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UConn Magazine: The Frontman

Touring with UConn-formed band Parsonsfield (formerly Poor Old Shine) takes a back seat to reviving a shuttered iconic music venue for Chris Freeman ’12

Chris Freeman ’12 (CLAS) grew up in Farmington, Connecticut, the son of a lawyer and a health care manager. At age 13, his father, the lawyer, brought him up to The Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts, to see Big Al Anderson of NRBQ. From that point on Freeman knew he wanted to be a musician.

“I was an English major at UConn,” he says, “but the whole time I was going to be a musician. I was going to be in a band. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

As a freshman, he joined the men’s a capella group CDN, then found his true love as a member of The UConn Folk Music Society, which met on Tuesday nights in the Student Union. “It was a group of folk musicians with guitars and banjos and mandolins. Someone might play Irish music. Once a guy played clawhammer banjo, and I’d never seen a hand move like that before — it was a profound moment for me. Over the next two years, that club got mistaken as a band, but it was just the jam that ended the night. We’d play anything — except ‘Wonderwall.’”

Freeman’s legendary UConn indie rock band Poor Old Shine (later Parsonsfield) evolved from there. “We played all over. Any big student festival. South-a-Palooza on South Lawn. UConn-a-Roo outside the Student Union. We played at the Coventry Farmers Market. We played anywhere anyone would have us in Connecticut. Once we graduated, we made a really crappy business plan and decided none of us were going to apply for jobs. We found a house on Storrs Road for $300 a month. It had no heat. There was a river running through the basement.”

Rescue came in the form of a two-year gig writing the music for, and performing in, a musical called “The Heart of Robin Hood,” which started at the A.R.T. in Cambridge before touring to Winnipeg and Toronto. “We were on the stage as part of the show. We had actors who ended up winning Tony awards.”

Read on for more.