Adam James is a California-based surf rock singer-songwriter on the cusp of breaking into today’s top music – take our word for it. After a summer of singles, Adam recently released his full album, The Willows, in August. The album effortlessly demonstrates Adam’s transformation into a surf rock poet with a deep self-awareness. Adam recently let us pick his brain about creating The Willows and the journey of reflection on which he’s been.”
The Willows is your first solo project – what challenges and benefits did you experience during the creative process?
Adam James: “I think the biggest challenge this time around was letting go. Most times I’ll go into a project with the overall sound in mind, including which instruments should be represented etc. I demoed out all the songs acoustically and resisted writing any other parts until I got to the studio. I wanted the collaboration with my producer to be fresh and without restraint.”
When you started working on The Willows were you more nervous or excited to have all the attention on you?
“I’d have to go with excited. I’ve always worked on music with other individuals. I still love doing that and plan on doing more as soon as possible because having other pairs of ears can definitely yield unique results. With The Willows I was able to prove to myself what I was capable of on my own.”
What does this project represent for you artistically? How is it different from previous releases?
“Making a solo album represents freedom. I can release things the way I want to and touch upon other genres that may have been out of reach with my other bands. It’s different in the sense that I’ve been writing solo songs for years but I was very hesitant to commit them to tape until I found the right producer and felt the songs were worthy of investing in completely. Before I might have just followed a release plan and felt compelled to keep things sonically consistent.”
Do you have a favorite track? What is the story behind it?
“That answer seems to change for me all of the time. I really love this album as a whole, but if I have to choose, I’ll go with “Sleep at Night”. I love anthemic songs and this one came about so effortlessly. It was a dream that likely came to me because of my decision at the time to get in my car, leave NY, and road trip around the USA. The lyrics reflect upon my lifetime on the East Coast, and serve as a goodbye as I pondered what was coming next. Most importantly it’s a song about staying true to your dreams and taking a chance.”
You recently moved to L.A. to focus more on your music career – how are you liking it? How has the west coast influenced your sound?
“California is a dreamland to me even if my experiences until now have only been brief trips throughout my life. My mom spent her childhood to adult years on the West Coast, so it was only a matter of time before I spent more of it here. I love the constant joy the sunshine and beaches give me. The cooler evenings make it easy to stay. Maybe it’s in the air but since I’ve been out here I’ve definitely leaned more into 60’s and 70’s canyon music and chillwave. The album definitely was inspired by a number of older LA albums.”
What do you miss most about New York? Is there anything you’re glad to be away from?
“The trouble with moving from one big city to the next is that they both offer so much so you can’t help but draw comparisons. Pros and cons for both sides of the country. I miss the accessibility of NYC, it truly is the city that doesn’t sleep. You can find things to do 24 hours a day, for better or worse. Public transportation in LA can’t compare to the MTA and even that is flawed. Don’t get me started about pizza… I don’t miss the humidity and extreme weather patterns but I’m sure gonna miss autumn in New York though.”
What is your writing process? Do you stick to one method, or does it change depending on the song?
“Sometimes I will stumble upon a phrase or some wordplay that I like and I’ll jot it down and eventually I’ll fiddle around on guitar and have the epiphany that oh this tune belongs to those words! For the most part, I wait for inspiration to strike and I’ll pick up an instrument and work some melodies out with whatever words come to me. With this record, I was gifted with some dream songs where I woke up with music, a melody, and some lyrics! I’m open to however it comes to me.”
You teased the album with three singles – what made you choose those three?
“I chose those songs because they felt the most compelling and fresh to me. They were the three last songs written for the album too. “Sleep at Night” and “All Summer Long” seemed like obvious singles, catchy and concise and really covered the album’s theme well. “Falling Upwards” came late in the game, it was written during the album process. Didn’t actually think this one would make the album let alone as a single but I was so emotionally connected to it that it felt worthwhile to do so.”
Describe The Willows in one sentence for people that haven’t heard the album yet.
“The Willows is a complete, dreamlike, musical statement that takes you on a road trip from coast to coast! Listen loud. Cheers!”
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