Meet Freddy Wexler.
He graduated from the College just last May, but he’s already making a name for himself in the music world. His tribute video of Michael Jackson’s “I’ll Be There” debuted late last month, and already has more than 80,000 views on YouTube. It’s also been the #1 most-watched video in Sweden, Russia, Argentina and South Africa.
Below, from his record label Roxy Recordings, is everything you want to know about Freddy. Read on to learn about his New York City upbringing, his Swedish record label, and the very famous friend he helped discover and produce demos for. (Spoiler alert: It’s Lady Gaga.)
Like the city in which he was born, raised and is proud to call home, Freddy Wexler’s music exudes all the best traits of New York; diverse and free spirited, passionate and edgy. With a willful, independent streak that any artistic New Yorker would recognize, Freddy chose to begin the latest chapter of his musical career by following his heart.
“I had a lot of interest from US record labels in my music and have been offered some really attractive deals” says the articulate, disarmingly good looking singer/songwriter/musician. “But they say you fall in love when you’re least expecting it and that’s precisely what happened with me and Roxy Recordings and Sweden.”
While in Stockholm, writing and recording, Freddy caught the ear of Roxy music executives who promptly offered him a deal. Rather than over analyze the process Freddy decided to go with his gut.
“I love working in Sweden. It’s a perfect escape from my chaotic life in New York. The people are incredibly friendly, the creative vibe is so refreshing and I realized that I could bring something very different to the market here. I’m as New York as they come but in the same way as writers and producers like Max Martin and Stargate have had a tremendous amount of success in the States I think, in the opposite direction I can be a part of the cross cultural musical relationship that exists between Scandinavia and Europe and the US. It’s different and exciting to me.”
Freddy’s first single, “Where There Is Love (I’ll Be There)” as part of his group, The Numbers, is an infectious slice of breezy, melodic pop, based in part, on The Jackson Five’s classic “I’ll Be There”.
Says Freddy: “When Michael Jackson died, like so many people I realized how much he’d influenced me and how his music had been part of the soundtrack of my life. It just seemed fitting that on the first anniversary of his passing that I would do something that could serve both as a tribute and at the same time open new musical doors as it’s far from a cover but I think something innovative and new in its own right.”
Freddy Wexler is a well-known name to music business executives in the US. In 2006 he was signed to a headline grabbing record and publishing deal with Virgin/EMI Music after a fierce bidding war. Shortly after, he helped springboard the career of a friend and musical collaborator, Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, who he discovered and produced initial demos for. Freddy has also worked with Kelly Clarkson and toured with household names such as Maroon 5, Good Charlotte and Katy Perry, all of which makes him, as far as the general public is concerned, New York’s best kept secret.
His story is both fascinating and a tribute to the innovative, creative streak that runs through him and epitomizes his hometown.
“Well the first influences that I’m really aware of were through my mom and dad” explains Freddy. “My dad is a serious jazz buff so he’d always be playing Charlie Parker, Chet Baker and Miles Davis around the house. My mom is just as passionate about the Beatles, so I guess I got off to a good start by being around so much great music growing up.”
While soaking in the music around him and honing his piano playing and singing as teenager, Freddy earned a decent sized nest egg by promoting parties for fellow teens at some of the hottest clubs in the Big Apple. Not only would it prove invaluable in enabling Freddy to be able to afford to record top quality demos but it also gave him a grounding in music business and promotion in particular. Freddy augmented this with an internship as Sony Music in New York.
“Working at a major label when I was still sixteen and seventeen really enabled me to see what it is that a record label is looking for in an artist and honestly it gave me a lot of confidence in my own ability because I felt a lot of the stuff they were signing really wasn’t very good!” he laughs.
An important lesson Freddy learned while interning was the value of having an online presence. He actively pursued websites with his newly recorded demos that he knew record labels monitored. When he became number one downloaded artist on PureVolume.com and in addition his Myspace.com hits began to soar, his phone began to ring.
“I worked on my demos with these producers called Shep and Kenny who had produced Mandy Moore and Hall & Oates to name but a few. They were very well connected and we worked with some incredible musicians, so I knew my stuff was good but nothing prepared me for the response I got when I did my first showcase at a venue called Arlene’s Grocery. We had twenty-six record executives show up from all the major labels. After the showcase I was offered deals from Epic, Virgin, Universal, Atlantic and EMI. That started a three month bidding war.”
The result of that bidding was Freddy signing to lucrative deals with Virgin Records and EMI Music Publishing respectively. An A-list cast of producers and mix engineers were assembled whose credits included the likes of Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, Good Charlotte, The Black Eyed Peas, Green Day, Pink and more.
At the same time, Freddy started to write and produce for other artists including Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani and a good friend, Lady Gaga.
“When the industry is talking about you, you can get access to A-List artists but Lady GaGa was different because no one had heard of her back then. I was introduced to her and immediately saw her potential and agreed to work on her demos and we became friends.”
While Freddy was working on his debut album, the US music industry was unraveling. His record label, Virgin was absorbed into its parent label, EMI and most artists were dropped or put on hold.
“I was given the choice to wait for a year before the label had the money to restart my project, or to simply walk away and keep all the masters and look for another deal. I chose to go back to university and work on music in a more organic way, without the watchful eye of the industry.”
The music business though had other plans. A top ranking US syndicated radio DJ, Kidd Kradick, with a listenership of three million people, was well aware of Freddy and his music and tracked him down to his the University of Pennsylvania and started to play his music on air. The favorable response rate was through the roof. It resulted in the radio station publicizing a mini tour in which Freddy drove from Philadelphia to Dallas (the HQ of the radio station) in four days, playing shows along the way, with music equipment manufacturers, Yamaha (pianos and keyboards) and Gibson (guitars) co-sponsoring the event. By the time he reached his final stop, thousands of people were showing up to see him perform. Overwhelmed, the radio station offered him the chance to become a station co-host, which he did for three months. Though he was still yet to decide on which major record label he would call home, Freddy was selling concert tickets by the thousands (and toured with a slew of A-list artists, previously mentioned) and saw a composition of his, “Defying Gravity” become a number one hit on Sirrius Satellite Radio ahead of the likes of Madonna, Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z in 2008.
“ I was offered several record deals again” he says “but I’d already been through this and knew eventually I would sign with a label but as odd as it may seem I wanted to go back and finish my degree in English Literature first, which I am passionate about. It allowed me to do a lot of soul searching about what I really wanted from my life as an artist. It was during my last few months of school that I formed my band, The Numbers Featuring Freddy Wexler. Finally around the time I graduated I met with some record executives in Europe and it just seemed like a perfect fit. Working in Stockholm was the antidote for the chaotic way people work in New York and it just struck a chord with me. It’s like my artistic refuge and I think the energy and freshness of the music reflects that.”
Adds Freddy, “It’s an honest refection of where I’m at it my life at the moment, upbeat and really optimistic about my music and everything that lies ahead.”