The five-some, who are signed to Justin Timberlake‘s upstart label, Tennman Records performed in a surprise concert this week at Manhattan’s Southern Hospitality, and again at Irving Plaza to celebrate 901 Silver Tequila.
The group, which first formed their band in 2003 in Memphis, consists of lyricist Free, keyboardist and bassist Premo D’Anger, guitarist and lyricist Elliot Ives, drummer Kickman Teddy, and DJ Charlie White.
A friend of Free’s later hooked them up with Timberlake, who joined them for a few jam sessions. From there, it was a case of perfect timing.
“We were about to take a deal in Atlanta,” Free tells PEOPLE. “[Justin] called us up while we were on the way to look at a condo in Atlanta. He said, ‘I don’t want to lose y’all, please stay in Memphis.’ So, we turned the car around and went back!”
With an album out this fall, and a new video for their song “Hoodies on, Hats Low” directed by and costarring Timberlake, FreeSol is hitting the music scene fast.
1. They nicknamed JT!
“With Justin, he’s the boss, you gotta be a little careful with that one,” says Free. But the band went ahead and assigned him a moniker anyway: “J. Boogie.”
2. They love their Southern food
Though guitarist Ives admits to missing his dogs back home in Memphis, what the guys seem to miss most while traveling is Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. “It really is world renowned chicken, by the way,” says Ives. Adds Free with a laugh: “I’m in love with Gus.”
3. They’re hip hop artists, but they’re fans of…
“I love Adele,” said DJ Charlie White. Free is a fan of Lady Gaga, Tweeting after her VMA performance, “Ga ga is the TRUTH!”
4. They get star struck
“I met Alicia Keys last night, so I’m on a high right now,” says Free, who was surprised when the singer turned up at their listening party last week. “I talked to her for about five minutes … I haven’t told my niece yet, she’s in love with her.” And drummer Kickman Teddy was thrilled to meet rapper B.o.B. at Memphis Music Fest. “He actually came to check out our music and gave us a shout out in a video we did in Memphis,” he says.
5. Justin helped them adjust to their fame by… going out for Chinese?
Timberlake, along with rapper/producer Timberland went to dinner with Free at P.F. Chang’s – and fans went wild. “It was like a feeding frenzy!” Free Tweeted. “When we finally escaped the frenzy, JT turned to me & said, “are u sure that’s what u want?’ ” But Premo D’Anger says their super-famous mentor has boosted their confidence. “He always made us feel like, ‘You guys got it. Do what you do.’ He played coach.”
BY CATHERINE KAST