After 10 days in a hospital bed, once Adam was informed by a doctor that his kidneys, though functioning at only 8%, could be kept under control for the time being, he made an important decision. If he was in fact not going to die- which had seemed possible only days before- then he was going to live. To really live. He had no intention of simply surviving despite this new personal challenge; he was going to thrive because of it.
Adam made a pact with himself to begin focusing on writing a collection of new material, the follow up to his 2012 debut album ‘Train Tracks’.
To mark this decision, and document where he found himself at this moment of clarity, he took a photo of his feet propped up at the end of the bed. In the background stood the machines that would be used to keep him alive. He posted this image on his Facebook page, alongside a similar photo from a couple of years before, with his feet propped up in a similar manner, but by a pool in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he had been playing an event. The contrast between the two images despite their identical poses could not have been more vivid. And it didn’t just reflect the change in scenery that Adam personally had needed to quickly get used to. In many ways it reflected the collective reality that the world has faced over the past 18 months, where so many have gone from taking freedom, health, and travel for granted, to having a deep sense of uncertainty about all of these things, brought about by the Covid pandemic.
For the last decade, with the notoriety gained from his appearance on BBC’s The Voice, Adam had been able to achieve his lifelong dream; of making a living from playing music. His high energy live performances, coupled with a vocal ability that ‘The Voice’ judge Will.I.AM described as ‘warm…(with) star quality’, took him around Europe both solo and accompanied by his band. Playing a funky mash-up style of pop, rock and club dance covers, drawing influence from bands and artists as diverse as Muse, Faithless, Jeff Buckley, Coldplay, Nirvana, Stereophonics, Gorillaz and more, as well as his own originals, he relentlessly toured venues, corporate events, and festivals around the UK circuit and beyond.
Yet ironically it was this success which prevented him from creating as much new music as he would have liked, and gave him the sense that he had neglected his true passion- the craft of song writing. With such a packed schedule, and despite releasing a number of singles sporadically in the latter half of the 2010’s, it was difficult to find the time to sit and reflect on the shape his sophomore full length might take. That was until the pandemic when, like so many gigging musicians, he found himself with nothing but time.
With the lifeblood of live music staunched for an indeterminate number of months, Adam realised that once he was able to get out on the road again, he wanted to be promoting his own material, and began working in earnest on new songs. By the time Covid restrictions were partly lifted and he had the opportunity to play live again, he had most of an album of new tracks ready in demo form.
The majority of these early tracks picked up where ’Train Tracks’ left off, with Adam’s trademark high energy, rhythm led guitar playing and soaring vocals set to themes of hope and optimism, uplifting vignettes of sunshine- soaked days pursuing adventure exemplified by ‘Ocean’; Similarly ‘Mission to Mirissa’ tells the story of a surf trip to Sri Lanka, and the freedom discovered when all you have to focus on is catching that next wave.
The laid back, soulful groove of ‘Elevation,’ a song about using fear to propel yourself forward, takes his melodic alt rock style into new territory.
But life was about to throw him a challenge seemingly out of the blue. Through the summer of 2020, returning to the live music circuit, he began to notice his body struggling to keep up.
‘I was having more and more days over a 3 month period where strange things were happening; I was needing to spend whole days in bed, getting massive headaches from my neck to the middle of my head, and thought there was something wrong with my tooth. But the dentist couldn’t find anything wrong. And I was taking loads of painkillers, which almost definitely made things worse.’
He kept on living day- to- day life with these symptoms, hoping they would simply go away over time. Yet they only increased in intensity.
‘One time I was helping a friend move house, lifting boxes and furniture, driving up to the Lake District, and my whole hand cramped up so badly my partner Lucy had to pull my hand apart for me. And that’s a typical sign of kidney problems, though I didn’t know it at the time. Then eventually, another day I passed out on the sofa, and realised I should probably go to hospital. They did loads of blood tests, and a biopsy, and came back to tell me my kidneys were completely scarred, I was at stage 5, and I needed a transplant. But until a replacement kidney could be found, I would have to go on dialysis’.
The reason for his kidney failure was an auto immune condition called igA Nephropathy. It is a disease which progresses over 10 to 20 years, and can lead to end-stage renal failure, which is the point at which Adam found himself. The severity of the situation was immediately clear; without life- sustaining dialysis or a transplant, patients with stage 5 renal disease rarely live longer than a few weeks. There is no stage 6. Such a bleak diagnosis understandably led him, in the first few weeks, to a dark place.
‘It was pretty serious. And I started to think to myself, I’ve done some cool stuff, whatever happens… I’ve done ok…’
Once he got used to dialysis though, he realised that he could live with this new reality, and as he grew more comfortable with his routine, began uploading videos to document his journey back to health. What’s more, he also found that with this forced healing period, the biggest emotional and physical struggle he’d encountered in his life was also providing raw material for songs.
‘In many ways I’ve been lucky in my life, and maybe I’ve been sent some tough times to balance it out a bit. If life just floats along, what the hell are you going to write about?!’
This optimism and understated tenacity in the face of struggle is a characteristic which defines not only Adam himself, but the overall theme of his latest collection of songs. The songs that make up the remainder of the album deal overwhelmingly with the process of picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and carrying on through adversity, which has marked so much of Adam’s last year. Sonically they serve as a level change from the dynamic rock driven tracks written before his illness; a space for the listener to breathe and contemplate their own battles.
‘Got to keep it together…’ he repeats like a mantra in ‘Marching On’, which deals with putting a brave face on your pain. He finds further relatable territory in ‘Silver Lining’, in which he asserts that there is hope ‘even in the darkest place’, and the best solution is to ‘Wake up in the morning, live to fight another day’.
The new material is partly a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, but also a reminder of the beautiful aspects of life; days of endless sunshine; the feeling of sand between your toes in faraway places; the freedom and possibility of escape and adventure that we all, at times, forget to appreciate.
After all that he has been through, Adam has a reinvigorated sense of himself as an artist, and a new determination to prove to everyone, including himself, that he can set his sights firmly on achieving a fresh dream. Adding further to his hopefulness is the fact that when he gets back to touring, he will be backed by the band who originally embarked on recording and performing ’Train Tracks’ with him a decade ago – George Cooper (keys), Jules Reason (guitar), Alan Bray (bass), Craig Connet (drums) and Katy Isaac (backing vocals). He tentatively got in touch with each of them to see if they would come on board with the recording process, and to his delight they all agreed. ‘It was important to me that it was the same people. They’re all playing on the new songs, we all met and rehearsed and all went to the studio together, it felt very special.’ This solidarity from long time friends and collaborators only served to strengthen his refined sense of purpose.
‘Initially my goal was to make a living from making music in whatever shape or form. My new goal is to make a living from making my own music. I don’t think I was ready for that before.’
With focus firmly set on returning to touring in 2022, either side of the small matter of a kidney transplant, Adam is likely to inspire a great number of people with his new music, and the story of perseverance that inspired much of it. Just as the photo he took by a swimming pool epitomised the dream life he was living, and the one in a hospital bed symbolised his confrontation with death, so his new material is a snapshot of a journey back to living life in as full a way as possible, a journey which will be well worth documenting. One foot in front of the other.