10 Questions with ... Adam Craig
August 14, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Stoney Creek Records newcomer Adam Craig certainly isn't new to Nashville. The Washington native has spent the past twelve years in Nashville songwriting; you might know some of his cuts, including Parmalee's "Close Your Eyes," Love and Theft's "Whiskey On My Breath," Jason Aldean's "Church Pew Or Bar Stool," and many more. Craig recently released his debut single, "Reckon," as he continues to embark on radio tour. Craig sat down with All Access to discuss how he found his niche in the Nashville songwriting scene, how his label deal with BBR Music Group came about, and more.
1. You've been in the songwriting scene a while - you wrote Parmalee's "Close Your Eyes," Jason Aldean's "Church Pew Or Bar Stool," and Love and Theft's "Whiskey On My Breath," to name a few. Did you ever consider focusing solely on being a writer and letting the "mailbox money" roll in, or did you always have the desire to be on stage?
I always had the desire to be on stage. This is always something that has been such a dream. People like me and people from where I'm from - this doesn't happen to you - to have this dream and to work on it for so long and finally have it come true. There were tough times, definitely. There were a few times where I told myself, "Alright, you've been here for eight years and nothing has happened, so just be prepared for the cold hard truth." But there was always that voice like, "No man. I've got to keep going. I've got to keep making it." I remember one of the craziest points of that, I was home for Christmas one year and I had seen my nieces and nephew. I remembered that night I was back at my mom's house, and I said, "Gosh dang, I've been gone for a long time! In the last however many years, I've seen you twice a year. Holy smokes this is crazy!" And my mom said, "Well, God gave you the voice. It's your obligation to work as hard as you can to make sure that you can share it with as many people as possible." In my head I was like, "Mom you're supposed to say like, 'Yeah, you should move home,'" but she said, "No! Keep going! It's going to work! You just have to keep working hard, keep being a good person, and keep going." That's all the fuel that I needed. Two years later I got a record deal. It's always been a dream. It's always been a passion. I feel so blessed and happy that it has happened. It was shortly after this conversation that I ended up getting a deal. I didn't tell anybody I had that meeting [with BBR Music Group.] I was so tired of having to tell people that it didn't work out. I was like, "I'm never telling anybody about meetings ever again!"
2. How did the deal with BBR Music Group come about?
They had been so good to me as a songwriter. Jason Aldean had cut two songs, and then Dustin Lynch and Parmalee. They all cut a song very close to each other in time. I remember I was writing with my buddy Ash Bowers that used to be an artist over there. During one of our writing sessions, I found out that I was getting the Parmalee single with the song "Close Your Eyes." He said to me, "Dude, these guys are being pretty good to you. Do you want to just go over there and meet them and hang out?" I said, "Yeah, I want to go over there and say thank you for cutting my songs." We got done writing that day and I was on the drive home, and he called, saying, "Hey, I hope you don't mind, but I just called Benny, the head of Broken Bow, and he said to just come on by." I think we went in the next day, and that's when I sat down and shook everybody's hand and said thank you for cutting my songs. Then I ended up sitting down and playing a few songs. Next thing I know, a week later I was offered a record deal. It was unbelievable.
3. How did you know that BBR Music Group was the right fit for you?
I remember Lila McCann was doing a Country Radio Seminar (CRS). At that time I didn't really know what CRS was; I just thought, "Hey here's a huge party that's a week long. Like, alright let's go!" I remember it used to be at the Renaissance Hotel, and I was going up the first escalator and I saw - I was in love with - Lila McCann because she was from Washington as well. She had brought me up on stage and sang a song for me one time, and I thought, "She's the best ever!" So I go up these stairs and see, "Lila McCann, Broken Bow Records." Then this new guy's video - Jason Aldean's "Hicktown" - is playing on a flat screen TV outside the doors. I remember going in there and these people were very nice to me. They gave me these purple Broken Bow cups that I still have. There was something about it where I realized, "Oh my gosh. I want to be on Broken Bow Records." It's just serendipitous. It's the most bizarre thing that eleven years later - or whatever it is now - I'm on one of the imprints. Something about it always felt good. For them to give me a chance, I will never forget it and I will never take it for granted. I will never not work as hard as I possibly can for them.
4. Going back to the very beginning, when was it that you decided you wanted to pursue music?
I fell in love with Country music in the class of 1989 - Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, and all of that. I fell in love with Country then, but in 1994 I fell in love with an artist and tried to just emulate Tim McGraw. Every single thing that he did, I was like, "Oh my God! This is the coolest thing ever!" He was my favorite for years. I remember in 2000 or 2001, I saw Keith Urban, and I thought, "Oh my God! A front man can be a guitar player." And so that's when everything changed. I started my band, and everything started really falling into place musically. I was really excited about playing every single night - for no money, and nobody was there ever. I probably knew when I was in high school that I wanted to do this.
Who was the first person to tell you that you had talent?
Oh, my mom! Big time. My mom would say, "Dang, kid, you can sing!" All the way from when I was a young kid, every time we'd get in the car we'd sing. We'd always sing with the radio. But yeah, in high school, it was like, things have changed now. This is getting pretty weird. It got serious then.
So did you mainly listen to radio growing up, then?
Yeah, definitely radio first and foremost. Then, it was the Walkman. It was essentially just radio, because I remember whenever the Top 40 Countdown was on, you'd have to sit with the radio and your tape and hit play and record at the same time when the songs would start. Yeah, we made a ton of mixtapes. I should try to find some of those. That'd be a blast from the past.
5. What sparked you to leave Tenino, WA and come to Nashville?
I was in my first or second year of college and there was a professor there that was friends with a producer in Nashville that was from the same hometown. Evidently, this professor had told the producer about what I was doing, so he came out and saw me play. He said, "Look, you can write pretty well for an 18-year old. You just need to move to Nashville. You've got to be present to win." I quit school. I quit everything and moved to Nashville. Essentially it was when I had someone from Nashville say, "You have something." So it was my first or second year of college. I threw deuces to the west coast and drove to Nashville.
6. For a while you had The Adam Craig Band. You had singles, EPs, you toured, etc. Did you ever consider pursuing your artist career as part of a band without a major label deal?
Yeah, we had done it for so long. I had always been in a band. I just love the camaraderie of being in a band. Most of the guys that were in that band are still here. Now with a deal, we're just like, "Here we go!" Everyone is recharged and ready to rock. But yeah, we tried. We tried and tried and tried again. I remember we were doing 280 dates per year for years. It was just one of those things like, "If we get it this way, heck yeah! If we go and try and get one the label way, okay. As long as we're playing music this way, let's go!"
7. Now you've been here 12 years in Nashville writing songs. Do you have a set songwriting process?
Not necessarily a process, but I definitely have a group of people that have become the process. It's so funny when you first move here and you hear about all these huge, huge songwriters and none of them will give you the time of day. None of them will write with you because you're new. You write with every single person that will get in a room with you, and then, furthermore, you find the people that you click with. There are three things that happen: you're going to have a good time, you're going to write a good song, or hopefully you have a great time and write a good song. You start whittling away who you are doing those things with, and then you have your own little circle. It is so cool to see so many of my buddies - we were all the same class of '04, '05, and '06 - and now to see how great they're doing as songwriters. Now people are moving to Nashville saying, "I want to write with Jon Nite and Matt Rogers and Ash Bowers." It's just really cool that now our circle has finally made a little headway into landing a record. My process is just getting into the room with the buddies that I've written with for so long. We know each other so well and we know what we do. That is my process.
How long did it take you to find that group that you really love writing with?
Some of them, it was the first time writing with them. I remember the first time I wrote with Matt Rogers and Casey Timmer. It had to be 2005 or 2006, and we just hit it off. Some of those guys - Michael Howard and Josh Thompson - I think one of the first songs we wrote was "Church Pew or Bar Stool," and that was on the Jason Aldean record. I think that was September 2nd, 2005. I had just been here a year. It was crazy! Others, it took five or six years to find them. It all varies.
8. Your first single, "Reckon," was released to radio on August 8th. Can you tell us about the background behind the song and what made you decide that this is the single you wanted to go with?
I had a song meeting with [BBR Music Group Owner/CEO] Benny Brown - that's the process when picking songs and albums. You go in with the head of the label, Benny Brown, and he's brilliant. He has brilliant ears. I remember we were going through a bunch of songs that I had written. We picked a few of them to go record, and he said, "Hey! I've actually got one more song that I want you to hear." He started playing it and right off the bat I heard the four on the floor bass drum playing, and I said, "Okay, this is already cool. I like it." Then I heard the voice, and it was one of my closest friends, Randy Montana, singing. I was like, "Dude. Woah. Hell yeah I love this song!" It's about a breakup, but it's fun sounding. I knew that he wrote it with my producer Derek George, so I texted Derek right then. I said, "Is 'Reckon' available? What's going on with this?" He was like, "Yeah, it's not on hold, so put it on hold." I got through the first verse - and the four on the floor - and then the chorus hits, and it does a halftime thing, which is such a cool take on the song production-wise. I was in love with it the first time I heard it. I told Benny, "Yes, please! I would love to cut that." So Benny got a smile on his face and started calling the publishers right then. We cut it and then turned it back in. We had singles two, three, and four, but we wanted our first single to be something special. Benny was like, "How do you feel about 'Reckon?" I said, "I love 'Reckon' for the first single!" We are coming in hot now!
Where do you think your music fits sonically in the Country landscape?
Here's what I like to think it is; I don't know that this is the most correct description. I love '90s Country so much and so much of that was stories. One of my favorite songs ever - just the melody and everything - is Brooks & Dunn's "She Used To Be Mine." Also "I Don't Love You Anymore," by Travis Tritt and "I Didn't Ask, She Didn't Say" by Tim McGraw. I mean, I just loved all of these essentially break-up songs. There are so many breakup songs, and they have the most brilliant melodies! Those are the kind of songs that I love. I love writing those songs and I love singing those songs. I would hope that [my music] would be almost a 90s Country flavor with new sonic sounds. I don't know if it's the most accurate, but that's how I like to think of it: 90s Country with new sounds and instrumentation.
9. How familiar were you with how radio tour works before this promo tour?
I have been lucky enough to be in a room with great artists. I've heard so many stories throughout the year of people talking about radio tour and the grueling process and the driving in a car all day. Flying four times a day. I'm like, "There's no way... they're blowing it out of proportion." But then actually doing it, it's exactly that. You leave your hotel at 8 or 8:30 in the morning and get back at midnight in some town two states over. It is awesome! You get to see everything. You get to play your songs at least three times a day and meet all these great people. It's been such a cool process to actually be the one singing the songs now. I love hearing my songs on the radio like when Parmalee was singing. It was so amazingly cool to be the one singing them now.
10. What is one thing you were most surprised about radio tour going through on your own?
How nice all of the radio people are. They're just all very young, hip people. I go grab beers with all of them. They're all such good people. They're nice as can be. I don't know. I guess hearing horror stories from other people that I've been buddies with, I'm like, "Man, I'm not seeing it. I love it." I am very thankful for this process. I only have a few more weeks of it. I can't wait to now get back out and play live band shows for these places and get in front of all their listeners and just play some songs for them.
1. Aside from the new single, what else is on the horizon or you? What can we expect from Adam Craig?
I am just excited to get the single going and trying to get as many people listening to it as possible! Then I want to expose them to the rest of the stuff. We've recorded twenty songs for this album. We have the EP that's out on iTunes, but I definitely want to get back to every single place that we've been to and play a big show for them and let them hear the rest of the music. I want to meet everybody and hang out. I just can't wait to do more shows!
2. What comes first, the lyric or the melody?
It all depends. Every single time I hear some sort of song idea or a line, I'll write it in my phone. So if I feel like I have a great idea for a song, I'll bring it in the next day or that next morning. I'll have an idea lyrically of where it's going to go, just to build to the hook. Other times, we'll get into a room, and I'll say, "I don't know what this is, but listen to this melody," and we'll start doing that. We'll ask, "What does that feel like?" and we'll write from there. It really depends on what comes first - the chicken or the egg.