ADAM WILLS (BEAR IN HEAVEN): I know you’ve been a musician most of your life, playing in lots of different bands, but this was your first solo record if I’m not mistaken. I imagine a lot of these ideas, themes, and melodies might have been a long time coming, but the lyrical content feels fresh to your life in the present, which has me wondering when and where were these songs born?
This is my first solo album. While some of the songs are older, the majority were written more recently. I wanted to make sure the content wasn’t all older songs, so I would feel fresh and excited about the album itself. I also try to address timeless issues in my music, so hopefully my lyrics will stand true longer than I will remain standing. The songs were written all over the world, any place I can sit with an instrument I will write.
I’m curious about inspiration, ritual, and practice. When it comes to songwriting, do you have any, or do you write when the moment comes?
Inspiration, ritual, and practice all come into play when I write. Inspiration is easy to understand: You get an idea and try to fulfill that idea. Ritual is very important to me – that is, making sure you spend time with your instrument exploring and enjoying the act of playing or writing music as much as possible. Practice for me is something I use quite a lot. The newer songs on the album were all written on piano. Playing the piano is new for me; I’ve been a guitarist for many years. Since I am new to the piano, I would try and take time to practice, pushing my skill level higher. One thing that always happens is as I am practicing is new songs tend to flood my head, and I have to control the urge to follow the song. Once I have practiced enough to satisfy my own personal requirements, I let myself explore the songs that have been trying to distract me.
Is there a feeling you get that tells you, “This is it, the song is done”? Or do you work until it can’t be worked anymore? What’s the ratio of sweating through a long demo process vs. instinct?
That feeling for when a song is done is different for almost every song; it also depends on if you are trying to record or just write. Some songs end up writing themselves, and other require the blood, sweat, and tears!
So many musicians seem inspired by the loss of love or the longing for it, though your music seems so inspired by being loved and reciprocation. It’s refreshing to hear. Do you think falling in love was the driving force to sit down and press “record”? Or were the motives more musical? Maybe what I want to know is, how do you see those forces intersecting?
Falling in love was fantastic, but it wasn’t the driving force in making this album. I put out the album because of my need to make music. While both losing and finding love are great inspiration for writing, I try not to write from any one place in particular. I try to use the dynamic between the two as the tension and the basis for my lyrics.
From bass player to bass player, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned stepping up to the front of the stage, the front of the mix, and putting your name on an album cover? What was the biggest surprise?
Stepping to the front both in terms of the recording and live is definitely a big change. The aspect I recognized most was the vulnerability of being the voice and face. Having your lyrics, writing, and the sound of your voice scrutinized and judged is far more personal. The biggest surprise was that I can handle it. Not only handle it, but thrive under that pressure and scrutiny.
I’ve yet to attend a show at National Sawdust, though I know the space well through seeing photos online and through word-of-mouth. It’s a beautiful place, and I know set and setting are everything to a performance. Is there anything about the space you’re planning on utilizing that’s different than other venues?
You are absolutely correct, National Sawdust is a very special venue, and I intend to utilize every aspect of the space. First of all, it was built with acoustic music in mind, so I have replaced all of the parts of the album that were played with a synthesizer with an ensemble: violins, cello, bassoon, clarinet, and French horn. With this musical lineup I felt I could cover the dynamics on the album. There is also the personnel of the venue – the team they have working there is outstanding, and I have been working with many of them to create what will be a beautiful experience.