Chapter 1: My Story - Meeting in a Strange Place

Jan writes ... My friend Aashid was convinced society was going to break down when 2000 arrived. He was stockpiling food - some were getting bunkers prepared - others were getting armed.

The fear factor spread like impending storm clouds with news of the Y2K bug getting ready to take out our society's digital infrastructure. It was a strange time in what felt like an increasingly strange place - The USA at the turn of the century.

I lived in the woods of Tennessee on ten acres of beautiful woodland named English Valley by the people who helped build it. I added 'Music' to the title because that is my life. They are one and the same.

As a child sitting in the back of the family car on our Sunday afternoon drives in the British countryside I would look out at the hills, fields and trees and dream of having a place in an isolated peaceful area where I could live and make music.

Now I was living the dream . . .

English Valley Music was a ramshackle collection of rooms and buildings held together by a tin roof, pressed wood walls, decks and sliding glass doors. Every time a sizeable amount of money came in I would build another room . . .

I lived there with Merlyn and his father. We were like a pioneer family in cowboy boots, living in a recording studio with lots of cats roaming outside - along with deer, possums and raccoons. Some people have a home studio we had a studio for a home.

There were some very happy times - Musicians would be in and out all day long. Virginia worked in the office doing the paperwork and manning the phones. The Audio Doctor Bill was repairing equipment, Rodney Lawson was downstairs producing music, Neal Merrick engineering and that's what we did, every day - it was a music production house -  the House of Groove headed by Madame la Pulse!

We worked on all kinds of music projects from Library music to Dance Remixes, Rap to Dulcimer, Song Demos to Indie Albums -  Craig Wiseman who went on to be one of the most successful Country Music songwriters in history, Felicia Collins who went via Al Jarreau to became the resident David Letterman guitarist, Garth Hewitt who continues to fight for injustice through his folk song ministry, Kat Dyson who went via Donny Osmond to Prince and Italian superstar Zucchero, David Schnaufer - the late great king of the Mountain Dulcimer, Sir Jam of the Prince crew, Nigel Pulsford and his band Bush, Julian Marsh and his grammy winning remixes, producer Roland Michael, Tim Hinkley and Dan Penn, Melanie, Leon Russell, drummers Ian Wallace from King Crimson and Dennis Bryon from the BeeGees along with virtual space artist Tony Gerber and many, many others all became part of the musical memories of English Valley Music.

And then one day Cyndi Lauper arrived! We travelled the world together making some of the best music of our lives. We were the 'Sisters of Avalon' ... Two warriors off to see the world! It was another dream come true and one of the most fantastic and intense periods of my life. We said "Merry Christmas ... have a nice life' and worked on songs for the 'Shine' album before saying goodbye.

It's hard to sustain what you've left behind when you're away from it so much. The reality of keeping the dream alive is often so different from the dream itself. I guess that's why so many people keep living in their personal fantasy world - It's easier to keep living above the clouds than fall out into the possible disappointment of reality.

I fell into reality and landed with a bump.

And so around 2000 it was time for a new start. A new millennium, a new century, a new beginning. The family drove to Kentucky to see the rework of Disney's Fantasia - it was the end of the beginning as we watched the unfolding of the newness of the old. Just like the Sorcerers Apprentice I was ready to conjure up something new ...

Jan Pulsford

Chico says ... I was always used to working with musicians in the same room. This was how things were done from rehearsing to playing and even collaborating as composers or co-writers; warm bodies occupying the same space in close proximity. Meeting musicians at rehearsal studios, recording studios, or even at home to work was normal and part of a working musicians life. To find myself meeting online in a digital world at that time was a strange place indeed.

The Rocket Network; composing on a computer with Logic Audio, a new DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and Pro Tools software meeting with musicians all over the world and contributing to a musical end with musicians in London, Nashville, New York etc. was quite revolutionary at the time and I was excited to be a part of it.

When I first began working with computers, I never imagined how they would impact my musical life. Having been a computer programmer the two worlds were actually separate in my infancy as a computer geek. So, no surprise that when I was given the opportunity to work with various music software companies I jumped at the chance to be in the forefront of one of the future paths of music making.

It was here in the digital world that I first encountered Jan Pulsford and where one of my most fruitful collaborative experiences in my career would take shape. Suffice it to say that our meeting only in terms of 0’s and 1’s was as at once unpredictable and destined. Who could have imagined that we would be able to work together and not even have spoken a word in person or seen each other in the flesh yet be so prolifically compatible in our work ethic and creative essence.

What was to come would be the beginning of a joyous and creative ride that continues to this day. It would encompass my past, always my present and my future in a wondrous and harmonious sojourn of musical expressions of life, love, sadness, happiness and pain, culminating in a caldron of passionate and creative music.

- Chico Freeman
Photos by Hans Kumpf


  1. A fascinating start to the story....can't wait for more :-)
    Kelly x

  2. Thanks Kelly we are publishing a chapter every Wednesday and are now on
    Watch this space!