The New England music community has tons of DIY success stories and Boston’s Adam Ezra has one of his own. His entire career has been based on a grassroots model that brings a sense of community while writing roots and folk music tunes that resonate with all kinds of people. It’s what has made him popular around these parts, and beyond. On Dec. 1, the Adam Ezra Group will be performing at The Knickerbocker Café in Westerly. The band has a lot of history there due to the venue finding Ezra and his band and having them grace their stage way before him and his crew had the success they’re experiencing today.
Ezra and I had a conversation ahead of the show about his upbringing, having his band be a musical soup, his activist organization Rally Sound, and a few things he has planned for next year.
Rob Duguay: How would you describe your musical upbringing in Boston? Did you start playing music at a young age or did you start later on in your adolescence?
Adam Ezra: I grew up surrounded by music. My mom is a folk musician and a music educator, her name is Joanne Hammil and to this day she directs the Greater Boston Intergenerational Chorus. Music has always had a part in my life from a very young age onward. I didn’t begin teaching myself how to play guitar until my later years during high school and I didn’t get serious about songwriting until I was almost out of college.
RD: Where did you go to college?
AE: Colgate University in upstate New York.
RD: It can be hard for any solo artist to form a band around them so their songs can be brought to life. Were there any difficulties with starting the Adam Ezra Group or is everyone else in the band longtime friends of yours and it was fairly easy to get everyone together?
AE: You’re hitting at the heart of one of the biggest challenges for anyone trying to start a band out there. When I write songs, those songs tend to be very personal sometimes and they’re usually written on guitar with my voice. So bringing them to a band and making them continue to express what I’m trying to communicate through the song is a challenge. I’ve always surrounded myself with incredible musicians too. These days, I’ve got a bunch of friends who I travel and play music with who are some of the best musicians that I know.
Alex Martin is on drums, Poche Ponce is on bass and Corinna Smith is on fiddle. When I bring a song to the group, everybody contributes their musical voice and opinions. It’s very much a collaboration, I think about it as all of us stirring the soup but it’s good as a songwriter to make sure that it’s staying true to the original intent of the song.
RD: That’s a great metaphor to put it as adding ingredients to a soup. A few years ago, you went viral on social media with the music video for “The Devil Came Up To Boston.” It’s a version of The Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” along with making fun of Boston stereotypes. How did the idea for the song come to be and who handled the making of the music video?
AE: I remember that parody was written in a day on a ferry headed out to Nantucket. We played a show out there at a club called The Chicken Box. We were out on the ferry and we heard the song on the radio and I said “It would be funny if there was a Boston version of that.” There were some chuckles and I started writing down lyrics. By the end of that night after the show, I gathered some of my band around and I sang the parody while everybody were all laughing about it.
Sometimes I don’t have a great perspective, especially when I’m writing a funny song or a quirky song. I don’t know whether it’s going to connect with people or not. I did get really excited about the parody and I hit up a great videographer and producer named Ben Tishler who flew out from Los Angeles and brought in a crew from New York City. Actually, we all met in New York City and we filmed the music video in one day there.
RD: I really did get a kick out of the video when I first saw it, I thought it was hilarious. Along with the band, you founded the organization Rally Sound whose mission is to empower communities through music. What made you want to start the organization?
AE: Over the years I’ve been invited to perform at numerous fundraisers and charity events geared towards making the world a better place one way or another. Those shows have always been the most inspiring to me, we can have a party where we celebrate music together but we can also do a little good for the world at the same time. That’s as good as it gets in my book. Word began to spread that we’re community activists along with being musicians and it became a bigger, non-traditional activism based concert experience. It ended up becoming a big part of our touring schedule and over time I founded this organization called Rally Sound.
It provides a vehicle for us so we can do our social outreach and we play a bunch of charity events, we organize our own music festival every year called The Ramble. This year, The Ramble brought in over 3,000 people and we raised enough money to help take 25 veterans in New England off the streets. Rally Sound also helps us do outreach to schools and sometimes concerts there. We get to do exciting and inspiring work with kids and it makes it all a joy.
RD: That’s incredible. So what are your plans for 2019?
AE: Things are always moving in my world. Plans often change but as of now, I plan for us to be touring all over the country starting in the beginning of the year. I plan to play 200 or so shows and we’re also working on three album releases: A solo album, a live band album and our next Adam Ezra Group studio album that we hope to release next fall. We are super excited by the music we’re starting to make these days and 2019 looks like it’s going to be a fun year.