Alternative independent singer songwriter Adam James contrasts his previous energetic single All Summer Long with melancholic Falling Upwards. This track reveals a deeper dimension of James’ artistry in which listeners experience pain and heartbreak; he maintains the integrity of the album’s California-kissed sound while introducing more intense, hard to talk about topics. Falling Upwards is the final single leading up to James’ full length LP, The Willows, out in late summer.
The lo-fi, guitar driven production on Falling Upwards provides a tender foundation for James’ haunting, somber lyricism. In tandem with raw, soulful vocals, the single embodies a comforting softness that allows James to communicate his compassion and empathy for those that are struggling — it is a reminder that a kind word can go a long way. We interviewed him and chatted about his new single, the forthcoming album and his future plans.
Adam James Interview
How are you today?
I’m fantastic – It’s a sunny day in Californ-I-A. Thanks for the opportunity to chat.
For those that haven’t heard of you yet, how would you best describe your sound and who have been your biggest influences so far?
I try to figure this one out all the time. I listen to a large variety of music, and I’m sure bits and pieces of it all spill out into my writing. Unsurprisingly, The Beatles are definitely my biggest influence. I’m sure you can hear that on the records I’ve done. I love the songwriting and all the recording magic that is on their albums. Another would be Richard Edwards from Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos. He’s got a knack for twisting the lyrics of his gorgeous songs. It feels like there’s an antenna in his brain relaying all of these intimate thoughts and character studies. As far as my sound, I feel like a lot of what I’ve released on my own fits into some kind of indie folk rock category, but I also believe it’s begun to expand from that. I’ve always enjoyed colorful orchestrations and compelling melodies.
How has living in New York and LA influenced you creatively? Have you found that your location impacts your music?
Great question. I would 100% say that being in California brought a lot of old 60’s influences to my mind while I was making the latest album. There are actually a number of lyrical and tonal pop music references on the album if you dig deeper. I’ve bought a lot of Californian LP’s since I’ve officially moved here. But it was less for the influence and more so to marinate in the feeling the music gives you while being here. Being baptized in the California sun while cruising with the windows down, and music from the valley playing loudly is like a rite of passage. My creative process is usually a vision that appears after writing a couple songs that seem to be related in some way. Once I make that connection I start daydreaming of a grandiose album. The sound is usually just a result of what those songs seem to need sonically. Once that falls into place, I begin to realize “oh yeah this is an acoustic record”, or “no, this has to be super loud and fuzzy”. I think since I’ve lived in NY my entire life, it’s a part of me in such a way that being there is synonymous with me living and breathing. So location made a difference this time around because it’s the first time I ever said goodbye to that home.
You’re getting ready to release your new single “Falling Upwards.” Can you tell us how that record came about and what the story is behind the making of it?
Falling Upwards was never supposed to be on the album. I had a pocketful of songs that I thought could work more or less. I think I kicked off a song called Paper Aeroplane for it. It was a late comer. I wrote it in LA after a pretty traumatic incident during a notably turbulent time in my life while staying in K-town for a couple months to make the record. I came home distraught and really unsure of what to do with my thoughts after what was witnessed. I sat for hours as the sun went down in that hot apartment. The only thing I could do to console myself was strum along on my guitar. I started thinking that I had to say something. I was carrying this burden and I needed a way to find relief. So I just began to write and it all spilled out that night.
Was there a particular style you were looking for when you wrote it?
I really didn’t think I was gonna bother recording it at all because of the emotional weight that came with it. But after my producer, Max Allyn, and I listened back to the demo and discussed possibly giving it a try just to see what would happen, it soon took shape. Once the drums entered the picture it felt very 90’s to me. We totally leaned into that.
How does “Falling Upwards” stand out from your other records? What does it mean to you?
I might be wrong but I believe this is my first real attempt at relaying a message to the listener. The chorus goes:
“Don’t wait to say,
I’m so glad to meet you.
Love with all you have,
Offer up your hand,
Coin toss, falling upwards
at the same time.”
I wanted to convey how far a kind word could go. What I saw that day could have been prevented if someone had some empathy left in the tank. Just a small gesture. You never really know what’s going on inside someone’s head. Lend a hand, share a smile, be a little more patient…it all adds up.
What do you hope listeners take away from this project?
I’ve always had a desire to connect with others who might be where I have been. Solidarity would be amazing. At the very least, I hope that people will hear a complete thought and be able to appreciate the amount of care that went into this. It‘s the best album I’ve ever done. I truly gave it everything I’ve got. It can be terrifying. As an artist, when you lay it all out on the line, there isn’t much left to hide behind anymore. No turning back. If people can throw it on in the car and feel a bit of that California magic then I believe it was a success!
What do you hope to have achieved over the next five years?
I’ve never been good at the next 5-10 year plan thing because I don’t really live life that way. I’ve found myself to be the most miserable when I try to reshape who I am to fit into some kind of societal mold. Whether that’s been working a 9-5 or planning when I should be settling down and buying a home…neither of those have ever clicked. I’m impulsive, driven, and won’t settle for an easy way out. I need the rush, the fire under my feet, and an open road to get lost on. If I’m still making music in five years, it’ll be because I’ve got some crazy ideas to bring to life.