Wilder Adkins and Niia ready for the ASCAP Music Cafe
Showcase continues through Friday
A group of inspiring artists have already graced the ASCAP Music Cafe since it opened at the Rich Haines Galleries on Friday and there are many more to come.
Two new and upcoming artists that will appear this week are Niia and Wilder Adkins.
Niia, who performed Tuesday, will return to the cafe at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Adkins will perform Thursday and Friday, Jan. 26-27, at 2 p.m.
Both artists took time in their busy schedules to speak with The Park Record about their music, influences and goals.
Adkins takes joy in making music
Singer and songwriter Adkins, whose new album “Hope and Sorrow” was released in April, said he enjoys the whole process of songwriting and welcomes the challenges when it comes to writing music and lyrics.
“I think the words are more of a struggle,” he said. “I can sit down and play the guitar and it’s like doing a therapeutic practice and not really think about it when I came up with stuff or try new things. But I do have to think more deliberately when I’m writing words. That’s where it feels more like work, but it’s still a work that I enjoy.”
Adkins’ earliest influences came from his family.
“My dad (Butch Adkins) plays and sings as well,” he said. “He hasn’t put out any albums, but he used to play a lot in the Atlanta area.”
Even as early as elementary school, Adkins used sing original tunes.
“I remember when I on the playground that I would make up silly songs,” he said. “I guess I have always been able to come up with melodies.”
In high school, Adkins got more serious about his songwriting.
“I tried to do it to impress girls,” he said with a laugh.
Still, his music style was different back then.
“When I was younger I did listen to rock music and even ska music,” he said. “It was later in high school when I started listening to Ryan Adams and his first solo album.”
He also listened to some of the stuff his father liked, music by Richard Thompson, who is known for his work in Fairport Convention.
“There was a depth of emotion that I would feel that was different than what I was getting out of rock and ska,” Adkins said. “I think the poetic element was attractive to me as well.”
Last week, Adkins released the new single “Side by Side,” which is an anthem for peace.
The songwriter said writing songs like this are important for him.
“Bruce Cockburn has a song called ‘Maybe to the Poet’ that talks about how we might not value poets these days, but how necessary they are,” Adkins said. “I think we as songwriters aren’t politicians who want to get people to vote for us, but we really just try to point people to truth and beauty.
“I hope if we are focused on that and treat people with respect that would affect how we live,” he added. “I think that’s the transcendence of art that points us to greater things.”
Adkins is looking forward to his ASCAP Music Cafe performances.
“It’s really exciting for me,” he said. “To be able to share a stage with the other artists and be in that environment where you’re around a lot of creative people who value art will be fun. Hopefully I’ll make some good connections up there.”
Niia is also ready to grace the stage
Like Adkins, Niia (pronounced NYE-a), was excited for her ASCAP Music Cafe slots.
“It’s a great honor,” Niia said during a phone call from Los Angeles. “There will be a bunch of people there and I think it’s fun to perform for a mixed crowd.”
These concerts mark the first time she’ll debut some of her new material that will be released on a new album this spring.
“We’re going to try some new things out,” said Niia, who was born Niia Bertino. “We’re going to play some stripped-down versions of the songs, which somehow makes it more special to me because it’s so intimate.”
The singer’s road to music began at home.
“I started doing music because my mom made us do it at first,” Niia said. “She was a classical pianist and so we all had to take piano lessons. As I got older, I realized that I would love to do this as my job. So it was nice to have the support from my family to pursue it.”
Originally Niia played music for herself.
“It was a personal outlet to get my feelings out when I was younger,” she said. “It has only been pretty recent where people have been able to enjoy my music. And that has been a new thing for me.”
While studying jazz voice at The New School in 2007, she met and began working with Wyclef Jean on the hit single “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill).”
Since then, she’s released an EP, “Generation Blue,” and is currently readying a new album.
“It’s exciting to move people, but with that comes responsibility to bring a younger generation into new music and educate people about different genres and be a role model,” she said.
Music has also opened doors for Niia in terms of reaching people through TED talks and other presentations.
“I’m open to new opportunities that will come out of my music, but I didn’t expect anything like that to happen,” she said.
The biggest challenge Niia sees in her career is finding balance.
“It’s about being honest with yourself of where you are and find ways to get inspired,” she said. “You need to stay open minded and developing a discipline to keep practicing and improve on your technique. But at the same time, you need to expose yourself to new styles and artists.
“It is difficult to keep motivated and find new ways to change your music, but still keep your brand and how you are,” Niia said.
This is why she likes working with different artists and musicians.
“Sometimes for me it’s about building a relationship with someone,” Niia said. “It’s important for me to build upon what you’ve already created and add to the sonic palate that I’ve already defined.
“There are other artists whom I have worked with who bring new things to the table to challenge me, but I already trust them already,” she added. “But it’s also exciting to bring someone new into the fold.”
Another challenge is creating and maintaining her own voice.
“Nowadays, there are so many different artists and you need to define yourself, but at the same time the trends come and go so quickly,” Niia said “So you need to stay relevant. And my answer is to make timeless music and do what you do best.”
Niia will perform at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the ASCAP Music Cafe, 751 Main St., and Wilder Adkins will perform at 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 26-27. For information about Niia, visit niiamusic.com. For information about Wilder Adkins, visit wilderadkins.bandcamp.com. For information about the ASCAP Music Cafe, visit ww.ascap.com/sundance.
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