Original: The Mark Freeland Story
Cowboys of Scotland perform their new rock opera
The greatest operas of all time have thrived on aspects of triumph and tragedy. Mark Freeland’s life was ripe with both, so it makes sense that local indie rock band Cowboys of Scotland have transformed the story of Mark’s life into a multi-media rock opera, Original: the Mark Freeland Story. I talked to Cowboys of Scotland leader Bud Redding about how he conceived of the project and how he pulls it off.
AV: Tell me about the moment you realized you wanted to make this musical about Mark Freeland’s life?
Redding: After he passed away, I was just working on a song and it turned into a song about Mark, and once I realized I had one song about Mark then I wrote another song about Mark. After three or four of them I realized I had the makings of a rock opera and I just kept going with it.
AV: How did Mark Freeland inspire you?
Redding: He gave me my start in the Buffalo music scene in a band called Trelaine, they needed a keyboard player. I didn’t even have to audition because Mark said “here’s your guy.” I said, “I don’t even have to audition?” and the band said “nope, if Mark says you’re the guy, then you’re the guy.” He inspired everyone around him. He inspired me a lot musically with the whole extravaganza of putting on a show. He hardly ever played just a show; it was always a big event.
AV: What went into the creation of this project?
Redding: Once I finished a couple songs I brought it to the band’s attention. I said “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this rock opera,” and everybody kind of laughed about it, but once they heard the songs everyone was on board. It went from being my ideas for songs to being the band’s songs. Everyone added stuff and it took on a life of it’s own.
AV: Why is Mark a good main character for your story?
Redding: There were a lot of really good things that Mark did, and a lot of inspiration he gave to people, but there was also a tragic side to it. He had his battles with substance abuse and alcoholism. He had a tragic accident where he almost died, and shortly after that his brother died. But he got his act together and went cold sober on his own. He became a new person and became successful again, putting out records with Electroman, but once he finally reached his peak there was more tragedy: He got cancer. It’s just like a classic opera where you have triumphs and tragedies.
AV: How do you think the audience relates to this musical, even if they don’t know who Mark is?
Redding: The songs have a wide variety of music; there is funk, there’s progressive, rock, and hip-hop. Mark had a lot of styles so we tried to incorporate that. I think people relate to that. It’s a Buffalo thing; people around here like to listen to a lot of different stuff.
AV: Tell me about your first performance of the musical at Club Diablo.
Redding: It went off really well. I wrote the songs and I really put my heart and soul into them, but it’s a multimedia thing so a lot went into it. After the first song people were cheering wildly, clapping, yelling, and that made it really worthwhile for me. —cory perla
Thursday, August 4, 8-10pm, at Nietzsche’s (248 Allen Street, nietzsches.com).