An Interview with Adam from AJR

Living Room

On Thursday, February 5th, I got on the phone with Adam, the oldest brother from the up and coming band, AJR, and got to ask him some questions.

Summer: Right now I have on the phone with me Adam from the band AJR, and I’ll be asking his some questions. So, if you want to say hello Adam.
Adam: Hey, how’s it going?
S: It’s going well. So did I see that you guys are in Cleveland tonight?
A: We’re in Cleveland right now and on our way to Columbus. We’re playing in Columbus tonight.
S: How long have you guys been on tour?
A: I feel like we’re always on tour. I count my days by the days that I’m back in New York, at home. But for the last year we’re pretty much been on tour almost the whole time.
S: Okay, you guys are on tour with Melanie Martinez right now. How has that been?
A: It’s great! We really enjoy being on tour because we talk to fans so much through Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat and to actually make direct contact with them is really exciting to see the support that they have for us.
S: So you actually started your musical career pretty in direct contact with fans and people just as far as busking on the streets of New York. Is there any particular reason why you guys started out doing music that way?
A: It was the cheapest and easiest way to do it. Because we actually bought our musical equipment from the money we made street performing. We didn’t have money to make this happen, so we went out and started singing in the park. The money that we raised, we bought a ukulele, we bought a really cheap microphone, we bought the recording equipment, Pro-Tools, all from the money that we made on the streets. We bought it and mixed our entire album in our living room, and that’s why the album is called Living Room.
S: And that album actually just went on pre-order on the 3rd, which was what, two days ago?
A: Yeah, yeah. And we’re really excited about it. It comes out March 3rd, and you can pre-order it on iTunes and get six songs immediately, including one of the songs that I’m most excited about, called “Overture”. It’s actually an overture like you would have for a show or an opera. It’s like a pop version and it combines the themes of every song on the album into one track.
S: That’s pretty awesome. I know I was looking at your guys’ iTunes page for the pre-order and someone was really excited about that song. So you guys got your hit, “I’m Ready”, which features, from what I believe is the first episode of SpongeBob, his “I’m Ready” song. And that’s a really fun song, I actually really enjoy the incorporation of SpongeBob. You guys were found, I guess, by tweeting your song to a bunch of artists. Why did you decide to go that route in order to get your song out?
A: Honestly, we had had no success for like, five, six years, and then we wrote “I’m Ready”, and it was going to be the last song that we wrote. This was going to be song that was like, if nobody notices this song, we’ll just be done. We put so much time and effort into it and nothing happened. So we wrote “I’m Ready” and we said, ‘Okay let’s see if we can get it to these people’. So we tweeted it to I think eighty different celebrities, and Sia, who we are a huge fan of, responded to it, retweeted it. She loved the song, invited us to brunch, and introduced us to the right people in the industry. She helped us move up to the next level. So, it was right on the brink of our shutting the whole thing down that we got the break to allow it to happen.
S: It’s almost like a divine intervention or something. That’s actually really, really awesome and pretty lucky, but you guys are good. I’m glad that Sia actually got that tweet.
A: Thank you, thank you.
S: You guys are all brothers, you, Ryan, and Jack. What is the dynamic like writing, recording and producing your songs?
A: It’s really collaborative. We really respect each other and our musical abilities. Each person takes on a different role in creating a song. Ryan does just about all of the production side and he does a lot of writing too. I do a lot of the lyrics, and Jack is really good at coming up with catchy hooks. So, we each have a very distinct part. But each of the songs sound the way they do because of all three of us.
S: You have been able to do a lot of really cool things since getting big, like opening for Train, The Vamps, Demi Lovado, you guys performed on the X-Factor Australia. What has been your most memorable moment?
A: The number one moment? We played at this stadium in New York, which is our home city, and hearing 15,000 people scream your lyrics back at you is nothing like we’ve ever experienced before, this silly little song that we made in our living room that we never thought would go anywhere, and now 15,000 people are singing the song back at you. It’s just a crazy experience and we’re just so thankful for it.
S: Definitely, and I think I saw on your Youtube that there’s a clip of Taylor Swift dancing to “I’m Ready”? What is that like seeing someone as big as Taylor rocking out to your song?
A: It’s really exciting. It’s nice to see that our music moves so many kinds of people.
S: As far as Youtube goes, you guys put up a lot of covers on your channel. How do you choose which songs you record and upload?
A: We like to record and upload songs that inspire us, but also we like to change them and make them our own. We have a cover of “Call Me Maybe” that we mashed up with a Beatles song and we did the entire thing on many different tracks, a capella. So we were doing the drum tracks and the horn parts, and all the different parts with our voices. So any cover that we upload, we try to put our own spin on it.
S: I got you. What has been your favorite cover that you’ve done?
A: Probably “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers. We were jumping and using our feet as kind of like the drums, to that one was a really fun one to record.
S: How do you guys get prepared for a show? I know some people do warm ups, or other things, so what do you right before a show?
A: Well because we get very little sleep on the road we’re normally sleeping in between sound check and the show, so we normally just wake up a few minutes before the show and just walk right on.
S: Oh wow!
A: Yeah we sleep right before the show. That’s what gives us the most energy.
S: I don’t think I could ever do that. When I take a nap, I’m useless for the next thirty minutes to an hour. I don’t think a lot of people could do that.
A: Yeah we don’t drink coffee or anything, so sleep is our drug.
S: That’s probably my problem. What is your favorite song to perform, or your favorite lyric that you’ve written?
A: My favorite lyric that we’ve written is probably “Sometimes I wonder if we matter at all if we’re not written down”. It just makes you think of the timeliness and your imprint on the earth and if you had something to say for the time you spent here. So it always makes me think when we sing that one live. And that’s from our song “Growing Old On Bleecker Street”.
S: So is that one your favorite to play live too?
A: Probably my favorite one to play live is called “The Green and the Town”. It’s a big piratey song that has swaying string sections and a horn part in the middle. Its kind of like pirate-meets more contemporary Imagine Dragons-y kind of feeling. I really enjoy playing that one live.
S: So you actually graduated from Columbia.
A: I did.
S: Did you major in music, or did you know that you were going to use your degree for music or anything?
A: No. I studies both business and philosophy in school, and had nothing to do with music. I was doing it so much outside of school that I wanted to get a degree in something else.
S: Yeah. So where do you guys see yourselves, see your band, in the next five years?
A: Five years? I’d say touring absolutely as much as possible. That’s what we love to do. And obviously we write, produce, and record as much as possible. We’re even writing on the road, but performing in front of fans, there’s no experience like that. So, in five years, we’d love to be doing larger venues than what we’re doing now. Hopefully we’ll have some more songs on the radio. Our newest single is called “Infinity” and we just put out a video for that, and the song is going out to radios soon. Hopefully that will extend our fanbase. But, we’d love to just play for as many people as possible.
S: Do you have a favorite city that you’ve performed in besides New York?
A: You mean besides New York and St. Louis?
S: Sure.
A: Probably Sydney, Australia. It was amazing being there. We were literally as far away from home as we could possibly be on the globe, and to see that we reached that far.
S: That’s definitely impressive. So, Jack is still in high school, right?
A: Yes, he is just a few months away from being done with high school.
S: How has that been attempting to balance school plus the band and touring?
A: He goes to a high school that allows him to do that. It’s a school for professional kids. He Skypes with his teachers and emails them all the time. It’s all different types of students that go to his school. There are professional racecar drivers, ping-pong players, ballet dancers, musicians, and actors. So the school is set up for him to do that kind of thing.
S: That’s a good thing that they have schools like that. I feel like so many people just drop out of school in order to do their job, or be in a band, or to act. That’s good that he’s about to graduate. And your other brother, Ryan has been able to do some producing for other people too. Who all has he done some producing for?
A: Ryan wrote the lead single off of Andy Grammer’s most recent album and wrote another track off that album. And now he’s writing for some people who I don’t think I’m allowed to say because the tracks haven’t come out yet, but its names you would recognize.
S: So I have one more question before I get to some of the fun questions that I normally ask. If you could describe your sound in three words, what would it be?
A: Hmmm. I would have to say- forward, thinking, diverse.
S: People always have trouble with this question. Forward, thinking, diverse. I can see that. You guys have pretty diverse stuff from fairly acoustic-y songs to a much more electronic sounds.
A: Yeah, we wanted to make an album that works for so many different kinds of people. We don’t have anybody over our shoulders saying no you have to make an album like this. There needs to be twelve more versions of “I’m Ready”, which is what so many albums sound like these days. It’s like twelve different versions of the lead single. But we wanted to make an album because we really have complete creative control over our music. We wanted to make something that we would enjoy listening to. So that’s where we get the diversity from.
S: Yeah I feel like a lot of artists and bands are trying to get away from the control that record labels have over them, and the push for the album to have this one sound. They’re attempting to diversify and do what they want now.
A: Exactly.
S: Alright we’ll we’re about to close off this interview, but before I let him go so he can jump in the car and go to his next city, I have a couple of quick, fun questions that I like to call the speed round. So, what is your favorite SpongeBob episode?
A: Oooh. Probably Krusty Krab’s Pizza.
S: Ah, the song automatically popped into my mind. What was your first concert?
A: Paul Simon in New York.
S: I have another show of all covers, and I actually just did a Paul Simon cover show the other day. So that’s good first show.
A: Very nice. We’re big fans.
S: So do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
A: Hmmm. I’m a big fan of all types of music, like everything from The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell to Imagine Dragons, even poppy stuff like One Direction and Taylor Swift. Her new album is fantastic. I mean I really like to listen to all types of music. I really don’t think I have a guilty pleasure. All of music I guess.
S: What was the last movie you watched?
A: American Sniper.
S: And what did you think of that?
A: I thought it was good. A really strong story and emotional movie.
S: Who is the last artist that you listened to?
A: I have to look. Creedence Clearwater Revival!
S: Good old CCR. And then my last question for you; who are a couple of up and coming artists that people should listen to?
A: Friends of ours, this band called Minor Soul. They opened for us on tour. They’re like a modern day version of Simon & Garfunkel. So they’re two brothers actually, and they write most of their stuff themselves. It’s just them and acoustic guitars on stage and really cool harmonies. They’re really great so you should check out Minor Soul. Also we really like this artist, he’s actually a writer and is branching out into becoming an artist, his name is John Bellion. He does a lot of hip-hop stuff. He wrote Eminem’s “Monster”. So he’s really good and I recommend that you check him out.
S: Okay, well I will let you guys hit the road. Thank you so much!

Check out AJR on their Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram, and make sure you pre-order their album on iTunes!

Summer WorthingtonAn Interview with Adam from AJR