Adams is a rare find in pop these days. In an industry only just
getting over the ripple-effect of one-too-many TV talent shows,
not only can he sing, write and produce his own material, at the
tender age of 25, he's already gained enough experience in the
music industry to call his own shots. Ben's musical endeavours
surprise and exhilarate at every turn, and he's ripping up the
rule books of what constitutes pop music and doing things his
shaken his entire record collection into the mix, and so it comes
as no surprise whenBen casually admits that his entire life has
been consumed by music. 25 years in the making then, Ben's debut
solo album doesn't disappoint. It's dizzying stuff, veering from
jazz to R&B to pop to soul and often doing all that in the space
of a single verse and chorus, but the wide array of styles is no
accident - and nor is the quality of the tuneage. "Pop music
has really suffered from the 'It'll do' mentality", Ben shrugs.
"But I didn't want my career to be 'quite good' or 'just good
enough'. I wanted to smash the whole thing apart."
are no idle claims. Ben provides an unselfconscious alternative
to the devaluing effect reality TV has had on the genre.
"The pop industry would have us believe that young
music fans are too stupid to grasp or embrace new ideas"
Ben states. "That's rubbish. Music has to be able
to evolve and change, otherwise it gets stale”.
Ben is currently working on what will be his 6th studio
album, his 1st as a solo artist.
through Ben's new tracks, from the slick, world-class
“Won’t Do You Wrong”, to the classic
emotional highs and lows of the killer ballad "Boo
Hoo" and the frenetic nightclub sleaze of "Get
Off My Girl", the whole thing sounds like Ben has
simply crowbarred open his iPod
and then combining all that with an emerging passion for musicians
like Prince, Queen and Stevie Wonder, he could escape into the world
of music. And while it may seem unlikely in the context of the drinking,
dirty dancing and dubious circle exploits of new songs like "Get
Off My Girl", at only ten years old, a cherubic Ben Adams was
one of the UK's top choristers. Having won a scholarship based on
his musical talents he found himself based at St Margaret's Westminster
Abbey, regularly performing for some eminent audiences (The Queen,
The Pope), touring through all the major cities in Europe with the
Choir, all leading up to recording two classical albums - "Benedicamus
Domino" and "Laudate Pueri". The experience would
prove useful for his next career step. "If you are classically
trained, which I was, it pretty much equips you to sing any kind
of music. I'm thankful I was taught to sing at such a young age
because it teaches you how to maintain your voice, which is really
important, especially when you're on tour."
grew up in Middlesex, in a modest house listening to the
likes of Madness, James Taylor, Michael Jackson and Tracy
Chapman on his mum's stereo. Raised single-handedly by his
mum without much spare cash around, Ben found that from
singing solo in school assembly to picking up
experiences in the choir turned him onto all types of music. "Anything
to do with music excited me. I remember sitting at home every
Friday watching Top Of The Pops, and wanting to be on it so much.
I'm very lucky the way things panned out." In 1997, Ben joined
a band called A1 and between 1999 and 2002 they scored 3 albums,
a string of number one’s and Top 10 hits across the globe,
- all but two of which were written or co-written by Ben. A1's
finest hour came with the first single from their third album.
Kick-started by Ben during a frustrating group songwriting session,
"Caught In The Middle" was ostensibly about an unhappy
love triangle, but with hindsight its themes spotlit the musical
tensions facing A1 as they approached their third album, and signalled
a huge change in musical direction for the band.
that proved versatile songwriting
had a place in the charts and that pop fans are only too happy to
be challenged. "A1 was a great experience but I always felt
it was a rehearsal for my solo career. I am a lot wiser to the industry
so I can avoid the usual mistakes people make first time round.
It's like anything - the more you do it, the better you are at it."
on that third album were the high-octane disco stylings
of the band's first two albums. In their place was a sophisticated
guitar sound courtesy of sought-after producer Mike Hedges
(U2, Travis, Manic Street Preachers), who had been invited
to work on a handful of songs and was so impressed with
the band's songwriting that he stayed for the whole album.
"Caught In The Middle" became one of A1's best
selling singles; a reward, for
A1 came to a natural end, Ben was bombarded with all the predictable
offers of work you might expect to head in the direction of someone
who public persona had been permitted to extend little further
that floppy hair and occasional winks to camera. In spite of having
left A1, his record label Sony, his publishing company and his
management, Ben turned them all down flat. "I was looking
at the bigger picture," he remembers, "and I didn't
want anything along the way to ruin it. He called Mike Hedges,
and asked the producer for his advice on what equipment would
be necessary to build up his own demo studio into something with
which he could make hit records. One hefty investment later, Ben
was ready to start work.
music, because I'd thrown myself into it to such a degree that there
just didn't seem to be any other option." In search of perspective
on his songs - some voice of objectivity after two years of climbing
the walls - Ben brought in some of his favourite songwriters.
by the minor setback, Ben became a hermit, locking himself
in that home studio and barely getting out of his dressing
gown for an entire year. "I was a nightmare to be around,"
he admits. "I didn't want to be around other people,
I didn't want to go out. I knew that I had to put my all
revelation was flying to LA to work on "Get Off My Girl"
with Har Mar Superstar - a larger than life party animal who drew
out some of Ben's surprising songwriting quirks. "I loved
his music. It's very inventive and fresh. I'm not interested in
writing songs which have been heard a million times before. It's
really important for me to push the boundaries, whether it be
musically, vocally, performance, and I think Har Mar is on the
same tip in this respect. It's been great to work with people
who are a little bit out there. I'd say to Har Mar, 'I've got
a weird idea.' He'd go 'I've got an even weirder idea'. I'd say
'Brilliant, let's record it!'." Ben spent just short of a
month in Los Angeles working with Har Mar. "We'd work during
the day and go to some crazy places in the evening. He's a very
singing opera in the opening bars) as it is deep in its lyrical
significance (the beautiful potential album closer "Broken
Bird" was written for Ben's mother). "Sometimes when you're
a writer, the powers that be want to put you in a box which can
squash creativity. I didn't have any of those boundaries on me,
so I had free reign to do and say what I wanted. If I wanted to
take jazz chords and use them over a hip hop beat with some opera
riffs then I could. In fact, the more unique the songs were, the
more encouragement I got."
well as writing for himself, Ben as turned his attention
to writing and producing for other artists, some already
established and a handful of up and coming acts both here
and in the US. Talking of his own album - "The songs
on the album are about my life, and the things I've experienced.
Although I'm only 25, I've already been through a lot. Writing
songs for me is like writing a diary, except one that can
be read by everybody." Ben's is state-of-the-art pop
music, as broad in its influences (on "It's Brutal
Out There" you'll hear
view of the results - "everything's slotted into place without
having to force it" - might sound as if he's taken it all
in his stride, but there's been no complacency. "Pop music
has become so unadventurous, but to me that's like someone throwing
down a gauntlet. I know that I've got to step up my game at every
opportunity, and that's what I've tried to do with these songs.
Now I just can't wait for the world to hear what I've been doing
for the last few years. To be honest, I never even knew I had
it in me..."