12 Sep Seth Adam, Indie Rocker and Diehard DIY Dad, on Raising Girls and Building a Musical Legacy
by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Connecticut musician Seth Adam has collaborated with dozens of world-class artists like David Immerglück, but it’s clear that his happy place is in the solo realm.
On his latest record, Fits and Starts and Stops, Adam not only sings but plays pretty much every single rock instrument. He also runs his own podcast, and records, arranges, and produces his own music. He even built his own home studio in 2020 and 2021 — and with a toddler in tow.
At the risk of sounding old-timey, they don’t make musicians like Seth Adam anymore — individuals who live and breathe the DIY mentality. He credits his nineties upbringing for that one.
“In the ’90s there was a revolution going on … the Internet started coming into play, more people were making their own records, and launching their own record companies,” he tells Rockmommy. “Through the years and experiences and not liking having to depend on people, I tried to take the bull by the horn and tried to do as many things as I could on my own.”
So far, it seems to be working. His fourth studio record, Fits and Starts and Stops — out now on Bandcamp in CD format (and October 7 on streaming services) — is masterfully played and executed, mixing Seth’s progressive, social justice views with a melange of sounds and styles. The record is 99% a solo effort, with a little help from friends — David Keith’s drums for ‘The Trouble I’ve Been In,’ and a couple of guitar solos by Jeff Burnham and Gerry Giaimo.
The interplay between acoustic strums and a twangy, spaghetti western-style guitar riff offers a poignant-yet-cool counterpoint to the angry “The Blood, It Runs” about politicians and guns; while “Fraud” is loud and raucous, with searing electric guitars and an alt-country-meets-hard-rock vibe. Seth’s signature coffeehouse-singer style, a staple of his earlier solo releases, comes through in tracks like “Out of Touch,” which kind of reminds me of The Gin Blossoms.
Lyrically, Fits and Starts and Stops is so refreshing because it is so brave. Songs like “Pages” offer a timely diss of hypocritical religious zealots, while others — like the aforementioned “The Blood, It Runs,” as well as “Vermin” — are a rallying cry against the corrupt politicians and power structures.
We recently caught up with Adam, who lives in Hamden, Conn., with his wife and two young daughters (ages 5 and four months old) to learn more.
Rockmommy: I love your bio: You pretty much lay it all out there. Were you born with a DIY ethos? Or did you learn the hard way that you had to be self-sufficient?
Seth Adam: I think the times I grew up in dictated how I had to become. I was born in 1976 and saw what the 1980s brought in with how the music industry works, with a lot of gatekeepers, a lot of schmoozing, a lot of payola. In the ’90s, there was a revolution going on with Dave Matthews, Ani DiFranco and all these hardcore DIY bands. With the Internet coming into play, more people were making their own records, and their own record companies. Mighty Purple was a huge example of that, bypassing the conventional system. I remember one time showcasing for Sony, and being told, ‘you wear your hat a little too low, so they can’t see your face.’ and I was like, ‘what does that have to do with music?’ So just through the years and experiences and not liking having to depend on people, I tried to take the bull by the horn and tried to do as many things as I could on my own.
Rockmommy: I remember, you built a studio during the [early] pandemic! While people like me were learning to use their PAs, you were 10 steps ahead of that!
Seth Adam: It’s definitely a huge help for sure.
Rockmommy: How long did that take?
Seth Adam: Off and on, it took about 8 or 9 months. We moved to Hamden in early summer of 2019, and I started cleaning the basement over that winter, and by the time the pandemic hit, I was in full cleaning mode, aligning things up, and then construction started that summer, and I wrapped it up in April 2021. So it actually took me about a year.
Rockmommy: What were the ’90s like for you musically?
Seth Adam: My upbringing was a lot of my dad’s music — Elvis Presley, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash. In the 80s, when I was young and impressionable, I was really into Motley Crue and Poison, Warrant and Skid Rowe and all that stuff. And then when the 90s came, I was kind of like, ‘who are these bands? I hate Nirvana! Counting Crows? That’s garbage! What happened was, because I was into the hair metal, I got into progressive metal stuff, like Metallica. So when the nineties stuff came out, I was like, ‘this is simpleton crap!’
In the 1990s, I gravitated toward Dave Matthews because of the musicianship, and I really liked Pearl Jam because of the energy and they still had guitar solos in their music. It took me a while — Counting Crows, for example, I hated. I was like, ‘Dream Theater! Queensrÿche! Rush!’ And then I remember, right after I graduated from high school, I grabbed my sister’s copy of August and Everything After, and I put it on just for the hell of it, and I read the lyrics, and I was like ‘oh my god! this guy is writing everything I feel!’ I went from hating them two hours earlier to thinking, ‘this band is the best thing since sliced bread!’
Looking back on it, what a time to be alive and appreciating music! You had Anthrax and Public Enemy making records, Megadeth and Metallica are breaking through, Arrested Development is huge, A Tribe Called Quest are huge — the doors blew open wide!
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Rockmommy: Let’s talk about your music, and how it’s changed over the years. Tell me about your evolution! How did you come to find yourself? The first track off your latest album, “Fraud,” is super rock and roll, whereas earlier material had a more coffeehouse vibe.
Seth Adam: In 2013, I put out a record called Steel Temper Pride, and it was my first record with a bunch of different players on it. I put it out [solo], but I didn’t have a solid band to promote it with — there were always piecemeal players. It drove me nuts. After some time of drinking too much dealing with that chaos, I started woodshedding with my guitar, accidentally got into the looping thing, and in 2014 I was just like, ‘you know what? I’m just going to do it myself! I’m not going to depend on a band anymore.’ Having said that, the new album, Fits and Starts and Stops, is a reflection of that attitude, ‘since I don’t have a band anymore, I don’t have to worry about pleasing anybody else in a band. I don’t have to go, ‘are you guys cool with playing this song?’ Whatever I put out on the record is what I want. It’s a very freeing feeling.
Rockmommy: You are also a vocal advocate for political and social change. Do you see artists as having a responsibility to inspire others to do better?
Seth Adam: I think there are a lot of people who feel the same way but are apprehensive about expressing it because they don’t want to jeopardize their career or their fledgling career in music. And that’s fine, but to put it bluntly, I don’t give a shit. There’s one life to live. I don’t know what it is inside me, but I need to say the things that need to be said. It’s fine if other people don’t want to do that, but I need to do it. I want to be an advocate for positive change, and if I alienate myself in that process, that’s the risk I take.
Rockmommy: If it’s wrong, you need to say something.
Seth Adam: I want to be an ally. I have about 7 or 8 songs like that on Fits and Starts and Stops hitting a range of different issues. There’s a song [on the new record] called “Pages,” which I wrote from the perspective of being an ally for the LGBTQ community, from the framework of saying, “screw you” to those I consider fake Christians who come down on LGTBQ folks, and using Christianity to justify hatred.
Rockmommy: What’s it like being married to a musician? What would your wife say about being married to you?
Seth Adam: [laughs] I’m moody, temperamental. My wife would say I’m my own worst critic, for sure, but I’m also someone who’s passionate, empathetic, and caring.
Rockmommy: Do either of your girls play music with you?
Seth Adam: My oldest just turned 5 and once in a while she’ll break out her ‘guitar’ and we’ll jam a little bit and we’ll make up songs. She seems to be more drawn into visual art, which makes me happy, because I graduated as a graphic designer. My other daughter is only four months old but she seems really in tune with music, so far. I’ll play her a song, and if it stops she’ll start crying. I had Elton John on the TV the other day, and she likes to look at the screen and listen to the music.
Rockmommy: What’s the best part about being a dad of young daughters, and the hardest?
Seth Adam: Strangely enough, the hardest and best part both have to do with them being females. I’m getting a different perspective on what it’s like to be a woman in this world. When the decision came down from the Supreme Court on June 24, I was horrified because that has reverberations that could eventually affect my daughters.It affects me on a lot of different levels. But I also I love having two little girls. To say I love them more than life is an understatement, and it makes me very protective of them. I know they have the potential to be trailblazers. I think women have the potential to be creators, and leaders and catalysts in their field, to break down the misogyny in a male-dominated world. I always say, we would be better off if our next president was a woman, and if we have more women in leadership
‘Fits and Starts and Stops’ is available now on Seth’s Bandcamp page (hard copy CD only), and on streaming sites on October 7.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.