Nashville-based producer, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Adkins is a busy guy. In May he released a new CD “...And the Walls of the City Will Shake” under the name The Colored Parade, plus he produced singer/songwriter Chris Gantry’s upcoming album and he is working on a new solo album as well.
Although “...And the Walls of the City Will Shake” was a solo project for Adkins, he had specific reasons for releasing it under The Colored Parade name. “I wanted the music to stand on its own and have its own identity,” he said. “I created, wrote and performed the tunes but I don’t want people to hear other projects of mine and get the impression that every [one] sounds like this. I might make another Colored Parade album eventually. Then again, this might be a one-off thing. I will be releasing the upcoming solo album under my own name. Then, if I decide to make another record as The Colored Parade, people can distinguish the two a little clearer.”
The singer/songwriter’s ever-evolving list of musical influences started off when he was a child with one famous name. “My Aunt gave me a stack of Elvis 45s when I was around four and I remember spending my summers on my bedroom floor just spinning those records over and over again on my Fisher Price record player,” said Adkins. “I would have my neighbors and friends outside my window wanting me to come out and play. I didn’t need to at that point. All my imagination was captured by that amazing music coming out of those tiny speakers. Gradually it moved from Elvis to Michael Jackson, KISS, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, Dylan, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who and Zeppelin.”
Currently, his favorite songwriter is Townes Van Zandt. “He can capture you, raise your spirits or rip your heart out all within two to three minutes,” he said. “His songs are lyrically so beautiful and poetic. I discovered Townes and the poet Allen Ginsberg at the same time and my mind just exploded! I have never been the same since.”
His musical inspiration comes from some uncommon sources as well as some tried and true places. “I get inspired from anything,” said Adkins. “I hate to be cliché and say, ‘from my life experiences’ but it is an avenue for me. I find it impossible to be a writer of any kind and not be inspired by events from your past and present situation. Beyond that though, I try to keep an open agenda and mind. I get inspired by conversations with strangers, friends, TV shows, books, poets, films, film-makers. Inspiration is everywhere for me. Musically, I think I get it from the instrument I am playing, be it an old guitar, piano or bass. I very seldom write words and then music second. Usually the music comes and lyrics later.”
The singer/songwriter has a solid idea of what sets his music apart from the masses. “I think the variety of sounds,” he said. “I’ve always admired The Beatles and Led Zeppelin in their later years how they could just pile different sounds and styles and nobody bats an eyelash about it. I have tried to stay on one path but it never works out. My head is always turning with ideas. I think in the past, it’s definitely hindered me in a commercial, mass-appeal sense. I can’t help it. I have sacrificed big budgets and proposed contracts [and] deals in favor of keeping my musical freedom. To some it sounds crazy and idiotic but sometimes art and commerce just aren’t great combos for certain people. Some artists have that great balance, which I really admire. However, I have to do what’s best and what works for me.”
As far as what Adkins wants people to relate to with his music he said, “I just want people to find/take whatever they can find to latch onto. I try to keep a lot of my songs open to where it’s not too specific and a lot of folks can interpret however they want. Be it the lyrics or groove, subject matter, sound. For instance, so many people go on about Kurt Cobain and his lyrics and songwriter. I loved Nirvana and his writing but my favorite thing about Kurt was his guitar tones and erratic style. My least favorite Nirvana record was ‘Unplugged’ because of that missing element. Not to put myself in the same league as Cobain by any means, but as an artist, I just create and hope someone can find an element that touches them on some level.”
Since The Colored Parade’s release, Adkins has put together a band for live performances that includes Josh McLeod (keys, piano, trumpet and accordion), Jackson Parsons (bass), Jon Forisha (drums/percussion) and Pat Duffy (guitar, keys and mandolin). “My last band left a bad taste in my mouth. It was a hectic and uncomfortable situation and made me question if I ever wanted to be a part of a music group again. I then made ‘...And the Walls of the City Will Shake’ as a kind of therapeutic project. I didn’t really think I would take it to the stage. Once I started releasing the music and the album came out, people really took interest in what I was doing, which is great! However, it left me wondering, ‘How am I going to do this live?’ So, I started piecing together some musicians and it just took off. Beyond the band, I am still in the middle of a solo album, hopefully it will be out by November/December. It’s a very acoustic-centric album. Not as many bells and whistles as on The Colored Parade album. [It’s] more simplistic and raw, a very song-centered production and sound. I eventually hope to have material from both projects performed on the road and at shows.”
He credits Alex Ebert, the singer of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros for the best music career advice he’d been given. “My former band was on a label co-run by Alex’s former band mate in Ima Robot,” said Adkins. “As a result I was introduced to Alex and The Magnetic Zeros, super awesome group of musicians and people. After the completion of their first big, breakthrough album ‘Up From Below’ instead of trying to re-create similar formulas on writing their follow up, he said he just tried to channel that frame of mind of a child singing a nonsensical song. Remember how as kids we would just put words together, innocently and out comes this fun, little tune. He said that by thinking of songs and ideas like that, just creating for enjoyment and literally at the core throwing away all rules and guidelines, it was like a rejuvenation for him. That really spearheaded me earlier on in the writing process for the new album.”
Aside from being a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Adkins is also a producer for other artists as well as his own music. “I really am in love with producing,” he said. “I have produced around 20 projects over the past year. I am really excited for the release of Chris Gantry’s upcoming album. Gantry, a hit songwriter and pioneer in the Outlaw Country movement of the early 70’s, alongside Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Waylon Jennings and others. It’s a very fresh, yet classic-sounding collection of songs.”
The Colored Parade’s “...And the Walls of the City Will Shake” is available on iTunes. Music fans can check out Andrew Adkins and The Colored Parade on his official site, Facebook page and Twitter feed.