Adam Ness Finds Himself Far From Home
Leaving home can be one of the hardest things we do in life - but it’s sometimes necessary on the journey to find ourselves. As our personal ideologies and identities develop, distance can be created between us and well-meaning loved ones once part of a supportive network.
Adam Ness began his career as a singer focused around the church and gospel. But while performing and traveling with famed gospel choir Bold Right Life in 2013, the 30-year-old artist began to feel a little alienated from his hometown of Detroit and his foundations in the church.
Knowing their stance on the LGBTQ community, Adam began to face the fact that, to be who he knew he was, he may have to reconsider the church’s place in his life. “My beliefs started to fizzle, going to church while feeling this dishonesty of those constitutions turned me away…” With those doubts bubbling up inside him, Adam left Detroit to begin his career in what he hoped might be a more supportive, accepting home in Chicago.
Initially, Adam remained in the gospel community. His first taste of what Adam calls “buzz” came when he and fellow Chicago gospel singer, Brendan Avery Smith formed the gospel duo Ellian. The two gained quick adoration without much effort or exposure from traditional outlets like social media. However, the move to Chicago didn’t do much to ease Adam’s concerns about his standing among the larger community of faith singers - and he often heard the same sort of judgemental, or even scornful sermons he was so familiar with in Detroit. Eventually it became clear to him that he felt his membership in Ellian conflicted with his own love and acceptance for all non-heteronormative relationship. Not long after, the group broke up.
The hard questions and internal battles that followed forced Adam to begin creating more authentically - using his own viewpoints to guide him. “It wasn’t until I started to be individually myself and create, that opportunities began to be afforded to me. I got to live rent free in the Gold Coast with a friend, I later found love…” Acknowledging his bisexuality, and accepting the new artist that was born of that acceptance, things began looking up for the newly blossomed, whimsical songwriter.
Distancing himself from the gospel world helped Adam discover new avenues of acceptance and support, especially in the Chicago independent music scene. The level of acceptance and support Adam received propelled him to toward opportunities influencing a new generation of Chicago soul.
“My experience has been amazing, … it’s always been forgiving and giving, especially artistically, there's so much community to be strengthened by; that’s very different from the gospel community.” His newfound family of artists in Chicago have informed Adam’s views on what “making it” here could mean. Partnering with Chicago native and spoken word artist, Lyrical, of 323 Music Group, Adam is quickly learning a level of that Chi-town hustle far beyond what he’d become used to.
The songwriter has used his many tales of Chicago’s heartache, hustle and social climate to fuel sultry, celestial harmonies on “Complicated”, “Woe is Me” and “Smoke Signals” making #Highplaces a welcome addition to the Chicago R&B/Soul scene.
But the process wasn’t without its difficulties. Ness experienced some struggle while arranging the seven tracks that make up his first release, #Highplaces since God was still nested in the title track. “I wasn’t even sure if these were the songs I wanted to release!” When wrapping up track selection, Adam questioned being a “gospel’ singer at this juncture in his life, “Are they even gonna like that I’m talkin’ about God? Since then, my views have changed.”
The following success of #HighPlaces’ “Blush and Complicated”, solidified Adam’s first release as a new artist to watch, yet Ness still found himself struggling to get to the high places he dreamt of reaching. Adam reminisces about how hard it was pursuing his dream in a city as unforgiving as Chicago can be. “I decided to get a job, which is the first time I’ve ever had to do that - the city can be very hard on you.” Money being hard to come by at first, Adam would give voice lessons and twist locs along with other side gigs to earn money. No matter what it took Adam, “... had this burning desire to create and thrive…” The harder times tested Adam’s faith, “Are you there God? Jesus are you real? Are these the high places I read about? Or am I to remain downtrodden all of my Chicago life?”
But once an artist without a band or background singers, Adam now enjoys the momentum of successful performances both live on stage and on TV. He has a growing fanbase, and recently toured with Chicago artist Noname. In October, Adam released the single, “Have a Good Time” featuring local favorite Jamila Woods. Shortly after its release, Adam performed on the Late Show, singing backup for Noname. With his highly anticipated project Sagittarius, set to release in this month, Adam Ness is ready to let people know he doesn’t give a damn about fitting in with anyone, all he cares about is reaching a new audience.
Adam reminisces about his early days in the city, performing at The Artist’s Lounge, leading the crowd in a sing along. “I didn’t know any musicians, I didn’t have a producer…” The multi-talented singer, using his pedal powered loop station, set his own background vocals for an acapella performance of “Blush”. “Chicago has been a good place to grow my audience,” he says. With the people of Chicago feeling the blush from Adam’s hits, word spread with the quickness back to Detroit. “People in my home town are cheering me on, and I was like, ‘You motherfuckers, where were you before?!’” Not throwing any shade, Ness admits, “I wasn’t doing my thing when in Detroit. I was just, still trying...” Adam’s efforts were not in vain, when he returned to Detroit to perform at a sold out concert, with a surprise appearance by Gladys Knight the crowd was not surprised to see Adam hold his own.
Learning more about himself and the changes he wanted to make in his life and music career, lead Ness to Chicago. And since he arrived, he’s made a name for himself as both collaborator and solo artist - growing in self love, finding his person in the world, being able to pay his bills off of his musical talents, touring with Noname, and opening for Lalah Hathaway. He’s even come to terms with where faith fits into his life. “I still have my beliefs that there’s something greater… But I don’t know who! And neither do you! None of us were there!”
And now, Adam Ness is here.