleader with a voice to match, banging the keyboards from his spot centerstage, every bit as histrionic and captivating as the showmen of rock & roll's past — and Nashville took notice, crowning the singer with nicknames like "Blonde Elvis" and "Straight Freddie Mercury."


After 10 years, four full-length records, and three nationwide tours, the Lonely H called it quits. The bandmates had all grown up — some accepted jobs as sidemen for Nashville-based artists like Nikki Lane and Amanda Shires, while others became family men — and it was too difficult to mobilize a democratically-minded group any longer. Fredson knew that if he was going to continue making music, he'd have to do it himself, serving not only as a frontman but also as a multi-instrumentalist, engineer, producer, and sole visionary of the sound that had been filling his head. 


Fredson began writing after a three-year relationship ended in a messy breakup, turning his heartbroken darkness into bright, neon-lit pop songs that nodded to past trends while still pushing forward. Five months of late-night recording sessions followed, all conducted in Fredson's home studio, where he stacked his voice into layers of tight harmony and experimented with different keyboards and drum machines. After adding contributions from guitarist Jason Verstegen and saxophonist Paul Thacker into the mix, he outsourced the album's finishing touches, working with drummer Pete Lindberg, bassist Andrew Hunt, and engineer Kevin Sokolnicki during an inspired weekend at The Compound in Nashville. 


Songs like "Hole Up and Die," "R U In It?" and "To the Moonlight" tackle romance in the modern age, with Fredson shining a light on everything from the thrill of a new relationship to the paranoia and jealousy that follow a contentious split. On "Casual and Calculated," he chases a hard-to-get crush over handclaps, syncopated keyboards, and a percussive vocal, while the power-pop gem "Bitchin Summer" makes room for thick synthesizers, crisp tambourines, and double-tracked melodies built for warm weather. 


"Thoughts and Prayers" finds Fredson struggling to engage with the harsh political realities of the present, choosing instead to forget his problems by heading to the cinema. "Thanks and thoughts and prayers to you; I'm going to the movies," he announces over a grand, piano-propelled chord progression that evokes Harry Nilsson. And then there's the gorgeous "Come Find Me (If There's Anything I Can Do)," a soft-rock stunner that's lightly layered with finger snaps, Stratocaster guitar, and more keyboards, with Fredson's expressive voice acting as the glue that holds it all together.


"Going to the Movies sounds very 2019, but it can also take you back to an earlier time," says Fredson. "It bridges a solid gap between two worlds. I wanted to sound new while still mining the past, and this is my true self on the record. Regardless of the different iterations of music I've played in the past, there's nothing in the world that's more representative of me as a person than what you hear here.” 




Andrew Stanley

©2020 Mark Fredson