INTERVIEW: Spree Wilson Talks Food at Freeman’s

Spree Wilson wears many hats, including those of instrumentalist, producer, and emcee.  The multi-talented artist has already collaborated with numerous musical artists, and also has an EP (Evil Angel) and a full-length record (The Beauty of Chaos) under his belt, and following the release of his latest single “Right One Wrong Time,” we’re looking forward to hearing Life in Technicolor, his EP due to come out early 2013.

Besides his many musical pursuits, Spree also wears another hat – that of a hardcore foodie.  Raised in the South and currently residing in New York City, he is constantly on the hunt for the best eats in the city.  Here at Couch Sessions, we’ve teamed up with Spree to present Life In Technicolor, a food and music event curated by Spree Wilson himself.  The menu will feature tasting plates of Southern Food such as mac and cheese, fried cod sliders, and okra, brought to you by Brooklyn’s La Caye restaurant.  There will also be a live performance by Spree where he will showcase music from his upcoming EP.  To be part of the food and music pairing event, you can get your own ticket here.

Spree takes us to one of his favorite restaurants: Freeman’s, an American restaurant tucked away in alley that makes you feel as if you’re in a cabin in the middle of Vermont, rather than in the Lower East Side.  The ambience is rustic and cozy, complete with taxidermy that adorns the walls, and the food consists of a constantly changing menu depending on the season, and is always delicious.  Here, Spree talks with us about Life in Technicolor (which he has just finished recording), future plans, and his love for both music and food.

The Couch Sessions:  So now that Life In Technicolor is finished, what are your plans that are coming up?  You’re going back to Atlanta for a bit, will you be doing some shows?

Spree Wilson: Yeah, probably.  That’s how it always ends up, I’ll go back to Atlanta and somebody will be like, man you should perform here…it’s easier for me to do shows when I’m comfortable with the material.  I’ll also be hanging out with my family and doing some recording, I’d like to have a lot more material made for the new year.

That sounds great, it’s awesome that you’re able to do exactly what you want.

Yeah, you know that’s the thing.  It’s like, when you’re working in the artistic field, you’re hoping that there are people out there who like your art, too.  There’s always that thing that’s like, man, I don’t care if you like it, but I mean, I hope you like it!  I’ll continue to do what I want to do.  There’s always that catch-22 when it comes to art.

After Life in Technicolor comes out, do you have any other plans besides working and chilling in Atlanta?

I’ll probably record right away and then see what happens.  I don’t really have any expectations when I record.  I kind of just start doing it, and then whatever happens, happens.

 That seems to be really working for you.

Yeah, that and just not caring.  I think in my earlier work, I was a little more self conscious in thinking about what other people would like.  And now I think more about what I like.  I feel like, if I like it, there are people out there with the same tastes that I have, so, I mean, just do it.  I was always so paralyzed by the thought of people not liking my stuff, but nowadays I don’t really care.  It’s okay if you hate it.  I’ve grown a lot, and changed a lot as a person.

Scrambled organic eggs with thick-cut bacon and roasted potatoes.

So, you spend a lot of time in the South?

I spent my school years in Nashville and a lot of my summers in Atlanta, because my family is from Atlanta.  And I have a lot of family in the South too.  And now I’m up here.  I love New York, though it’s very different.  I don’t see where else I would live right now, although I don’t know if I would live here forever.

I don’t know if this is still the New York that I fell in love with the first time I came here.  Like, my romanticized version.  It’s not really like anything anymore, it’s very sterile and gentrified, even in Brooklyn, even in Bed-Stuy.  I live pretty close to Bed-Stuy now, and even that’s gentrified, it’s crazy, even from when I first moved there four years ago, it’s not the same.

 Oh yeah.  Like even up in Bushwick where all the warehouses are, they’re starting to get organic food stores, nice coffee shops, stuff like that.  

Yeah, even Bed-Stuy is now getting nice coffee shops and bakeries.  It’s weird.  It’s like, I’m all for making the neighborhood better, but I’m all for preserving the culture of the neighborhood too.  That’s one thing you can’t really stop with gentrification.  The culture can just get wiped away and replaced with new stuff.

Where do you usually like to go out to hang out or go out to eat in the city? 

I like a lot of spots in Brooklyn, it really depends.  For pizza? I’ll go to Grimaldi’s, under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Or, there’s this other spot, man I don’t even know the name of it, I’m not sure if it’s still even there, but it’s in Cobble Hill, they only make pizza with toppings that are in season.  It’s all fresh, all the vegetables and meat and everything.  I have a whole list at my house for places to go.  For burgers I’ll go to Corner Bistro, the burgers are great and it’s very straight to the point, no frills.  There’s another spot up near Second Avenue, near Dallas BBQ, they have really good burgers too.

I like this place, obviously.  My favorite thing I ever ate here was this stew, it was a bison stew or something, it was really good and when I got it, it was really cold outside, so it fit the season.  It had potatoes, I guess it was bison, vegetables, it was so good.  Like it tasted how this room looks, really.

Spree’s sloppy Joe on a Martin’s potato bun with a side of French Fries.

I know you like Mexican too, do you have any favorite Mexican places here in the city?

It’s so hard to find good Mexican in the city.  The best Mexican I ever had in this city was by someone who made it for me, who is from California.  I haven’t found anything really good.  I mean, we do have Chavela’s in Brooklyn, but that’s pretty much it.  Their enchiladas are pretty awesome though.  Mexican food is kind of hit or miss here.

Do you ever get Southern food out here?

Well, I usually fix that up myself.  I’ve tried it at this place in Brooklyn called Peaches.  It’s pretty decent, but it’s not like grandma made it.

You know, besides Mexican there’s one other thing I haven’t been able to find in this city, and that’s good barbecue.  I’m talking like, fall off the bone kind.  I haven’t found it at all.

That should be a Couch Sessions quest, find the best barbecue places here.  I think a lot of people are interested in where to find the best barbecue.

I’m definitely interested in that.  Have you ever been to Ruby’s?  I think it’s on Spring Street.  It’s pretty good. I like that food too.  Do you like dumplings?  Check out Vanessa’s Dumplings.  I was there with my friend, we went there and got all these dumplings for five dollars!  It was amazing.  I had so much food, it came with some kind of garlic bread, I had to take it home.

You make a lot of food too, right?  What do you like to make?

Everything, from like, braised pork to maple syrup glazed salmon.  I call my grandmother and say, “can you send me some recipes?”  I want to try to cook everything.  I don’t want to get stuck on recipes, like always cooking spaghetti all the time.  I was thinking the other day about how I’ve never cooked red snapper before, and wonder if there’s a good recipe for that.  There’s a good fish market down the street from my house, I’ll go and see that I haven’t tried a certain kind of fish and then get some and try to make it.

If you have any recipes, you should send them over to us!

I have these chicken tacos that I always make.  All you do really is shred the chicken breast, red wine vinegar and lime juice and soak the meat in it for an hour or two, get some cumin, some garlic, spicy peppers, spice it up.  That’s really it.  It’s really good.

Speaking of really good: to get a sneak peek of music from his new EP, make sure you come to the Life In Technicolor event this upcoming Tuesday, December 4th, from 7-10 pm at La Caye in Brooklyn.  Grab your ticket here (and check out the Facebook event as well) for a live performance and get yourself some delicious Southern food at the same time.  Also, don’t forget to visit Freeman’s to experience the great food pictured here, located at the end of Freeman’s Alley, off Rivington between the Bowery and Chrystie in the Lower East Side.