Maxim interviews the soul singer-songwriter
Hi Adam! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. You recently released the new single, ‘Into My Life’, which has the key theme of overcoming toxic masculinity. What motivated you to tackle this issue in particular?
The world over (and perhaps particularly in the ultra conservative area I grew up in) there is a common concept that masculinity is and should be directly associated with physical and mental strength and stability. Even in this modern era, it is largely frowned upon for men to display their emotions, or even acknowledge that they have them. If not frowned upon, it is certainly considered remarkable when it does happen. I of course feel that this is a completely false and dangerous notion to perpetuate.
How did the song come about?
This song came about quite naturally. It was almost effortless, fun, and therapeutic to be honest. Written together with my good buddy Cory Chisel, this tune quickly became deeply rooted in our own emotional struggles and triumphs. Maybe it’s fatherhood. Maybe it’s the impending mid-life crisis. Personally, I had only recently become aware of my own mental fragility - having slammed into the proverbial ‘wall’ a couple of years ago, which was an accidental, yet self-inflicted, event that had all kinds of implications for me mentally and physically. I had to learn to accept it, and more importantly, learn how to deal with it. All the while, I was learning loads about myself and others.
‘Into My Life’ covers some very serious issues, but the feel of the track is overwhelmingly uplifting and light-hearted. Was there a conscious drive to make the song positive and upbeat?
It was certainly a conscious decision to make the song feel good, and even uplifting. There are indeed a lot of heavy issues being addressed in this song. But in the end, it’s really about celebrating the realisation that yes, you’re an emotional human being, and that’s completely normal and okay. It’s about rejoicing and embracing what and who you really are. It’s too easy and common perhaps to address heavy themes with a somber tone and melody. The real challenge was finding the positivity in this subject matter. Maybe if this type of self awareness is celebrated, rather than swept under the rug, it can become more widely accepted as a natural and necessary part of the human experience.
The main theme of the song is the idea of ‘stepping into’ our lives. This is an insightful perspective, and it suggests we shouldn’t try to become something we’re not. What does this concept of ‘stepping into’ one’s life mean to you?
Absolutely! This track is all about accepting one’s true self (fragility included), and actively embracing it. Stepping out of the shadows and into your life.
The single before this was ‘Change My Mind’, which contains the lyrics ‘You’re never gonna see my vulnerability/‘Cause letting your guard down only makes you weak’. The openness of ‘Into My Life’ feels like a direct response to this - is this how you always intended the songs to fit together?
Nice catch! It’s a direct contrast indeed. This entire record is all about self awareness, and my own personal journey of self analysis - raising big questions, and hunting for corresponding big answers. In ‘Change My Mind’ I’m singing about the perceived inherent danger of being vulnerable emotionally. And in ‘Into My Life’, it’s all about embracing that vulnerability, and perhaps using it to your advantage.
‘Joyous We’ll Be’ is a very powerful song, and the chorus has a gospel feel about it. There’s a strong message of coming together and treating everyone the same throughout (‘All the small minds run and join the caravan, shoutin’ out/‘Go back from where you came’, when you know/we’re all from the one and same place’). The events of last year have shown there’s sadly still a lot of division in the world, so this message of hope comes at a welcome time. How do you personally maintain a sense of hope, despite all the bad news we continue to see?
Maintaining positivity and a sense of hope in today’s climate of delusion and division is certainly a difficulty task. I’m saddened and terrified by these divisions and opposing realities on a daily basis. It literally breaks my heart. I choose to remain forcefully positive - if not purely for my son and his future. But I’m also re-assured by the constant evidence that those of us fighting for unity and acceptance of the entire human race actually outnumber those refusing it. ‘Joyous We’ll Be’ was purposefully recorded in that way. I hope the listener feels the power of a large, unified, and diverse ensemble coordinating in a song of hope.
You’ve talked of how you had a “middle-aged mental health awakening” as a result of being overworked. Artists are always being asked to do more, to play more shows, to release more music, etc. How difficult was it for you to take a step back and start setting boundaries, to ensure you weren’t working too much to the detriment of your mental health?
Regarding my middle-aged mental health awakening: Yes, I certainly feel the constant pressure of needing to create, to be present, and to be viable. It’s no secret that this is a tough business in that regard. Setting personal boundaries has been a huge and necessary part of my awakening. It’s what’s necessary for me to hang on to those most dear to me. I’m thankfully able to channel my own therapy into my music. I’m often categorised as a bit of a soul musician, and an appreciator of soul music. That’s a label that I have never shied away from. For me, real soul music is all about the delivery of really tangible human emotions and the human experience through song.
You were born in the US, but for the past decade you’ve been living in Norway, and in 2017 you were the winner of the country’s TV talent show Battle of the Stars. What drew you to Norway in particular?
Growing up in the US, I honestly never felt comfortable. Never able to put my finger on why, I was a constant wanderer. I was chasing something, but I didn’t know what it was at the time. It wasn’t until settling in Norway that I really began to be comfortable. It’s quite remarkable actually, something about the combination of the exhilarating nature and the people I have met created a bit of a perfect storm for me personally. I became suddenly comfortable in my own skin. I felt accepted, and to this day it just feels right. I’ll be here, with my family, for as long as they’ll let me stay! I do have a heavy dose of Scandinavian ancestry, so maybe that’s also why I love it so much.
You were recently featured on Rikke Normann’s song, ‘Don’t You Worry’, which explores anxiety and the ways in which we can try to overcome these unpleasant feelings. Similarly to ‘Into My Life’, there’s this notion that the solutions to our problems often lie right under our nose, and can be found by living mindfully and by being fully present in the moment. Is this something you’ve found to be helpful in your life?
It was a complete joy to join Rikke on her tune “Don’t You Worry”. And yes, you’re right, that underlying message of living mindfully, and taking personal inventory, was a big reason I fell in love with that tune. Singing with Rikke is a blast every time. The timing couldn’t have been better either I suppose.
What can we expect from your upcoming album, and is there a rough release date yet?
I’m of course completely thrilled and terrified to share my full-length record with the public. It’s out everywhere on March 5th, and it’s an all-encompassing, mid-life analysis record. I tried to get it all in there! Every emotion, and every answer to every question.
What are your top 3 songs with a theme of mental health?
1. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times - The Beach Boys
2. All Things Must Pass” - George Harrison
3. Help - The Beatles
Adam Douglas’ new album is out March 5th, and his latest single, ‘Build A Fire’, is out now on all platforms.