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Arts & Culture
Thu July 29, 2010
Transistor - The Jason Adamo Band
By George Olsen
New Bern, NC – INTRO - It took a couple of stops but Jason Adamo is firmly settled in North Carolina something which might be mildly surprising to him as his career plans originally had him trying his luck in the media capitals of the U-S. Adamo hopes a new CD release recorded in the Triangle might get him recognition in those markets though with no plans to leave the musical scene he now calls home. George Olsen has more.
Somewhere someone is paying good money to have someone teach them certain vocal techniques or they could just go to New York.
"Actually got to play the subways to help pay my rent when I was up there and that was a great experience helped me to project my voice singing over the subway cars."
New York was a year-and-a-half stop for then-Virginia resident Jason Adamo before diverting from a planned Los Angeles relocation to move to North Carolina at his brother's behest and ultimately making Raleigh his permanent base. Projection learned in a New York City subway station isn't quite so necessary in the Pittsboro studio where Jason and band recorded his recently released first full-length CD "Transistor." For what Jason describes as a "home studio" operated by the disc's producer John Briggs it's a remarkably polished effort that harkens back to the classic rock era perhaps not too surprising as Jason says the walls of the studio were plastered with Beatles posters and he spent time during the recording reading a biography of the band. That Beatle-esque type of tunesmithing is what opens "Transistor" with a song Jason wrote about his reflections on performing a showcase in Los Angeles last year several years after abandoning the idea of pursuing his music career there.
"A lot of people were doing the same thing as I was at that time just making the trek to Los Angeles and trying to do what you need to do to make it at that next level, and the sad part about it is there's a lot of people who go there and their dreams like I say in the song left right there on the airport floor next to the baggage claim. Once they get there they do everything they can to try and make it but they kind of get lost in a sea of people trying to do the same thing."
Not getting lost in that sea of people is one of the things that has made basing his career out of Raleigh so enticing. He says in New York he got the opportunity to play some well-thought-of venues but in a city with a million other things going on, you might be lucky to get 10 people showing up. Conversely, in Raleigh he says he's been able to develop a fan base where if you can get the word out about shows people actually show up.
"Also, after I moved to Raleigh I realized there are some world-class musicians living in this area, in the Triangle, and you can catch them on any given night at an Open Mic just playing for the love of music, and I was really kind of blown away at the amount of talent that was in this area. Bands that have made it and since then have relocated to this area, or musicians who have been there and done that and still love playing even though they're not on the national scene anymore they'll come out and play, and also the young talent that's on the way up as well. North Carolina in general is chock full of great musicians."
Some of those musicians are a big part of Jason's new CD "Transistor" which is actually attributed to the "Jason Adamo Band" and a band it is. Jason is the front man, no doubt, but he collaborates with two other band members and brother Chris in varying combinations for eight of the 13 songs on "Transistor" with two more written solely by band member Doug Casteen. Add in the tight production work by John Briggs musicians traveling to Nashville or wherever for studio time really need to Google this guy and you've got a capital-B band versus Jason & the 7 Dwarfs.
"For example Raleigh Nights that appears on the record in a more alt-country version of the song. John was producing the record and said you wrote this in January 2009 and everything else has been written since, it's going in a different direction, this whole record. It's not that I'm not a fan of the song but I'm not a fan of that version of the song being on this record. The original version of Raleigh Nights was a more up-tempo rock song so I started messing around with a more country version of Raleigh Nights on my guitar, and John said, well, if you play it like that I'll put it on the record, so we started messing around with the harmonies on the chorus and the whole song took a turn in a better direction."
"Transistor" is a disc geared toward hooking you early. Jason says they front-loaded the disc with its catchiest tunes because in a landscape where a record label or radio station has hundreds of CDs for review sitting on a desk, if a disc doesn't get your attention in the first few tracks it probably isn't going to get much further. Even with an eye toward marketing, "Transistor" has its moments where career calculation falls by the wayside just to highlight the sheer fun to be had making music, most obvious in the song "Midnight Swings."
"John Briggs brought this suitcase out of storage closet out of his home. I said what's that and he said we're about to record a blues song. I said, ok, we haven't written a blues song yet. Doug said well I have, I've written these chords and slide part on my guitar. I'd printed out a stack of poems and lyrics for the Transistor sessions and my brother Chris contributed the lyrics to that song. It was a real long poem called Midnight Swings that I took two of the verses he wrote out of 10 verses and kind of put them together live while John was beating on a suitcase and Doug was playing acoustic guitar. I just started singing the lyrics to Midnight Swings, and those 3-4 core elements of the song were recorded live with a mike right in the middle of the room."
That kind of tune harkens back to Jason's days playing the subways of New York City nothing plugged in at all, just project enough to be heard over subway trains or in this case above the guy beating on a suitcase. "Transistor" is Jason's first full-length CD but in those subway days Jason could make a few dollars by selling a six-song EP he released a few years back. Jason has embraced Raleigh's music scene and its embraced him the video for "Raleigh Nights" will play on the Jumbotron at Raleigh's RBC Center during Carolina Hurricanes hockey games but those subway days did allow Jason access to an audience he might not get passing through the turnstiles during hockey season.
"New York being one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world, there's people from all over the world that would hopefully leave with a copy of my little put together homemade CD they'd take home to Europe or Asia or wherever they were visiting from, which is great because I would start getting e-mails from people across the ocean saying "hey, I heard you on the subways in New York and we're spreading your music over here." That's the beauty of it is that not only would it be a new crowd every 5-10 minutes it would be people from all walks of life throwing in a couple of bucks and grabbing a CD and leaving with your music and enjoying the experience with you."
"Transistor" is the new CD by the Jason Adamo Band. I'm George Olsen.