We’re all just normal people, until suddenly we’re not.
Sammy Adams knows firsthand what this feels like.
After the wildly successful release of his EP, Boston’s Boy, which reached the top spot on Apple Music in 2010, Adams was thrust from relative anonymity into superstardom.
This took him on a path that included touring North America to promote his music, and within two years he was recording a song with global sensation Enrique Iglesias.
That track, “Finally Found You,” has since amassed over 118 million views on YouTube.
For a guy like Adams, he never envisioned that level of success when he began mixing music in his dorm room back in college, but here he is over a decade later, his career at a different juncture, but his impact just as profound.
“They were wild,” Adams says when I ask him to describe these last ten-plus years. “I was naïve in 2010, 2011, and a lot of that stems from having a passion for music and songwriting. I never wanted to pigeonhole myself into a certain lane because those types of things can fuck your career up.”
“I was mindful of how I entered the industry because hip-hop was extremely competitive, to the point where you were a fish-in-a-barrel, and I didn’t want to be a part of that. I really like the storytelling and songwriting aspect of hip-hop, but a lot of the politics that went on didn’t make any sense.”
It’s no secret that the music industry has its fair share of malignant personalities, whether that be suspect producers or ruthless studio heads who will do anything to make sure their pockets become inflated off the backs of young artists.
Adams has seen it all, and while he will be the first to admit that the industry is not without its issues, it also gave him a platform to develop both as a musician and a public figure.
Says Adams of his meteoric rise:
“None of us expected that. It happened, and it was great. We did our due diligence and played shows all along the east coast, and built a fanbase that was true to us.”
“Now, in 2021, it’s crazy because I’ve worked my ass off to stay in music and do what I love. It’s hard to be a musician and pay your bills.”
“It’s been a bit of luck, and a bit of skill to be in the position that I am in, but looking back, if you were to tell me I’d be in this position, I would have said that’s bullshit, there’s no way.”
For me, I was exposed to Adams’ music in summer 2013, back when “All Night Longer” was captivating college campuses and dive bars across the country.
Over the next few years, I fell out of touch with Sammy Adams’ music, life’s evolution and YouTube algorithms leading me toward different experiences and artists.
It wasn’t until 2017 that I reconnected with Adams’ art while planning a small tour for my debut book, The Long Road North.
I found Adams’ latest single, “Overboard,” and from there I watched three separate videos that encapsulated his latest jaunt across America.
The behind-the-scenes look into Adams’ tour was intriguing, to the extent that it inspired me to document my journey in similar fashion.
“I had seen how candid you were with your tour, and I wanted to do the same thing with mine. Granted, the stuff you do is on a much bigger scale than I do, but it was still cool how your music came back into my life,” I tell Adams.
Let’s not get it twisted:
While Adams’ tour bus was being bombarded with attractive young ladies, I was cozying up in local bookstores with women old enough to be my mom.
Yet, for as much praise as I bestow upon Adams, he is just as humble to remind me that every moment has its impact, regardless of how many people are in attendance.
“You have to remember, there is a downside to touring,” Adams says. “It’s always a competition and you’re selling tickets. That’s a lot different than playing at a college because they’re inevitably going to have 2,500-3,000 kids, depending on what schools you play at.”
“And I feel like with a book tour there is more pressure because you have an audience that’s dialed in, and people aren’t going to a Borders to get faded,” he adds.
Adams then notes how historically, smaller and more intimate venues have proven to be his most rewarding shows because of the relationship he is able to develop with his fans.
“They [smaller shows] are the ones we prepare for the most, simply because we have to nail them,” he says.
I tell Adams the grass is always inevitably greener because while he emphasizes the fact that more intimate shows have their place, my ego is still committed to believing that having droves of attractive young women clamoring for my attention would trump any intellectual stimulation that may be derived from a modest gathering inside a Barnes & Noble.
“They were awesome,” I say in describing my feelings toward past book events, “but it wasn’t like we were going to go party after I signed a couple books. There are no groupies coming to see an unknown author.”
Adams and I share a laugh, and then I ask him how a man like himself is compensated in 2021, sans concerts, merchandise booths, scantily clad sorority girls, and enough meet-and-greets to make even the most social musician clamor for the comforts of their tour bus.
“In general, creating music, writing music for other people, demoing songs. It comes from past hits. It comes from songs that you pen and features you do,” Adams reveals, then mentioning how a transformative event in his past changed the way he viewed his career.
“I broke my neck and almost died, so I took a year off and it was the most necessary thing ever because I was too stressed out and worried about what was going to fall into place. Trying to put food on the table for your loved ones and the people who have been your homies since day one is a stressful thing, so I started to branch out to where I now have a platform on Apple Music and will hopefully get my own show this year, which has helped solidify my place in the industry.”
At 33 years of age, Adams is no longer the same artist he was when he initially burst onto the music scene, but he has accumulated an immense amount of knowledge throughout the years.
He mentions how he is now better suited to deal with the fame that comes from being in the spotlight, and the more he reflects on his career, the more apparent it is that Adams has matured not only as an artist, but also as a person.
“It was a whirlwind experience, and there was no way around that,” Adams says in describing the peak of his success, a time where no matter how limitless the possibilities were, they still didn’t distract him from the type of person he had always been.
“In terms of my interactions with women, it went from 0 to 100 real quick, which was cool, but my crew is very respectful. Everyone, from my tour manager, down to the guy who does merch and works harder than anyone on the bus, was a very good person. If there was ever a moment on tour when someone did something that was out of line, they were out, and this was before cancel culture and all of that.”
With so many people working toward achieving notoriety in an American culture that is obsessed with status and clout, I then ask Adams what he feels are some of the other misconceptions surrounding fame and popularity.
“A lot of it depends on what you revel in. If you love fame, you might not be cut out for the music industry because the mood ebbs and flows. If you take criticism on social media to heart, it won’t bode well for your career. If you become an angry sycophant because you lost a little bit of juice, shut up, get back in the studio and make some music,” Adams says.
He adds that through all the undulation he has experienced, there is no place he would rather be than the present, a stage in his career that promises nothing, yet still allows him the chance to evolve and continue to pursue his personal definition of what it means to be successful.
“I know how it feels for people to think you’re dope one minute, and then the next they’re wondering where you went,” he says.
“I could care less because I’ve already gone beyond what I thought I would be capable of doing. I’m very thankful and grateful of the fact that I’ve gotten to this point.”
Unfortunately, not every artist reaches this level of bliss, and for Adams, it’s easy to see why.
“A lot of the time, people don’t talk about how many drugs, how much drinking, and how much messed up stuff happens on tour. Everyone on my team is sober now after touring for seven years straight. There is some really damaging stuff that happens on tour, and you don’t even see it with your own eyes.”
But that’s not to suggest that Adams has suspended his desire to get back on the road once the world reacquires a sense of normalcy. In fact, he still has big plans for 2021, in whatever capacity the music industry may look like.
“With the current state of the music industry, a lot of it has to do with how people see your music, and that’s the only thing I really care about. If I love a song, I want to put it out, but I also want to have a really good rollout and have good PR.”
“This next release is going to be different because I just signed a new management team whose up on what it takes to get a rollout past your release radar numbers for the first week,” he shares, the excitement in his voice palpable as he prepares for this next chapter.
Here’s the thing:
After ten years, we all change.
For Sammy Adams, whether 2021 proves to be the beginning of the end, or a return to past glory, there is no denying that he has already left an indelible mark not only on the music industry, but also everyone he has met along the way. QS
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