A large part of being an artist is exploring unfamiliar territory to see where it may lead. Sometimes that means closing a door so a new one may open. Wilmington native Adam Forsythe is one such musician who is taking the first steps toward a solo music career. He will be appearing this Saturday, April 7, at Ted’s Fun on the River to show what he can do.
For Forsythe, departing from his trio Barnraisers well over a year ago was something he felt was time to do. But that was not the easiest decision. After all Barnraisers was the gig with which he cut his teeth. They had the privilege of playing with internationally known acts like The Avett Brothers, Tommy Ramone and Steep Canyon Rangers, and also made their way onto festival circuits.
“Our first show was at the Soapbox in 2007,” he recollects. “We took the Barnraisers as far as it would go, or at least as far as we wanted to take it. We were a great local band, in my opinion, and started making it regionally. We recorded one album and played with some awesome bands. We played for a decade and had a great run, had lots of fun and met tons of folks, but it was time to take new directions.”
What drove Forsythe to try his hand at being a solo artist had nothing to do with being burnt out, like many musicians in this day in age. He actually wanted to become a better guitar player.
“I took a break from playing after our last show with the Barnraisers to try to figure out what I wanted to do musically,” Forsythe says. “I began to dive deeper into my guitar playing. I learned a slew of flatpicking/fiddle tunes and some gypsy jazz tunes. After that, I started trying to learn how to sing lead, which was about six months ago. Now, I am off, playing my own stuff and still rounding out my sound.”
Forsythe was exposed to bluegrass music at a young age, but he didn’t actually purchase his first guitar until he was 18. What really propelled Forsythe musically, though, was his stint studying jazz guitar with guitar professor Bob Russell at UNCW. He took two courses with Russell, and it was his only formal training on guitar.
“It was a program that focused more on playing and less on academia,” Forsythe details. “I got to play in small ensembles and everything.”
Always in a state of progression, Forsythe now cites guitar greats like Wes Montgomery, Doc Watson and Django Reinhardt. “With Doc Watson, you can easily define the melody in his solos,” Forsythe details. “To me, a solo should be geared toward an audience. If you write a well-thought-out solo, the audience should be humming along.”
One thing about Forsythe is certain: He is a true student and admirer of aesthetic. Hearing his music proves his debut as a soloist is not his first rodeo. Stylistically his songs hold true to the traditions of his predecessors. The tempos are fast and his staccato-picking leads connect the overarching chord structures effortlessly.
Songs like “Rage” and “No Cause for Concern,” which are available on his ReverbNation page (www.reverbnation.com/adamforsythe), kick right into gear with no hesitation. Both songs feature guitar intros that refrain throughout the song. His vocals have a classic-country twang that settle with the nimble nature of his songs. “Billy in the Lowground” will instantly bring to mind Doc Watson classics like “Black Mountain Rag,” while the aforementioned “Rage” beckons the sounds of “Shady Grove.”
While Forsythe’s approach leans heavily on Watson’s music, he pioneers his own path with originals. “I’m not sure if I have a set songwriting process,” he says. “I guess for the type of music I perform, the formula is to have two- or three well-written verses with a catchy chorus, a good solo-break that’s easy to sing along with, and a whole lot of practice to call it done.”
Being a new artist on the scene, Forsythe already has set ambitious goals for his solo career. He wants to record an EP this year; he already has contacted the owner of Doctor Gone Records, Travis Burdick. The impressive local record label is based out of Carolina Beach and focuses on short-run cassettes and records. What it lacks in volume it makes up for in variety, taking under their wing bands from every genre.
“Hopefully, something will pan out, and I’ll get something going soon,” Forsythe comments. “Until then, I’ll just keep posting some tunes when I get them. This show at Ted’s will be my first official show. I now have enough material to fill the two-hour slot, and I would like to eventually have two sets of originals. This could potentially turn into a band, or I might just keep it as is. Either way, I still have lots of goals musically, and I’m looking forward to some new terrain.”
Ted’s Fun on the River
2 Castle Street
Saturday, April 4, 8 p.m.
$1 cover; donations welcome