Music/Popular Culture

TunesDay: daylight kissing night

My old friend Adam Marsland has just released Daylight Kissing Night: Adam Marsland’s Greatest Hits, a greatest hits collection that draws from the best of both his solo and Cockeyed Ghost efforts, and boy howdy, am I jacked. If you don’t already know Adam’s music, let’s go ahead and get the triangulation out of the way. He’s kinda like a modern-day cross between Elton John, Brian Wilson, KISS and Todd Rundgren, with a dash of Elvis Costello, Raspberries, Big Star and Foo Fighters sprinkled in for good measure.

And now, for my favorite Adam Marsland moment. A few years back he was playing a solo show at a little place up in the Denver Highlands neighborhood. For his first set he played mostly his own tunes, and when he came back out for the second set he announced that we were going to play Stump the Band. People began shouting out songs, and one after another Adam nailed them. I decided to have a little fun, as I’m wont to do after a couple of fine Colorado microbrews. So I yelled out “play ‘I Touch Myself!'” (I trust you’re all familiar with the ’80s Divinyls classic ode to the art of self-pleasurement?)

Adam didn’t miss a beat. Didn’t crack a smile. Reacted like he got that request every night. And just drilled it. I laughed so hard I nearly fell out of my chair, and I still get the giggles just thinking about it.

Adam is taking an unusual approach to promoting the new disc. It’s being offered at a really low price – around $6 – and he’s calling everybody he knows in a bid to generate some viral. This is a campaign that’s seriously driven by word-of-mouth, and so far it seems to be doing really well – as in, debuting in the top 40 at Amazon. That’s not bad, huh?

Adam was kind enough to take a few minutes to field some TunesDay questions about his music and the new disc.

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S&R: Your new album, Daylight Kissing Night: Adam Marsland’s Greatest Hits came out of nowhere and charted at #35 on Amazon. How did that happen, and were you surprised at that?

Adam: Of course. I had a sense it would do better than expected, because besides the Dennis and Carl Wilson tribute CD, I hadn’t had an album in the retail chain in a long time…I just sold them at shows and on my website. So from the industry’s perspective, I didn’t have any fan base at all. An indie artist hitting Amazon’s Top 40 best selling albums, though, is pretty rare without some kind of push or exposure. It was the first time in a long time I was able to really focus and get the word out to fans, and they responded in a big way. So it was pure people power.

S&R: You also priced the album at $6, for 20 songs. That didn’t hurt.

Adam: No, it didn’t. A lot of people bought multiple copies, although that’s not what drove the Amazon ranking because they don’t count it that way. But fans bought them to share with people, which is what I hoped they’d do, because word-of-mouth is the only thing that really matters. Hopefully some people will get it out of curiosity because it’s a good value.

S&R: After your record company went bankrupt, you toured alone for several years. Two of your best albums went mostly unnoticed because they weren’t promoted except through your live shows. Do you regret deciding to go DIY and ignore the music industry?

Adam: No. The record company thing was fairly ugly, and I made a decision that though I wasn’t afraid of fame, that wasn’t why I got into music. I wanted to do music that I liked and through that, become a better person and player. And you don’t get that by running around trying to look like a rock star and worrying about pleasing a label…you get that by playing 70 one nighters in a row. That’s how the old soul guys did it; that’s how the Beatles did it. That’s a lot of the reason those guys are so great.

S&R: And you’ve now performed with a lot of those legends yourself…Al Jardine from the Beach Boys, (legendary ’60s session musicians) Hal Blaine and Don Randi, and (’70s pop star) Evie Sands is actually a member of your band…

Adam: Crazy, right? The thing I love most about those people it’s not about ego for them. They just love to play. Evie’s been in the business 40 years, has had three hit singles…and she just shows up three times in a week for rehearsal, plugs in the guitar, and plays. And she’ll play some punk dive and have a blast. Because that’s what she likes to do.

S&R: You’ve been compared to classic rock artists like Elton John, The Beach Boys, and Joe Jackson. Do you consider your music “classic rock”?

Adam: I don’t, but my first exposure to that term was radio stations playing the same four Eagles and Led Zeppelin song over and over, and that’s just…ugh. I’m not sure it means the same thing now. My music has wandered all over the place, from punk to pop to country, but I’m interested in a good melody and honesty. The music is sometimes elaborate, and the lyrics can get pretty dense, but the feeling is really straightforward. So maybe that’s what classic rock means now. I don’t know.

S&R: Speaking of talented people, how do you feel about your friends from The Wondermints backing Brian Wilson, or your old Negro Problem bandmate Stew opening on Broadway with “Passing Strange?” Does that make you jealous, or proud?

Adam: It inspires me. Maybe ten years ago I might have been jealous, because when you want something and you’re not ready for it, you can never see that you’re not ready. It’s been amazing to see friends like Stew, or Darian, or Rivers Cuomo go on to become exactly what they’re destined to be. And you realize you wouldn’t trade places with them, because it’s their path, not yours. And yours is just getting started.
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It’s never been harder for truly talented artists to cultivate enough of an audience to make a living on, and Adam is about as talented as they come. I heartily recommend that you get your ears on some of his music, and if you like what you hear buy a CD or three and share them with people you like.

In the meantime, here are a couple video clips to whet your appetite. First, here’s his Chaos Band performing “The Fates Cry Foul” from his Cockeyed Ghost days.

And we’ll close with “Other Than Me” from his 2004 solo CD, You Don’t Know Me.

Feel free to explore – there’s more here.

And now I’m off to buy some CDs for people I owe favors. Happy TunesDay, everybody….

5 replies »

  1. Steely Dan is another in that list of people he blends into his sound. That, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing

    Excellent stuff…off to find more….

  2. This new “greatest hits” CD is terrific. I highly recommend it for anyone new to Adam’s music and for us “older” fans. Really brilliant selections of his work and with some new updates on several tunes. Also, if you get the chance to catch him live, do so! You won’t regret it.

  3. Steve: I second that live recommendation. Adam is not only a really talented performer, he’s engaging and funny. The live show is a must.

  4. Thanks for the piece on Adam, who has been one of my heroes for several years. Rather than bemoan the fragmentation of the industry and the ineptitude of labels and radio, he sacked up and did something about it. It’s one thing to whine about change day after day after day, but it’s another thing altogether to pack that conviction into a van and hit the road. Godspeed Adam and those like him who put their moxie where their mouths are, let alone their money. (And mine, by the way! Great music!)