Adam Wright


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May 7, 2018

Songwriter Adam Wright to Release Solo Album 'Dust'

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BIOGRAPHY

Adam Wright has written thousands of songs by now – some for his publisher, some for he and his wife’s duo, The Wrights, and then there are some others that he’s written for himself. “Sometimes I get a big itch to write what I want to. To go down the rabbit hole.” His newest collection of songs, titled Dust, is not for everyone, he admits. “They’re mostly story songs. Character songs. Sonic portraits. They took a long time to write and a long time to record,” he says.

The 11 songs on Dust encompass everything from death to broken dreams to complicated Southern roots. Interwoven are also songs that tackle various aspects of the human condition – whether inspired by his toddler or a man he met in a bar, or even two imaginary young women, one navigating life in El Paso and another trying to pull herself out of the depths of poverty. Often chilling in nature, the lyrics on Dust are anything but safe.

“I came up on country, but also rock and roll and folk and blues singers. Writers who weren’t afraid to be dangerous. And I guess three or four years ago, I was dissatisfied with what I was writing and I felt like I hadn’t really explored what I thought I could do as a writer, or honored some of the writers who shaped me. And I decided that if I was going to do that, what was I waiting on?”

As an ‘80s kid with an overactive imagination – and the seemingly perfect horror movie setting of the woods of rural Georgia right outside his doorstep — Wright spent his childhood plotting his future career in horror films. He would sneak off into the woods with his parents’ camcorder and spend hours and hours creating intense situations for his made-up characters. That same practice is evident on Dust. The songs are not personal – instead, Wright entered the minds of his characters and wrote from their perspectives, as these imaginary people navigate dramatic situations.

“I did a lot of creative writing when I was a young person and I always enjoyed writing short stories. I read a lot of short stories and I read a lot of fiction,” Wright says. “What I got from some of the writing that has inspired me is permission – some courage and some go-ahead.”

The songs on the album have many layers. One of the most challenging is the title track. Inspired by his toddler examining the smallest parts of life filtered through the sunlight, he thought about how sometimes people and situations are more than intended. The characters within the song double as concepts.

“He was seeing this magic in what is literally the least significant stuff of life. The stuff we wipe away. It was absolutely magical to him. It was a powerful image and hopefully is the way we shine despite our insignificance and flaws. The verses tell the story of three people whose lives intertwine one day and, in spite of their flaws, save each other.”

Wright grew up in Newnan, Georgia, once a small town and now a suburb of Atlanta. It was a quiet childhood – his family lived just outside the city limits. In its epicenter, everyone attended one of three churches, teachers knew everyone’s parents; but as we all know by now, small towns still hold their secrets. One of the most haunting stories Dust tells is a gothic tale from his childhood, “Billy, Get Your Bike.” Written with just one chord, the song is based on a true story of a young boy seeking revenge for his stolen bike.

“A kid that lived down the street from me told me that story. His dad was the kid. I didn’t know that family really well. I never was around his dad much. I saw him a few times and probably spoke to him but I never got a read on him or what kind of man he was. He may not be around anymore but I would like to know if he is.”

Wright takes another look at complicated Southern roots on “From My Bough.” He knew he wanted to write about racial tensions, but couldn’t figure out how to tackle a subject so heavy. Written from a tree’s perspective, he was thinking back on his days in Newnan while writing the song. “You walk around an older forest. What are the odds that one of those trees was used for that purpose? There’s certainly a possibility that I swung from a tree that somebody hung from at some point. It will send chills up your spine.”

Another voice lingers in the distance on the song. It belongs to Lee Ann Womack, who continues to be one of Wright’s biggest supporters. She selected his song “The Way I’m Livin’” as the title track of her first independent album in 2014. The project received a Grammy nod, and when she embarked on a tour with Patty Griffin in 2017, Lee Ann brought along Wright as her only accompaniment, allowing his understated guitar playing and warm baritone to help bring out the complexity in her own music. Moreover, she co-wrote a handful songs with him for her 2017 album, The Lonely, the Lonesome and the Gone.

Though the darker parts of life are often examined throughout the album – “Dark Life” examines how darkness can thrive anywhere – there are still glimmers of hope shining through the collection. “The War Of No One Cares” finds two people fighting a war against loneliness – and winning. “Born To Dream” offers a late-night examination of all that it takes to provide for his kids as a songwriter. “The Banker” reminds listeners to take a more compassionate look at the world around them while telling a life story.

The only song on the album co-written with another writer, “Ruby,” was written with Vicky Echiverri. It features a Western motif and sounds like something Marty Robbins might have recorded in the 1960s, complete with a reference to El Paso and a chorus in Spanish. Its main characters have “fastened a lasso to the bull they call life” and was inspired – if somewhat subconsciously – by Wright’s love of Cormac McCarthy. He says the writer helped him realize that rules are sometimes a figment of our imagination.

The Western theme of “Ruby” shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Wright. The red curtains in his songwriting room at Carnival Music are decorated with horses and riders, as if they could have been pulled from his childhood bedroom. Wright signed his publishing deal with Carnival in 2013. The company is owned by Frank Liddell, who is also Womack’s husband and producer. His stepdaughter is singer-songwriter Aubrie Sellers, whom Wright co-wrote several songs with for her New City Blues album.

Liddell became familiar with Wright’s songwriting in the early 2000s, when Wright performed as a duo with his wife Shannon, called The Wrights. The duo was signed to RCA, and after a few relentless years of touring they decided to stop spending time on the road and focus on songwriting instead. While he’s landed cuts with Alan Jackson (who happens to be his uncle) and Lee Ann Womack, his publisher suggested he stop writing for radio a few years back.

“There was a couple of months where I had made the decision I was going to try to write radio stuff. I probably got a bank statement that was negative twenty dollars and I thought, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ [Liddell] took me to lunch and said, ‘Don’t listen to your co-writers, don’t listen to me, don’t listen to anybody. Just do what you want to do. That’s why you’re here.’”

“It took me a while to take that seriously and believe it until I realized that I have an opportunity – not just with him but in any of this – to do exactly what I want to do. And if I don’t do it, I’ve wasted it.”

Dust pleads with its listeners to take some time – to think about what they are listening to. It provides an in-depth look at carefully crafted songwriting; the kind where every detail is placed with precision and honed with a fine-toothed comb.

“[These songs] require a lot from a listener. If you’re not into that, I get it, and this won’t be your cup of tea. No hard feelings. But if you have the time and don’t mind paying a little more attention to what you’re listening to, I think you might get something out of this album. At least I hope you do.”

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