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Interview: Adeem the Artist Discusses Queer Country, ‘Anniversary’ and Talking to Ghosts

June 25, 2024 4:39 pm GMT

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Hot on the heels of dropping their widely lauded third studio album, Anniversary, Adeem the Artist sat down with Holler to delve into the inspiration behind the vibrant, eclectic project, as well as touching on their unique brand of Queer Country.

Adeem has established themselves as one of the most interesting voices to emerge in country's alternative scene in recent years, with the North Carolina singer-songwriter drawing acclaim for their probing 2022 record, White Trash Revelry.

Anniversary builds on the sound that underpinned White Trash Revelry, while undoubtedly venturing into uncharted territory thematically. They have never shied away from getting personal - if anything, Adeem relishes their musical outlet as a medium through which they can prod and poke at the topics other artists steer clear of. But even so, Anniversary finds Adeem at their most intimate yet.

The Anniversary rollout was launched with the infectious lead single, ‘One Night Stand’, which Adeem describes as ‘the Gay 90's Country Bop you didn't know you needed’. The bittersweet track finds Adeem regaling the listener with a tale of unrequited love (“He wants a one night stand / I want a life full of nights with him”).

Nonetheless, it's unquestionably a feel-good track, one that has quickly become a fan-favourite. Although describing it as a deeply down-to-earth story, the creative process behind ‘One Night Stand’ had more supernatural origins, as Adeem explains; “Sometimes I commune with ghosts and they tell me secrets. This one was one of them. It’s just kind of an unreleased song from the 90’s that would’ve never made the cut. It’s interesting looking at Queerness as it exists in the culture because the 90’s feel so recent, but when Darren Hayes, a pop singer, came out? It ruined his career in the States”, before expanding, “I am the original Cast Iron Pansexual - I feel like it’s expected I bring the Queer Country goods”.

Adeem nods to their debut studio album in 2021, Cast Iron Pansexual, which largely served as their mission statement. Like Cast Iron Pansexual, Anniversary - endearingly timed to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of their marriage - consists of a beautifully balanced combination of uptempo, fuller offerings and more stripped-back numbers, epitomised on ‘Rotations’ and ‘Wounded Astronaut’.

“That came pretty naturally”, Adeem muses, “There are a lot of heavy topics on this record - and just in the world - and I try to approach them as light-heartedly as possible. It’s important to me to not bludgeon folks but to give space for the full spectrum; moments of reflection, pacing through the dense brush so as to not overwhelm”.

They go on to reflect on the quality of the musicians they were working with throughout the Anniversary sessions, which took place over the course of five days at Nashville's Butcher Shop studio, “We had just a great group of players. Ellen Angellico is a dear friend who has long been a phenomenal collaborator. We also had Megan Coleman on drums, Jessye DeSilva on keys, Nelson Williams on bass and Butch Walker. Each individual was so naturally in tune with what each song needed that it was easy to just fall back on their sensibilities too”.

Given the fact that Anniversary pivots around Adeem the Artist's personal life and marriage, and the condensed time period within which the project was put together, it seems many of the songs flowed out of a state of both intense creativity and clarity as to what Adeem was hoping to communicate. Anniversary is not a concept album in the same way that Cast Iron Pansexual and White Trash Revelry were, but it's still tied together by a unifying thread.

“These songs just kind of found their way into this state and narrative by way of entropy”, Adeem reveals, “I didn’t have a theme at the start. A lot of this record was cobbled together from snapshots of my life, my marriage, my family, my mental illness”.

They qualify this by underlining, “Cast Iron and White Trash were both such fully realized conceptual art pieces that had so many specific narrative points and intersection moments of shame and celebration. Over the course of those two years, I found myself decontextualized entirely and relegated to meme-hood in so many ways”.

What makes Anniversary especially satisfying is the way in which Adeem the Artist's personality and voice shines through each track. There is no flitting between characters or stepping into the shoes of another protagonist - Anniversary is pure, unfiltered Adeem, with the ‘Socialite Blues’ crooner wrapping their evocative narrative in a soundscape coloured by Piedmont Blues and classic country.

Adeem summarises the driving force behind Anniversary, “I think in hindsight, it’s clear to see this record as a sort of rumination on the human heart behind the artist costume”.

In the coming months, Adeem the Artist has a busy summer schedule, one that's packed with a slew of momentous shows supporting Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit as well as a handful of high-profile festival appearances, including a set at The Long Road Festival across The Pond. Can fans expect to hear a range of Anniversary tracks as part of their setlist? Adeem affirms, “Absolutely, we just gotta! But no spoilers!”

Either way - as Anniversary highlights - Adeem the Artist's burgeoning fanbase has a lot to look forward to, with an album's worth of new music to soundtrack their year and a plethora of blockbuster tour-stops lined up, Adeem continues to establish themselves at the forefront of alt-country and Americana's next wave of artists.

For more on Adeem the Artist, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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