Josh Freese was born on December 25, 1972, in Orlando, Florida. His father, Stan Freese, conducted the Disney World (Florida) and Disneyland (California) band, and his mother was a classical pianist. Freese began playing the drums when he was 8 years old. He started playing professionally at the age of 12 (in a primarily Top 40 band at Disneyland). He played electronic drums in the teen-and-tween rock band named Polo, a Junior Star Search winner. Polo already had a drummer before joining the Magic Kingdom, band founder Jimmy Keegan, but they found room on stage for the son of Disneyland's Director of Bands, Stan Freese. Other bands on the same stage were limited to performing Top 40 hits, but such constraints did not apply to Polo. The band recorded and released an eponymous EP that received some airplay on KROQ, the premier alternative music station in the Los Angeles area.
The young Freese's familial connections and corresponding exposure led to an endorsement deal with the Simmons electronic drum company. There is an old Simmons commercial (directed by Mitch Brisker), featuring Freese on the additional content section of The Vandals' Live at the House of Blues DVD. At the age of 16, he left high school and started touring and making records, first with Dweezil Zappa and then with The Vandals. He has worked with many respected artists in the last 25 years, as a first call session drummer, band member and sometimes as a temporary replacement. Freese's younger brother, Jason Freese, plays keyboards in Green Day and has also recorded and toured with the Goo Goo Dolls, Dr. Dre, Jewel, Lenny Kravitz, Liz Phair, Foxboro Hot Tubs, Joe Walsh, and Weezer.