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INTERVIEW: ADAM MASTERSON – January 2020

| 27 January 2020 | Reply

 

According to a recent press release: “Rocking a classic guitar, under tousled hair, and behind vintage shades, Adam Masterson represents a timeless ideal of what a rockstar should be—yet he does so for a new age. Unabashedly embracing old school influences as he updates tradition with heaps of spirit and soul, he taps into the kind of magic we yearn for, but don’t get enough of. In doing so, he emerges as an outlier built from his own design, bucking trends and emanating stadium-size charisma at the same time. Standing at his own juncture between English panache, heartland empathy, gospel ambition, and pop prowess, the West London-born and New York-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist brings a rock ‘n’ roll edge to pop.” We spoke with Adam about the new music, music writing and production, and much more…

Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking the time out for us today Adam.

Adam: Ah you’re very welcome.

Toddstar: Let’s get right to it, I know you’re a busy guy. Back in December, you had a new video release for “Avenue Walk.” What can you tell us about this track that somebody listening to it or watching the video might not grab the first or second time they listen to it or see it?

Adam: Well the first thing I’d say is the video ended up being quite personal because we went back to the neighborhood that I lived in W11 in Notting Hill in London. I lived on a road called Clarendon Road and at the bottom of the road was this famous street, Holland Park Avenue. And I’d walk out at night and I wanted to capture what the street felt like at night fall. The song is sort of like, the verses are like what happens in the world outside, and then the chorus is all happening to the person inside. I’ve been in this studio flat and there was a restaurant next door. The laughter from the restaurant where I’d hear those things, and the Clarendon Food and Wines is a little bodega where I’d get some beers and these were just the everyday things that I’d do and I kind of went through that. I remember reading a piece written about this French poet a few hundred years ago who came up with talking about what he did; all the mundane things he did in his life and it kind of shocked everybody. And at the time, the language was really flowery and poetic. I just read that, and I thought what do I bloody do every day? So I put those things in the verses and built up this feeling of someone who is at a bit of a loose end or crossroads in life, but still missing someone who is not there, but still seeing the beauty of the night in a place as beautiful as London and there’s this sadness and somberness, but some sort of hopefulness that all of this mixture of beauty and sadness can fuse together into something that will make a meaning.

Toddstar: How do you feel the response has been to this track so far, and also to “Bad Luck Baby” which premiered before that?

Adam: The response from people has been very good. People who have been following me are really happy that this music is out. I’m certainly feeling their support and their messages of excitement about it. For me it’s great to have the music out there, and there’s some people that are getting touched that have not heard my music before at all, so that’s really exciting for me.

Toddstar: As you said, “Avenue Walk” is very personal – that the lyrics are really introspective. What’s it like for you as an artist to put that out there? Is there a lot of trepidation, a lot of fear, or is it just kind of baring your soul so to speak for your fans new and old?

Adam: I think these are things we all go through in a sense. When something’s personal it can be personal for other people. Music’s a language of its own that we can communicate with each other on many levels. I can give you a personal story of my recollections of what inspired me or what was ticking along in my mind, and then something I went through that just made it all come together. I’m as interested in what the listener might have to say, and it may be even an entirely different set of experiences that they’ve gone through listening to the music and they might relate it to something in their own lives, and that to me is powerful and magical because it’s an experience I haven’t been part of but the music now is bleeding into their own lives. We all are in this creative thing called life. You might have a job that you feel is very uncreative. If you like music, you see musicians living very different lives, but really we’re all living in this life that’s creating itself every day. There’s a massive amount of emotion that underlay everything we do, and music’s just a powerful way of letting that side of ourselves speak. If I’ve created that might be personal I just put out there. I like to let other people react to it in their own way. If it helps them put the song in perspective, I’m happy to elaborate on my own personal connection with this thing I’ve created. It’s there for other people to listen to. If it can impact upon them in a small way or in a really powerful way, that’s great. If I meet someone and they tell me what a song meant to them, it’s a cool thing. Often they’ve got a story that’s got nothing to do with how I’d have seen it; that means the song’s transcending what my own personal story into something more universal. “Avenue Walk” is just a song about love; it’s just a song about feeling a bit bewildered. Everyone’s felt these things – some to a greater or lesser degree.

Toddstar: You bring a different point of view to it; you’re becoming part of the mix tape of other’s lives.

Adam: Hopefully.

Toddstar: What songs out there when you hear them take you back to a time in your life when you were either celebrating, cherishing, or hurting still bring those emotions to you the minute you hear them?

Adam: Recently I’ve heard some songs that I thought were pretty strong. I liked Aaron Lee Tasjan’s “Memphis Rain” when I first heard it. It sounded like I’d heard it all my life, and I hadn’t. I remember hearing it in the bar the first time; I was a bartender and they told me it was Aaron Lee Tasjan and “Memphis Rain.” A few years ago I liked Lana Del Ray’s song “Video Games.” It’s such a popular hit, but I managed to hear it on the radio the week it came out – before anyone else had heard it. The song struck me – it had an emotion to it and I was excited about it and I went on YouTube and checked out who she was and started listening. A couple weeks later the song became a massive hit, so I was pleased that happened. Really great legitimate songs can cut through and find a bigger audience. Julian Casablancas had a song called “Out of the Blue,” which I thought was a really powerful song that built up and had a really euphoric chorus. I’ve been listening to music deeper than I was aware of. Artists like Bob Dylan and David Bowie were huge mind openers when I was younger, as well as Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, and Paul Simon. These artists and their songs were big touchstones for me growing up as a teenager. When I got into my teens, I got very into Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and so many great artists impacted upon me in different ways. I remember as a teenager, the music had come somewhat before, but I was engaging with them. Then Oasis in the UK really swept up my whole class and got the whole thing going for a bit there in the 90’s; we all got very excited about it. Rock and roll could be very vivid again and it was our generation. They were a band that had a huge amount of euphoria in their music; I’d been listening to a lot of blues and folk music in my early teens and when they hit, it was exciting for me because it simplified a lot of what I was listening to and condensed into pop tunes.

Toddstar: I mentioned the Delayed Fuse EP and singles “Bad Luck Baby” and “Avenue Walk.” How did you approach this EP differently than you did your One Tale Too Many disc? How different was your approach as an artist in all aspects?

Adam: I think One Tale Too Many in some regards was quite a folky record. I was deeply enthralled in that, and when you’re a teenager you’ve got your romantic side. I’d listen to a lot of folk music and a lot of classic song writing stuff, and I was well into that. I think that was recorded in my late teens and at the cusp of all of that, things started to change a little bit more after the recording. I got into more stripped down stuff. I started reading a lot more poetry and philosophy, a lot of the beat poets and everything like that. That had a big impact upon me and the songwriting did start to change. I think it was Baudelaire that was the poet spoke in a more prosaic way about his life. After One Tale Too Many, I quickly grew up, I read a few things said about it. I thought it was a beautiful album, but I thought it was kind of flowery language, folky stuff that to this day I still love and still means a lot to me. I wanted to strip things down to a starker place and I started following people like David Bowie. I got into him a bit later and he opened me up to the people like Johnny Rotten and the punk thing that came after him. Then all this alternative music that came out of that. I got really heavily into a different way, new vistas opened up that hadn’t been there before and as I’ve already said it was starker, more bare boned. I wanted to make a more rock record. I think that’s when I started hitting on things like “Bad Luck Baby” and “Avenue Walk.” I started listening to early rock and roll records and I saw the connection between them and the punk records of the late 70’s and early  80’s. I started to just thread things together in a wider way than perhaps I had very early on. One Tale Too Many is a nice little snapshot of what I was like early on, and really it was just born out of quite a romantic and mature taste. I guess in a way, as I got older I got younger because I was interested in things that were a little bit more throwaway on the surface but not really. They came from a deeper place and I began to appreciate that, and I began to find that place in myself and communicate that in the music. We recorded One Tale Too Many with some really great musicians. I remember the chap Dudley Phillips who played the upright bass. He did play electric bass on some of the tracks, but he played more upright bass. The management company I had at the time were putting out lots of bands which were really successful. I remember not being too pleased with the record because the thing was cut so quickly. The record company that signed me were actually an RCA imprint called Gravity. They took a lot of their money from the marketing pot of things like Elvis Presley back catalog and invested it in new artists. They hadn’t the biggest recording budget back then; it would have been great now, but back then it was considered to be quite small. With those limitations we just tracked the thing in four days. We mixed it the following week. There wasn’t much discussion about it and the A&R guy at the record company loved it; it was really up his street. The management company were wanting me to make a rock record. I at the time was a young guy who loved things like John Martin, Van Morrison and Nick Drake; they were big things that I was absorbing, and it didn’t fee l too far removed from that, particularly some Van Morrison records I loved from the 80’s like a record called No Guru, No Method, No Teacher. I thought this was a really underrated Van Morrison record that not many people spoke about. When I did the record I didn’t mind too much and it did find an audience I felt small. However once I listened a bit more, and you grow and you read, and your mind expands, I began thinking, not differently, but my thinking evolved. I think that’s what the management company had heard and those songs were pouring out of me. Unfortunately the deal with the record company and lots of things that happened with the business, the funding wasn’t there in the same way and it was down to me to take my own path, and that’s what I did. The music wasn’t going to stop, it just kept coming; the songs kept coming, so I kept writing and playing wherever I could. The audiences got smaller, but I didn’t care. I was totally enthralled in what I was creating. I came to New York and had an amazing first few years where I had a real word of mouth little audience, a bit bigger than it is right now, but there were people coming out to the gigs and that gave a great lease of life to what I was doing. There’s been periods where I haven’t written much, when I’ve gotten caught up with other things in life, but then it comes back again. If I can sit down every day, set some time aside to write or to just play, play the guitar, play a bit of piano, and keep the muscles and the juices oiled, the whole creative process moves along. I do think these recordings that were recorded in the same spirit of One Tale Too Many tracking live, but more maybe a deeper starker cut, a deeper thrust to them.

Toddstar: What’s it like for you when you get home at the end of each day – you and your wife are both artistic people – are you guys able to put it down and enjoy life as a family without something always being creative for the two of you?

Adam: I think my wife might be better at putting it down, but she’s really quite balanced and quite good at that. She’s extremely practical – she’s an artist, but she’s also extremely practical so that’s a good thing. I think that gives her a lot of balance and it gives me a lot of balance too. In the last few years, I have become a lot more practical, which I’m happy about. I’m disciplining myself, not just in music but in other areas of my life. I think that’s helped in my music. We’ve got two little children now and that gives me another focus which I love. It helps me I think, rather than hinder me. I think musicians are scared of that type of thing. I’ve found it for me quite a balancing thing. If I get too caught up, if I hit a dead end with my music, I’ve got something now to relax in and focus on and I quite enjoy those things. I quite enjoy parenthood actually. I think because I’m an imaginative person and a storyteller, the kids love it and that’s how I communicate. We live in that world together there, imagination is very open in young children. One of the sad things in life is when it gets shut down. I’m always trying to keep that thing open so children, they like that side of it, so it’s a place where I can come away from being caught up with something, the music maybe isn’t working, and relax a bit and then go back to it in the evenings. So I find it hard to switch off, and it may be to my detriment, but I think more recently in the last two years I find it easier to relax a little bit, and I do think that helps the music, and it helps what you’re doing around your music.

Toddstar: Adam I know you’re very busy, you’ve got to promote the singles and the EP, but I wanted to run one  more question by you. You have toured with a lot of your contemporaries, the Stereophonics, Tori Amos, and I think you toured with Patti Smith at one point. That said, touring seems to be the way artists make their money anymore which leads me to the questions – are we going to get a crack at Adam Masterson with the new songs from Delayed Fuse out on the road in the coming year?

Adam: I’m hoping so. I don’t have a booking agent at the moment to be entirely honest, but I did get out to Washington and I did get out to Philly and I did perform. It’s just a bit of cold calling at the minute, but songs keep me up. Like a lot of things, it’s a little bit of luck. I’m willing to get out there and get to wherever, maybe do the show on my own with an acoustic guitar if I can get it. I do feel very much so that now that I’ve got some music released and a little bit of press supporting it, that it gives me a better shot at certainly getting up and down the east coast and I think you’ll start to see that. I’ve got a gig at the Danny Clinch Gallery at Asbury Park on the 7th of March. I’m talking with Lola in New York City for a show on the 20th of March. I’m doing the New York City show at Berlin on the 14th of February so I do think there’ll be some gigs in Philadelphia and New Jersey. I’d love to get up to Boston and down to Washington. I’ve never been to Detroit, but I love a lot of music that’s come out of Detroit, and it’s always been a place that I’ve read about and been fascinated by, and it seems like a real music town. So if I can get that far, I’d be really happy. I think it’s going to be making connections, building relationships, in the old school way. I met a woman recently who had a club up in Boston, I think it’s called Boston Tea Party in the late 60’s early 70’s, and the Allman Brothers came through and nobody had heard of them and they said, can we play, and then they built up a relationship by having them come back. And then of course they hit the big time. I just think if you can build a little bit of a relationship with someone who wants you to get a shot, when you’re maybe not so well known in town, that’s what I’ll be looking for and if those things crop up, I’ll be up and down the east coast, and if things spark a little bit, I do have friends in LA. If I could get a skeleton tour up the west coast, I would be looking forward to doing later in the year. I just like to go traveling really, and travel the country and maybe head down south and play a few places. I’d love to go to Memphis. It’s a place bit like Detroit I’ve always read about so if I can take it, I’d love to visit these places, try and book some shows. As far as an East coast tour, I’m waiting on some call backs. I’ll be getting around, at least from Boston to Washington, around the time the EP drops. In the summer, I’m going to Europe to do some gigs, but back in the end of the fall I’ll be hoping to do a wider tour then, see what’s coming through. It’s just a case of getting spots, and people liking the music, and wanting to put you on, and if that happens I’ll be there.

Toddstar: Well here’s hoping that 2020 is the year of Adam Masterson… you get some tour dates booked, everybody purchases a download of the EP when it’s available – the two singles are available now, and here’s hoping we get to see you soon here in Detroit.

Adam: That would be great, Todd, thank you very much. Cheers.

ADAM MASTERSON LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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