An Interview with Music Composer Neeko Freeman

I was able to send over some questions to my friend, Neeko Freeman, that I met while I was at my community college. We were both music majors and while I was the more outgoing one, Neeko was quiet and we got along pretty well. We were in a small group called Dissonance (for a short period of time) with a mutual friend. Since I knew she did a bunch of musical/sound projects, had a huge passion for theatre, and would one day hope to be in New York, this seemed to me the perfect person to do a "career showcase".

Nicki: I just wanna get some basic info from you, like age, where were you born & raised, and what is your occupation as of now?
Neeko: I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. I am 27 years old and work as a sous chef. When I am not at my day(night) job, I freelance as a music composer and sound designer.

What are your hobbies?
Neeko: I love music. I love playing, listening, creating and dissecting music of all kinds be it Hip Hop, Opera, and everything in between . Other than that, I enjoy playing sports. I love football, rugby, lacrosse, and tennis. Writing is also a passion of mine. I'm currently working on a few scripts. To relax I actually crochet. I love it haha

How did you get to where you are?
Neeko: Oh, I can write a book (maybe 3). My personal and career journey has intertwined in the last couple of years. I got here with the help of others and just by being out in the world by myself using my wit to survive. I've had a lot of hardships and disappointments, but it taught me a lot like: a. Seek help b. When you can't afford to get or do something, learn it and do it yourself c. Mental Health comes first. and d. Keep learning . 

What about this type of work interested you and how did you get started?
Neeko: I always loved music of all kinds. I use to write raps in class or making beats banging on the desk. I started making beats in FL Studio when I was at University. I remember staying up late at night learning new techniques, knowing full well that I had law class in the morning. I started making beats because I couldn't afford to pay producers. I incorporated string elements in my hip hop beats and my love for orchestral music spawned from that. Years later, after homelessness, dropping out of college twice, depression etc..., I decided I wanted to do this as a career. I wanted to be a composer. I wanted to create music that impacts and inspires. If he can do it, why can't I? Everything about orchestral music interested me. The strings, the grandness of it all. The emotions!!

What sorts of changes and challenges are occurring in your occupation?
Neeko: Getting paid is the greatest challenge as a composer and sound designer, I think. It seems like every other director wants to "pay me" with exposure. I can't pay my bills with exposure. The biggest changes, I think, are the way arrange, orchestrate and write. Notating music isn't the norm anymore. We are making cues using sounds from our kids haha (check out bear mccreary's newest video to the below) and using unconventional methods .

Describe a typical workday.
Neeko: Well, my day job varies and that impacts my work schedule greatly. However, let's say I have a free day to score a film. I would watch the film with and without sound. I write some mock up cues, based on the director's note sheets. Some days I work directly with my midi keyboard, other days I go out and record sounds to use for ambiance or record instruments. I recorded sounds while using an old iron board for a horror score I did. After the score is proper, I send it off to the director and we go from there. When I'm not working on a score, I usually wake up around 6am and get started on a new original composition around 8am. I search for gigs and apply to a few companies around noon. I also work on my game that I am designing and scoring. My work day can last 4, 8, 12 or in extreme cases 16+ hours (I should really sleep).

What kinds of experiences (paid or unpaid) do you think would be beneficial for someone attempting to enter this field?
Neeko: Hmm, well I would say get a good sense of theory. You do not have to go to college for that. There are plenty of free online resources on YouTube! The basic concepts is really all you need. "Free" work. Okay, I am a huge advocate when it comes to paying your talent. As a newcomer, I took a free gig or two.I think you have to be smart. Student films are good to do, but I wouldn't take jobs from that indie director who promises exposure and fame. I wouldn't work with a client who refuse to sign a contract or will "pay when film is distributed", especially from an indie director. Learn how to negotiate and how to price your work! Do not undersell yourself. You spent money and time on your craft and you should be paid for it! Always value your work!! Learning an instrument helps, it cannot hurt your career, either. I think taking internships or re-scoring works can help. Challenging yourself to write in another genre or style is so beneficial. 

Where do you want to be in 5/10 years or what are some of your aspirations and who inspired you?
Neeko: Hopefully in New York or out of the states doing what I love. I want to have a lot more films under my belt. Maybe have my score in a hollywood film and have my pilot picked up by a network (*ahem* NBC). I just want to be in a much happier and stable place, personally and professionally. I want to still be learning and growing, connecting and working with extraordinary creators. My brother inspired my hip hop career. Jonathan Larson inspired my  love for theatre. The wonderful Renee Fleming started my journey through Opera and Bear McCreary pretty much launched my love for film. The score for the game Evergrace inspired my unique style. My love for scriptwriting came from Soaps haha. I keep doing this because I have a story to tell the world.

Neeko is an extremely talented human being! I hope that everyone was able to gain some insight on what it takes to be a freelance music takes A LOT of work and dedication! Can't wait till Neeko's game comes out, definitely looking forward to that. If you want to check out her music, below are Neeko's links. Check them out!
Twitter: @Neeko_f

Nicole Eggleston