UTG INTERVIEW: Simon Adams

Simon Adams1

“Discipline has been a stranger who I’ve had to make friends with. He’s not a very fun friend, but he’s pretty honest. If you invest in him, he pays you back pretty faithfully.”

Fans of piano and acoustic guitar-driven rock acts like Coldplay and Keane will undoubtedly find themselves comfortably at home within Simon Adams‘ graceful new EP, inspired by life experiences in love and many travels, along with an inherent influence from classic rock’s most notable and beloved luminaries.

Adams recently took the time to speak with us about his new 4-track EP, his adventures in life, and what he has in store for the rest of the year, so read through the jump and get the scoop from Simon Adams, an up-and-coming talent whose work shines with heart and honesty.

Tell me about your history with music, Simon. I’m always fascinated to know what originally influenced a musician’s choice to become one.

What really got me hungry for songs is when my dad would play true classics from his record player, and they’d boom up the stairs. I’d lie in bed and just listen to Sinatra or Dusty Springfield come up the stairs to meet me. It’s amazing what music does to you, isn’t it? I remember one time, as a kid, I thought that I even saw Buddy Holly and the Crickets on the bunk-bed rungs just above me. I’m still not entirely sure I didn’t! So music had its way with me, and got into my heart early on. Later, when I was 13, I started to write songs, and then at about 14, picked up the guitar and used to record them on a tape machine. I’ve written a ridiculous amount ever since.

And you’re currently located in South Korea, but you had many travels before ending up there, correct? Can you tell me about your adventures, how that plays into your music, and how Seoul became your place of residence?

Yep. I live in Seoul. It’s pretty highly charged here, but I used to live in Indonesia which is a lot more laid back. I lived in Sulawesi right after University. Basically, it’s in the sticks. I remember walking down the street and seeing another white guy cycle past, and being shocked. I later guesstimated there were about 5 of us in the town. Later, I moved to Bandung, on the main island of Indonesia, where you could get a Big Mac and fries, or go to the mall if you wanted. I was spoiled! That’s where I met my beautiful wife, and is in fact where I wrote the first song on the EP, “A Beautiful Way.” I wrote it on my motorbike. (Not with a pen and paper. That would be silly.) I had just asked her to go out with me. She’d responded affirmatively. I was made rather happy and so I was standing up on my bike, going up a hill (she wasn’t riding with me) and I was just singing it out at the top of my lungs. Since she’s Korean, it made great sense to follow her back to Seoul when the time was right.

Apart from seeing a good portion of the world, what would you say are some of your most important influences that have helped shape your sound along the way?

I’d say I’m more of an introvert so I definitely write from and about my inner life, and my experience. It’s not all morose. I can say that I can write from a place of joy, too. In terms of musical influence, The Beatles have to be the deepest part of my subconscious. I remember walking to school each day, listening to them do their crazy thing and being taken to a really joyful and free place. Billy Joel, James Taylor, Coldplay, John Mayer…they’re all influences, but I’m glad to say I know who I am as an artist.

And you’re a teacher as well, right? What do you teach, and do you ever incorporate music into that?

Wow. Yep, I’m a teacher. I teach elementary school! Really young ones. They’re rad. I am constantly tired- I mean inspired by them! Both really. They’re so impressed with life, so amazed at the world. I teach guitar too, and I find that–especially in the presence of two creative brothers–I get some of my best musical ideas, that I’d never get sitting around by myself! It must be osmosis or something. I’m really grateful for being around kids. They break down barriers in us stuffy old adults!

How do you balance teaching and working on music while simultaneously being a husband and having an adventurous spirit?

Well, I have to say that I probably don’t very well. I’d much rather just create all day long than do much else. But I’m better. It sounds gross but discipline has been a stranger who I’ve had to make friends with. He’s not a very fun friend, but he’s pretty honest. If you invest in him, he pays you back pretty faithfully. He’s also a great and surprise friend to make good art with. Discipline might be exercised in all manner of ways in regard to art. Setting limitations is a big one. I can be disciplined when I say, “I’m going to record this song in one take” or “I’m going to write this song on an instrument I barely know how to play, so it stays simple”.

So you just released a new EP last month. What can you tell me about it? What kind of themes would you say pull it together and how has the response been?

The EP (innovatively called Simon Adams) is a pretty good introduction to me. I’d say that it definitely speaks of a journey I’ve gone through; from experiencing a sense of judgment to joy. For me, grace has had a hand in the making of this EP. Desire too. I think desire is a powerful force in helping people really find out who they are, so it’s great to write about. Songs for me are like journal entries but more refined. So every song is confessional. Yeah, the response has been good. People have seemed to dig it. It’s humbling to see people from all around the world buying the songs, especially people you don’t even know. That I can speak to someone without ever meeting them physically is a really serious thing to me. I’m grateful for it, and it makes me want to clearly convey a helpful message to my listeners.

Do you play all the instruments on this album or did you have other musicians involved? There’s a lot of great layers and instrumentation.

Thanks! I play everything except drums and bass guitar, although I dabbled a bit with the bass. I’m a guitarist, and therefore an addict. I’m addicted to making guitar parts! So I’ve had to learn to wield the delete button too, to pair down guitar parts a bit when I get too excited.

How will this all transition to a live show?

With my band, we try and do the songs justice by having a rocking, solid rhythm section. Then me and John, our guitarist, just create contrasting guitar parts. Playing live is good old fashioned fun.

Now that the EP is out, what have you been working on in the meantime? Already have plans for your next release in mind?

I totally have plans! I am going to be coming out with an acoustic EP in the summer. It’ll be way more stripped down. More of James Taylor meets Coldplay kind of thing. It’ll be about the vocal melody, the chords and the lyrics. I hope the songs will shine.

Is there anything that you didn’t get to explore on this recent EP that you hope to experiment with in the future or a completely different genre entirely that you’ve had a desire to dabble in?

When I get older (about 64), maybe I’ll get heavy into jazz fusion. I’d love to be a great jazz pianist one day and play duets with my wife. For now, though, I’ll stick with what I know: guitar-driven alternative songs, or solo acoustic vocal stuff.

I hear a lot of passion in your music and I can tell that you have great motives behind this project. What is your overall goal for what you want to accomplish by putting out this music?

Thank you so much! It means a lot hearing that. I really am just sharing my experience. I know it has a universal truth though. I’m sharing the message that there is wholeness to be found and that we can overcome the separations in our lives. Philosophically, it’s about the difference grace can make. What it’s done for me and can do for all of us.

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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