Folk group the Fretless feeling ‘super lucky’


What: The Fretless

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When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6)

Where: Oak Bay Recreation Centre, 1975 Bee St.

Tickets: $20 at Ivy’s Bookshop, Oak Bay Recreation Centre and; $25 at the door

Note: The Fretless also performs Saturday in Merville at the Merville Hall



Trent Freeman of the Fretless will find out in November if he needs to make more room in his Vancouver studio for trophies.

Freeman, who was born and raised in Comox, and his band are up for another two Canadian Folk Music Awards next month. The group has already won three. Couple those with a Juno Award for instrumental album of the year in April, and wins at the Western Canadian Music Awards in 2012 and 2014, and Freeman’s group has certainly found its groove.

“We are approaching the project with real intention and drive, but that recognition gives you the extra encouragement to keep doing it,” said Freeman, 27.

Freeman is joined by two Toronto-based bandmates, cellist Eric Wright and fiddler Karrnnel Sawitsky, and Nashville, Tennessee-based fiddler Ben Plotnick.

Being spread out across North America isn’t difficult for the members, Freeman said. The Fretless tours with such regularity that, when members retreat to their separate homes, they feel artistically fulfilled.

“It has its challenges, but for the most part, it’s honestly pretty great. We binge-tour, so we make sure we’re focused in the time we have together. We manage to get a lot done.”

Theirs has been a successful partnership, but nothing can be taken for granted in the often unpredictable folk world.

“We feel super lucky,” Freeman said. “We know so many people that are incredibly talented, bands that are some of my favourite projects, that don’t have the opportunities we have. Sometimes it just feels like luck.”

If luck favours the prepared, Fretless members are doing their part. Though their most recent album, Bird’s Nest (which featured Victoria fiddler Ivonne Hernandez, before her departure), was released in 2016 and the dividends are still coming in, the band has already embarked on its next journey: a live album recorded in July before a studio audience in New York state, on a farm near the Berkshire mountain range.

The recording was made live off the floor, in a barn, with the group sitting under three microphones. The concert was recorded straight to tape, with no overdubs, Freeman said.

“After Bird’s Nest, which was quite produced and had success in mainstream circles, we decided to do the complete opposite,” he said with a laugh.

The album will feature mostly traditional Irish tunes, according to Freeman.

Some of the songs, which the members played as young pickers, will be featured in the Fretless’s concert on Friday at Oak Bay Recreation Centre (the group also performs Saturday in Merville at the Merville Hall).

Coming home to Vancouver Island is a rare treat for Freeman.

The area isn’t always on his tour schedule — the Fretless last performed here in 2015 — but he enjoys it when the opportunity arises.

“Victoria has always been a stronghold for us,” he said.

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