With his natural inclination for the genre, plus a mix of sensitivity and passion, all Adam Gabriel needs is the right set of circumstances to transform himself into a successful rock musician.
“It’s just been me and my acoustic guitar for the last 20 years,” says the 37-year-old singer, songwriter and guitarist. “I’ve done it long enough to know that just because other musicians are interested in playing with me doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good fit. It’s not just about the music, not about finding excellent musicians, but about finding the right musicians, the ones who fit and have the same goals.”
Last weekend, Gabriel teamed up with Nick Garrett-Powell on drums and bassist Brian Oliver for an electric show at J’Ville Tavern.
“We had four hours of rehearsal before the show and an hour’s worth of music,” he laughs. “We had to stretch it out a bit for the show, but it was gritty, dark, heavy and full of energy with an electric edge. Kind of a blend of swamp rock and acid rock. I loved it. Based on our first show, I think we’ll move forward. The others are as enthusiastic.”
Gabriel left Eugene early this year for Southern Oregon to be close to family members. He started playing this past winter at South Stage Cellars’ tasting room, a spot keen on showcasing soloists and bands.
Through Gabriel’s brothers — local musicians Nathan and Ben Comer — along with a his newest album, “Neptune,” posted last year at Bandcamp, local sound man Martin Oliver already was a fan of Gabriel’s acoustic soul.
“As soon as Martin heard I moved to town, he was all over it,” Gabriel says. “He went to South Stage and said ‘Hey, you’ve got to book this guy.’ ”
After playing South Stage, Gabriel received bookings at Bella Union, Schoolhaus Brewhaus, J’Ville Tavern and Britt’s Performance Garden.
He’ll perform at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, at South Stage Cellars, 125 S. Third St.; 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, at Bella Union, 170 W. California St.; and 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3,, at Schoolhaus Brewhaus, 525 Bigham Knoll Drive, all in Jacksonville.
“Music wasn’t the priority when I moved down here, and I didn’t anticipate much of a music scene in Jacksonville,” Gabriel says. “But if there is a purpose in my life, I definitely feel like it’s music. Everyone here is so supportive. It’s been encouraging.”
Gabriel’s 2017 album is available for a listen or download on Bandcamp. The tracks are thoroughly impressive, from their recording to the poignant lyrics and ethereal and progressive melodies and rhythms.
Now, though, he wants to move in another direction.
“There a rock band called Rival Sons that I’m in love with,” he says. “I want to play music along that vein, or The White Stripes or The Black Keys, kind of southern, swamp-rock blues, something more ’70s.”
So Gabriel set to writing songs this past year that are consistent with his new ideas. The first time he performed one of the songs live was at South Stage.
“I had one of them, ‘Money for Time,’ on my set list that night,” he says. “It’s pretty aggressive, and the lyrics are edgy. I didn’t know if the crowd was going to dig it. But everyone loved it. Another one, ‘Tied Up,’ got the same response. I’ve got eight new songs now written in the same vein, and I’m going to keep writing them like that.”
“Money for Time” is mostly about depression, suicide, sex and cocaine, he says. “Tied Up” is about bondage, and another, “Man on Fire,” is about the madness and chaos of today’s world affairs.
“While the songs are upbeat, they’re born out of a sense of hopelessness, frustration and feeling helpless to change it,” Gabriel says. “‘Man on Fire’ turns around with the last bridge and chorus and becomes a plea for people to become inspired instead of just watching it happen. There’s so much greed and destruction. It’s terrifying on so many levels. It will continue as long as we allow it.”
Gabriel says he’s put a lot of thought into how to be successful as a rock artist.
“I feel there’s a lack of good, quality rock right now. There’s a lot of rock pop, bar rock and covers, but it just doesn’t have the edge I’m looking for. I can play James Taylor, Jim Croce, The Eagles, Neil Young. I love that stuff, and it’s still cathartic for me, but not in the same way rock is. Rock’s much more of an emotional release,” he says.
“What separates me from the others is I mean it,” he says. “I don’t just float through a song. Music is like any kind of art. It’s best when it’s guttural and honest. I was listening to Ray Charles, and it was like ‘Holy s---, that guy really meant it.”
Reach Adam Gabriel at facebook.com/adamgabrielmusic.