No longer able to play piano, still able to sing

In 2008, Gabriel Rodreick, also known as Freaque, broke his C5 vertebrae during a diving accident in Costa Rica. The spinal injury took away his ability to walk and move his limbs, but it did not take away his ability to write songs. For the last 12 years, he has worked on creating new art and music. 

Rodreick created a career for himself, going by a stage name.

“Since my injury, I’ve always felt a little on the outer fringes of society and feeling very different in my body,” said Rodreick.

These feelings were the inspiration behind “Freaque.” 

Yesterday, Rodreick performed at the Centennial Student Union Hearth Lounge at Minnesota State University, Mankato, for its Serendipity Music Series. He had his guitarist, Dex Wolfe, with him. 

“Before my injury, I played piano for 11 years. My injury took that ability away,” said Rodreick. “I eventually figured out that I can still make music. So I started singing and writing music using software programs such as Logic Pro, Ableton, and other software like that.” 

The style of music Rodreick plays is dirt folk. Dirt folk is a synthesized sound featuring elements of bluegrass, rock, honky-tonk, folk and Americana. Some referred to it as “country music with attitude.”

“I like to think a lot of my music as dirt folk and like swampy, groove-based music as well,” said Rodreick. “So, like both of those combined is what I think my music is.”

Although Rodreick is an inspiration himself, he has his own.

“Another big inspiration of mine is Kendrick Lamar, specifically his song, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ and other artists similar to him.” 

Once Rodreick established his music, he took on another project —a group piece for people like himself. Individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCIs) and able bodies collaborated to produce and perform “A Cripple’s Dance,” one of Rodreick’s projects. It is a piece of live music and dance performance. Musicians and dancers with SCIs might use the performance as a forum to examine the restrictions that their injuries have placed on them. The project got started by his love for dancing. 

“I started that [“A Cripple’s Dance”] because I just wanted to dance. I found myself really wanting to move a lot when I’m performing,” said Rodreick. “I wanted to push into that way of creating a little bit more.” 

One thing Rodreick hopes students took away from his performance is that “darkness isn’t as scary as we think.” 

Students can find Rodreick’s music on a few streaming platforms, such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Soundcloud. Rodreick also has a Patreon where people can give song suggestions and access some behind-the-scenes stuff. Furthermore, he has a newsletter where fans can sign up to get occasional emails and stay up to date with him. 

Header Photo: Guitarist Dex Wolfe plays alongside artist Freaque, who makes music despite spinal injury. Freaque shows MSU students that with passion, music is possible, even if it requires some reinvention. (Ajay Kasaudhan/The Reporter)

Write to Lauren Viska at lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

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