Songwriter ADAM WATTS has had a top 20 US hit but discerning buffs shouldn't ignore his own debut album, as Tony Cummings reports.
In February this year a haunting piece of American pop, "Beautiful Soul" by Jesse McCartney, made 16 in Billboard's mainstream charts. It was co-written and produced by Adam Watts, a well established figure in CCM who has already co-produced three highly successful Jeremy Camp albums 'Stay', 'Carried Me' and 'Restored'. Adam's own solo album 'The Noise Inside', although not enjoying such big sales, did ensure that this singer, songwriter, record producer, recording engineer and drummer picked up critical plaudits. He was even named one of the Top Ten New Artists In Contemporary Christian Music by Christianity Today magazine.
On its release Adam spoke about 'The Noise Inside'. "What I really want is to write the type of music that makes the artist disappear and turns the listener's attention back on themselves and hopefully upward toward God. I think music is at its most powerful when it brings into focus some segment of reality and causes the listener to look deeper into their own lives and walk with the Lord."
Adam is the first to admit that he's a heard artist to pigeon-hole stylistically. He told CCM magazine, "My stuff is a bit eclectic. I think 'style' in music is like clothes on a person. Ther person is the song, the clothing is the style. If I'm writing a song, I want there to be flesh, bone, a heart and a soul residing in there. How the song is dressed up or produced and arranged is usually what defines its style. When I get inspired, the idea comes up with its own wardrobe."
Lyrically, Adam is a mature wordsmith able to express his heart in memorable images. In the song "Meaningless Things", he confronts the issue of materialism with pinpoint accuracy: "We can be kings of meaningless things, or we can be slaves of love." He continued to illuminate his own frail humanity in tracks such as "Critical Condition" where he states, "I found a way to look like a window and slam shut like a door./I just can't seem to listen, help me I'm in critical condition." Lyrical evidences of the hopeless plight of humanity - hopeless without help from above - will inevitably affect you throughout 'The Noise Inside'. Adam always directs the listener back to his point, that a life without meaning is a life not worth living. Yet, whispers of hope answer his own pleas for help on songs like "I Wanna Be Like You": "So dizzy, sick and twisting/So ugly, sad but true/I can't be left unguided/I can't be without you."
At a recent press conference Adam spoke about his early years and how he found his way into songwriting. "I was born and raised a Christian so it's always been a part of my life since I was a little kid but I think there was a certain point where it became a personal thing. It sort of happened later in life. I kind of had taken it for granted and thought I'm a Christian and thought oh it's cool, you know, but I needed to give my whole life over and include God in everything I did, everything musically and all of that kind of stuff because music was a big part of my life. It's hard to put your first 'Jesus' in a song. I listened to all secular music and you know they're never doing that, so it was just weird. I felt once I did that certain people were going to hate me right after that and certain people were going to be okay with it. So I had to let go of that sort of insecurity and find out that, yeah I need to fearlessly give my life and my music over to God. When that happened doors flew open and God started using me."
Adam continued, "I started playing drums when I was about 10 or 11 years old and it was everything to me. I wanted to be the best drummer ever so I studied with a great deal of different musicians and played with a lot of great musicians. When I was about 19 I kind of felt drums weren't it for me. I wasn't saying everything I needed to say, I wasn't expressing myself all the way and I needed to because I was a kind of introspective, thinking type of guy. It was like people didn't really know me, even people who knew me best didn't really know everything about me. And when I started writing songs and playing guitar, when I was about 19, that was it, that was like everything that I was! Everything was there in a three or four minute song and so that was it for me. It wasn't until about five years later that it became something that I included God in and that's when everything came together and it felt like my purpose in life. I knew exactly what I am supposed to do, to write songs for God, about God and just include my life in it and my perspective."
With a now well established reputation as a record producer and songwriter Adam insists that what he'd like to do more of is live gigging. "I want to get out and play with my band more because I have a great band. They are all brothers - Nick, Jules and Matt Rodriguez. Two of them are twins, Nick and Jules; they are just genius musicians. I feel really lucky to be playing with them. It's a cool extension of the record because they are such great musicians that they kind of taste the record when you play it and the record kind of lives and the songs change a lot but not in a way that the song disappears.
I want to be part of getting to be where secular artists are out in the world, where people can start hearing Christian music and go, 'Wow, that's just as real, just as good and has more meaning then secular music.' That would be the ultimate goal for me, to win over non-believers, not to be clichéd in the lyrics and safe in the music. It's hard to do because I think Christian music in general wants to be able to please people of all age groups and not offend anybody and be safe. I think some artists naturally are safe in those ways and can do something real and powerful within those boundaries. But I just feel like there's also a lot of Christians and non-believers who are looking for something more passionate. Something that doesn't ignore pain and doesn't ignore confusion but yet the light of Christ is in there too."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.