“It’s very tough to be a disco ball without any money.” A Q&A with singer Adam Melchor



Singer songwriter Adam Melchor has been playing music for most of his life. Melchor hopes that his songs connect with his audience and remind them of their own experiences.

Adam Melchor is an indie singer songwriter from New Jersey who was scheduled to perform at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, but due to cautions surrounding Covid-19 unfortunately had to cancel his tour. Melchor, who grew up in a musical family and has been attached to the guitar since he was 13, received a degree in Classical Voice Performance from Montclair State University and began pursuing music full time a year and a half ago. Melchor’s latest EP, Summer Camp, was released on Feb. 28, 2020 and can be found on Spotify along with the rest of his discography. As well as that, Melchor takes part in a project called the lullaby hotline. Every Sunday if you text 973-264-4172 at 5pm Pacific Standard Time he sends listeners an unreleased song demo. The Sagamore took part in a remote interview with Melchor on March 31.

How would you describe starting out as a musician and would you say your experience was similar to the way becoming a musician is portrayed in the media today?
It was really strange and I don’t think there’s any part of the media that shows you that it’s hard. I was playing bars and weddings up until a year and a half ago. I still had a manager then and I was lucky; it just takes time to build a career out of music. I’m about to be 28, and I started when I was 18, so it’s been almost 10 years of singing and playing. This has been my first year of being an artist full time because of that. I think a lot of times the way the media can portray [success], is that it can instantly happen overnight and for the lucky 0.001% it really does, and it’s so awesome when it does, but for a lot of people it’s just trying to work as much as you can, like in any other job. It’s good to work as hard as you can because you make your own luck instead of depending on certain gatekeepers to let you in.

Melchor has been making music for almost 10 years, and encourages aspiring artists to keep making music even when it feels like no one is listening.

As a growing artist, when did you start noticing an increase in followers and what steps did you take to get there?
The first time I saw a little bit of movement in followers was [when I was] touring. All it takes is for one person to say yes. The word “no” has been said to me so many times but it really only took one band to say, “Yeah, why don’t you open for us”. Actually being in front of people is the best way to get a spike in numbers. A lot of it was being able to play shows and timing the songs to come out while you’re on the road or right afterwards so when people are like, “Oh, I’m going to check when he’s in my city next,” and all of a sudden they’ll be like “Oh, there’s also a song online.” I think it’s having a team of people to do it, that’s made the steps a lot easier. It let me practice what I’m good at, which is making the song and giving as much as I can in this industry. Touring definitely helped me online, in terms of plays and numbers which in turn gave me better tours and those better tours would give me more followers. It’s a bridging of the gaps where the in-betweens are the most important part. I’m lucky enough to have a really good team to help me fill in those gaps.

What stories are you trying to tell through your music? When you sit down to write a song, how do you decide what stories get told?
The best way to say that is just my stories. Somebody once said to me, “There’s a lot more to your stories than you think.” A lot of [the] time I felt like I was being too specific in songs, and sometimes that was the furthest from the truth. Being specific opens up a window into parts of your story that you can’t even see, but when other people hear it they’re like, “Whoa, that reminds me of this.” For instance, [my song] “Joyride” is about this time in my life when my parents were getting divorced. The song was basically the idea that I was lucky enough to have my parents figure things out and realize they weren’t right for each other. The song became a way to say this really specific story without putting in words like divorce. I was able to capture something that now, when people ask me about the song and say things like, “I think of this when I hear the song” I can be like, “Wow, I would have never been able to fathom something like that being affected by a story that I had about a car getting stolen out of my driveway when I was six years old.” The stories I try to tell are my own, and [they] give a community to more people than you would even think.

Looking back on bands like the Beatles who wrote about historic events in their songs, if you write any songs right now, will you incorporate what’s happening right now with Covid-19 and how?
If I knew the answer I would have probably already done it. What I’m doing to try and find out what’s going on right now is ask what are the impulses behind why we want to leave the house, or why we miss our friends. I think it’s the simple idea of connection: it feels good to be connected to people. When someone asks me why I like playing music, I say it’s because it’s a way to connect. I talked to a songwriter friend yesterday and he said, “All I’ve been listening to are songs about going out.” I think it’s almost better to write a song about where you want to go, or what you want to be doing.

You have a song called “I Choose You” and in it’s YouTube video, you’re dressed up as a skeleton. Why did you decide to be a skeleton?
The story behind the skeleton is that there really isn’t that much of a story. I love “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and I love “Edward Scissorhands,” but I think [it was because] the artist I was on tour with was doing a festival, so I had three days of just walking around Asheville, North Carolina. There was one day [in Asheville where] I was at a coffee shop and I was like, “How can I make a song that’s loosely about my parents getting divorced in a way that I can enjoy it?” and that was by doing something that was out there. I decided to paint myself like a skeleton. It was between that and painting myself as a disco ball, but I found out that painting yourself as a disco ball takes about 11 hours of makeup because I wanted to get little tiny mirrors all over my face. [It] comes down to budget: very tough to be a disco ball when you don’t have any money. The other story behind it is that I think a lot of music that’s in my world takes itself very seriously. As much as I appreciate that, a lot of my songs go to a humorous place and can be pretty lighthearted about big situations. The skeleton was a way for me to capture that essence of the fact that there are horrible things that happen in people’s lives, and that trying to find that within yourself can be really tough, so that was my way of helping myself.