Passenger Profile: Freddy Litwiniuk

By Kenny Kerner
One sure-fire way of making certain you don't get screwed in the music business is to become an attorney. And that's exactly what this month's subject did. Freddy Litwiniuk is a certified member of the Alberta Bar. He can practice law. He also happens to be a musician with close to 200 TAXI forwards. He's had an incredible amount of success getting a label deal and commercial radio play — which is unheard of for an independent artist — in Canada.

Let's hear his story and find out why, with all of his success, Freddy opted to join TAXI:

Do you play any instruments? If so, when did you begin playing?

FL: When I was 5, I took organ lessons for awhile, and could read music, but I wasn't enjoying it so my parents let me stop. I then wanted to take up guitar, so I asked for one for Christmas and my grandparents bought me my first acoustic. It was one of those smaller ones made for kids, and I think I was about 9 years old. I was in and out of lessons for a while, and I convinced my dad first that I needed a full size acoustic, and then later, a nice hot pink electric guitar. But again I found myself hating the lessons, so I gave it up.

In seventh grade I joined the school band and took up the baritone or B-flat horn because that's what my brother had played, and I also played some percussion. Again, I learned to read music. Sometime during that year there was a school dance, and I heard Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine," and that riff was the turning point for me. I had my brother buy Appetite For Destruction for me because the record store wouldn't sell it to kids. I listened to it practically until it wore out, and began to learn some of the tunes by ear. From that point, I taught myself guitar by ear, learning the songs I wanted to play rather than the things I had been taught in lessons.

Playing by ear suited me much better than reading music, and by 10th grade I was out of the school band. I tried to teach myself every Beatles song in existence. My years in college were spent listening to, and teaching myself, Britpop and British indie tunes, especially from Oasis. My focus has always been on acoustic guitar, though recently I have been playing electric again, and re-learning keyboard. I still have all of my guitars.

At what point did you feel you wanted to have a career in the music business?

FL: I always had a love of music, but the idea of it as a career dawned on me relatively late. I have been writing songs since the age of 11, mostly to impress girls, but it was always for fun. My family places a high priority on education, so there was never any question that I would attend university and get a degree. My roommate in university discovered that I played the guitar and encouraged me to play for others, not just for myself. I began to play at parties, around campfires — all the guitar clichés. I began to throw in some originals and found that people enjoyed them. After I graduated, I had been working as a lawyer for some time, and I found myself questioning what I was doing and wondering if it was right for me. And just like that I came to the realization that I wanted a career in music, so I decided to make an album. It turned out to be my debut, entitled Things You Never Thought I'd Say.

Your first CD was released independently through 7 Arts Entertainment. How was that deal made?

FL: I had been sending out demos and press kits. I had my Web site set up. I was on Broadjam, I signed up with CDBaby, and I was getting many forwards through TAXI, but nothing was really happening. I decided to hire a radio promotion company here in Canada to promote my music to radio, and try to make something happen. At the very least, I thought I could build up a fan base in some towns and cities, and hit the road. What happened was that 7 Arts was affiliated with the promotion company, and saw the tremendous response — almost unheard of for a true independent in Canada — that my music was receiving at commercial radio. They immediately signed on to promote and distribute the record nationwide. This made the disc available to listeners at major record stores, as well as at online retailers. Through the efforts of 7 Arts, I have also had requests for my CD from radio stations across North and South America, Europe, and Australia.

How did you first hear about TAXI and what made you join?

FL: I just stumbled onto TAXI while surfing the Internet for musician resources. After reading about it, I decided to give it a shot. I always wanted to make sure I exhausted every possible avenue to get my music to the right people.

In detail, what deals were made through your membership in TAXI and how did they come about?

FL: The first near-deal that came about was for the placement of one of my songs, entitled "Thinking It Over" in the film Cruel Intentions 3. Even now, if you Google my name and the title of that film, it comes up on the TAXI Web site listed as a successful member deal. It was very close, with all the paperwork done and the company set to use it. But at the last minute, the film supervisor went with another tune.

Subsequently, I have had a couple of publishing offers, one of which I am about to sign for film/TV placement. But the biggest deal I've done through TAXI is with Pink Scales, a production company based out of France and England. It's a mini-deal where I write and record my second album with them, with options for more records in the future. It's a good fit because I write in a more British Alt-Pop style, and they intend to market me to British majors. Also, they are full-service but small, so I really have a personal connection with the people I have been working with, and I can always get one-on-one time and feel like part of the team. Basically, they take very good care of me.

You were born and raised in Canada, lived in the UK, and are about to record in France. Explain how you handle your recording process with all this traveling going on. Is it necessary for making the records?

FL: I spend loads of time in my home studio, not only writing and recording, but also listening to my own music as well as the music of my influences. Writing can occur anywhere at anytime, but I find myself writing more at home these days. The beauty of the Internet age is that I can work on music from here, create a guitar/piano/vocal demo, and have the Pro Tools session to collaborators in France and England in seconds. Sometimes the computer says no, but for the most part it allows for me to work from home but still share creative ideas quickly and easily. But when it comes time to finish the project, we all need to be in the same room, which I really look forward to because I love to travel.

How has being a TAXI member helped you specifically?

FL: Like every TAXI member should, I have attended the Road Rally, which, apart from being a fantastic party, is a great place to learn and to meet fellow artists and industry people. Of everything though, I find the words of the A&R staff contained in my critiques to be especially helpful and encouraging. When I first began submitting my music, I got objective, constructive feedback, and that remains consistent to this day. I am fortunate that the response to my music from the reviewers at TAXI has been extremely positive, with some of them going as far as to purchase my album! That is, to me, the highest compliment I could get, especially given the sheer volume of music these people listen to.

I also love to write in a variety of styles, and TAXI allows me to step outside my artist's persona, and just be a songwriter submitting to Country, R+B, Americana, or any other of the listings. From the industry people at TAXI, who know what they are talking about, I got to hear when my music was not only good, but also suitable for today's music industry. Of course, I also get to hear when my music is not so good. But it all helps to keep me on track, to keep persevering, to keep working towards my goal of making a permanent place for myself in such a competitive business.

Couldn't have said it any better! Thanks for those pearls of wisdom, Freddy, and continued good luck. You just can't go wrong with perseverance and hard work. And TAXI, of course! Have a great holiday and a wonderful new year. Peace.

See How TAXI Works

"I think I'm lucky that I've found out about TAXI so early in my career."
— Djamel,
TAXI Member

"Taxi costs a fraction of a songplugging company."
— Jimmy Clark,
TAXI Member

"TAXI provided real access to a nearly inaccessible industry."
— John Mendoza,
TAXI Member

"Thanks to you, I've recently signed a deal with a publisher in New York."
— Rene Gely,
TAXI Member

"My only regret is that I didn't join TAXI years ago — but it's never too late to make up for lost time."
— Richard Scotti,
TAXI Member

"I'm impressed by how 'user-friendly' you are."
— Dean Saner,
TAXI Member

"I must recommend it to anyone I think is serious about songwriting."
— Dwight Nichols,
TAXI Member

"The Road Rally was the most productive weekend of my music career."
— Dean Person,
TAXI Member