Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Peter Bradley Adams coming to Schubas this month with new album in tow


Even though you might not know who Peter Bradley Adams is, you've probably heard his songs, which have been featured in countless TV shows and movies, including the new movie, "Something Borrowed."

This is a busy month for Adams. His fourth album, "Between Us," will be released on June 14, followed by a CD release party on June 15 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

Also on the bill is Clare Burson. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

One half of the critically acclaimed band Eastmountainsouth, Adams reunited with former band made Kat Maslich-Bode on "Between Us."

I had the chance to talk to Adams about the new album and his other activities.

Q - Of course, June is a pretty busy month for you. Your fourth album comes out on June 14, and then you are playing at Schubas on June 15.

I love Schubas.

Q - What do you like about it?

I've always liked playing there. It feels great, it sounds great. I like the shape of the room.

Q - So when people come out to Schubas, what should they expect?

I will be doing about half and half, half old songs, half new songs, and maybe even some songs newer than the record. But it a co-bill with Clare Burson. She will sing on a couple of my songs, and I'll sing on some of her songs.

Q - I understand you wrote "Between Us" when you were moving from Nashville to New York City in 2009. First of all, why did you decide to make that move?

It was a gut feeling. I had some family and some really close friends up here that were making it really easy for me to come up here.

I basically just left everything in Nashville. I came up here with a suitcase and a guitar. I don't know how long I will stay, but I love it. I think I just needed a change in the scene.

Q - In making the album, I understand you first made some some work tapes on your phone, and then listened to them while walking around.

That's not uncommon with people's cell phones nowadays. It's just so easy to record on them. For me, it's just a way to get some distance on what you're writing, if you can listen back to it more than the sound of it in your own head.

Q - Is that a normal approach for you?

It's the best way I have found to monitor what you are doing, and get a little objectivity on what you are writing.

It's really hard in the moment to be totally objective.

Q - How long did the recording process take?

Well, I did it in tiny spurts. Throughout the year, I was sort of running down to Nashville for a few days and recording, and coming back. I didn't have a sustained period of recording.

And I was touring the whole time. So it was sporadic recording throughout the year.

Q - Do you like recording that way?

I wouldn't recommend it. But it was just sort of  a necessity. I'm hoping next time to have a block of time set aside.

Q - It sounds like you had a lot of time to go back and tinker, and try to make the songs even better.

The temptation to tinker is almost impossible to pass up. But I think I'm slowly learning when to stop, and let it go.

Q - So how do you think "Between Us" stacks up against your other efforts?

I think I'm slowly kind of finding my voice as a writer and as a singer. I hope this one is another step toward that. That's what I hope.

For me, I'm not satisfied with any of my records, including the new one. I don't know if I will ever be satisfied. But I keep holding out hope that the next one is going to be the one where I get it dead on right.

Q - And of course your former bandmate from Eastmountainsouth is on this. Why did you want to have her on the album?

Well, we did a few shows in the fall, kind of reunion shows. I wrote that song, "Mother Don't Look Down," for those shows. When I wrote it, it just felt like an old Eastmountainsouth song.

She was psyched to help me out singing on it.
Q - How was it working it with her again?

Oh, it was great. And it didn't require a lot of time. There wasn't a getting back in the recording process. It was just having her come in and sing on the song.

Q - Speaking of Eastmountainsouth, the band was signed by Robbie Robertson to DreamWorks Records shortly after you formed the group. Was that shocking?

It was totally overwhelming and shocking. I was just really starting out as a singer-songwriter.

The whole thing happened when I was completely green to this whole thing. It was overwhelming and terrifying. When we met him and he offered us a deal, it was the day before 9-11, so we woke up the next morning after that, and the whole world was different, not only in our little personal lives, but the whole world.

So it was an interesting time.

Q - Why was he was interested in you guys?

He was interested in the sound of us singing together. He thought we sounded like brother and sister. And he loved the songs.

Q - Why do you think you and Kat worked so well together?

I don't think there is any way to explain it. It's just one of those strange things in physics where two voices just happen to vibrate together in a certain way.

I think we definitely had similar aesthetics. It was easy to sing together. The way we phrased stuff seemed really easy.

But mostly, it was lucky the way the voices sounded together.

Q - As far as why the band ended, I know there were some label changes. Did that contribute to it, or was it just time to end the group?

Well, the label changes were definitely a part of it. We were shifted over to two different labels, and finally ended up on Geffen. And Geffen really wasn't interested in really doing anything with us.

So it seemed like the right time to make a change. And I was also really ready to try to do some solo stuff, so it just seemed like the right time to jump into that.

Q - Your music has been labeled in many different ways - folk, Americana, alternative country. How would you classify your music?

It's really difficult, because all those genres obviously fit. I listen to a lot of pop music, so there's probably some pop sensibility that I have on top of all those other genres.

Q - Your music has been used extensively in movies and TV shows. Before you formed Eastmountainsouth, you worked as a score composer for film and television. Do you think that's one reason why your music seems to fit so well in TV and movies?

I don't know, really. That's a good question. When I'm writing the songs, I'm not thinking about having them fit in a certain scene, or to fit in film or TV at all.

I think maybe in the production, that maybe there is some element that I'm adding as I'm producing these songs that help them flow into some of these TV shows or in film.

But I just feel lucky and grateful that these people making these decisions find a place for my music. Sometimes I hear my songs in these TV shows, and I can't believe that they chose them.

I love my songs, but I don't always think they fit with a scene. Maybe it's just weird to hear my own voice behind some of these scenes. But I'm grateful that my stuff is resonating with some of these people.

Q - Do you see movies and TV as being the new radio, as just another way to get your music out there?

I don't have a TV, so I don't get to see much of the stuff. There are so many songs that are being put in TV shows and films now, so I don't think it is as special as it used to be.

It used to be that you would get a song in a movie and it was there for a reason, and everybody heard it. And now it seems like they are using songs as underscore, where they take the vocals out and they will bury it under dialogue, so it sounds like it is coming out of a radio or it is sounds like what the composer wrote for the scene.

And in that sense, nobody hears the song and it doesn't do anything for you as far as exposure. There's only been a couple of placements I've had where the song has been really featured out front. And when that happens, you really experience the power of television. And a lot of people hear it and react to it.

Q - The music business has changed so much in the last few years. Do you think it is harder or easier to make music these days?

It's not easier to make music, but it's easier to put yourself out there. As far as the music making, I think it is the same struggle. Everybody is trying to do something good.

Q - So is there a chance of Eastmountainsouth reforming?

It's totally possible, but it all comes down to songs. I don't think we would just say, "OK, let's start up again." I think the songs would have to come first. I think it is very possible. You just never know.