We’re getting neo-classical and sophisticated thanks to Tom Adams.
Minimalistic electronic production is a phrase that has been floating around in the music world a lot lately. Soft, down-tempo electronics have become a flame that isn’t burning out anytime soon. The word minimal might be misleading as some would think producing such music is not hard to do. Quite the contrary. Crafting the mechanical beats, short rhythmic patterns, and vocal arrangements, on top of fusing an artist’s own innovative elements is far from easy. The amount of producers and artists in this realm are in the masses but it’s the creative genre bending and binding experimentation that make each of them singular in their own right.
One newcomer doing it and doing it well is Tom Adams. The Berlin based songwriter/composer released “Seven Birds”, a stunning piece balancing acoustic and electronic instruments. It’s Tom’s delicate falsetto vocal floating effortlessly that mesmerises. Tom’s neo-classical approach to tone has a certain grace that is rare to hear. How he is able to convey great emotion using only a few elements is what minimalism in music is all about.
Hey Tom! Let’s start from the very beginning, when did music become your career? What’s your first memory of music?
I started playing piano when I was a kid, my parents have always been very encouraging of arts and took me and my sister to piano lessons once a week. The moment music really clicked for me however, was buying my first electric guitar as a teenager. I immediately became obsessed with writing songs and I haven’t really looked back since. I have been doing music as a career for the last 2-3 years. A big turning point for me was my first visit to Berlin in the summer of 2014. The first night I arrived I went to a Nils Frahm show, after his set he invited any member of the audience to come up and play, I volunteered and played a song. The response was really amazing and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with some wonderful people, including Nils’s manager who I am now working with.
Have you always maintained the minimalistic style you’re creating with now? When did that become your signature?
I always knew what kind of music I wanted to make, I am lucky in that way I think. I started out making post-rock as a teenager then subsequently become more focused on minimalism and ambient music. I’m now beginning to reconnect with my roots however, so you can expect future releases to be a lot more epic… Singing is a much more recent thing, however. I always sang in bands, but it is only the last few years that I really started to feel like i knew how i wanted to sing.
You grew up in the countryside in the UK and now live in Berlin, how do you think each place has influenced your music?
Living in the countryside is lovely for writing as you can leave so much space in your music, the situation is perfect for delicate sounds. Living in a city now, I am finding myself having to embrace the idea of noise a lot more, this is coming out in my music also but I think that is a good thing. I have, in the past been very focused on making things perfect in my music but now I’m a lot more accepting of noise and imperfection. It is the atmosphere and feeling of a performance that is important. I think in a way, leaving in the little mistakes and not quite perfect takes makes the music more relatable and real.
You’re a producer/composer/performer but you’ve recently done some work on collaborations. Is that something you look forward to being so independent usually or is it a learning curve?
I played in a lot of bands in the past, I love making music with other musicians! Music is about communication and there is no more enjoyable way to communicate than jamming with your friends. Making music as a solo artist is fun as you have total control over how you want things to sound, but I am always really interested to collaborate with people as I learn so much from the process.
Let’s talk about the EP! How long did it take to put together? What was the starting point?
I got booked to play some support shows with a band called A Winged Victory For The Sullen at the beginning of 2015, the gigs were in big venues playing to a classical audience. At the time I had an all guitar based set and didn’t feel like my classic ‘singer-songwriter’ approach was going to be right for the situation. I decided to write a new set on piano from scratch specifically for these shows. I had just bought a Moog Synthesiser and also had just written some new software for processing the piano so the three elements of analogue synth, piano and live electronics just came together very organically. I got a really great response from the shows and afterwards realised that I had hit on something really special. I have been doing it ever since! The EP came out of the songs I wrote for these shows.
Is there a story behind the tracks that made the cut? Any themes we should be looking out for?
I wrote a lot of tracks for this EP, perhaps 20 or so. I played live as much as possible and gradually a small number started to come together as reliably working well together. These went on to become Voyages By Starlight. There is always a story and a driving emotion behind every song that I write, but once the song is out in the wild, then I feel like it takes on a new life. I think everyone interprets music differently and relates to it in their own way so I don’t want to say there is a ‘correct’ interpretation of a particular piece. I would much rather that people created their own stories from my music.
What can we expect from a Tom Adams live performance?
I am working on an album right now so am doing the same process that I did for writing the EP and playing lots of different songs live to see what works. I love playing new music live, and always try to fit in little bits of improvisation in to my set. I like keeping things quite fluid, if I’m really enjoying playing a particular song then I’ll improvise a longer arrangement of it in the moment. It keeps me on my toes and also means that every show is a bit different and unique.