I recently had the pleasure of speaking with The Energy’s frontman, Adam Wolfsdorf. Adam- an accomplished vocalist and performer- has a very extensive history of public performance in the arts, ranging from touring with his own band to Broadway performances (notably: acting alongside Neil Patrick Harris in the national tour of RENT). We talked about some of his performances, making music and a name in The City That Never Sleeps, and about The Energy’s new direction in their upcoming LP When We Were Young.
Ouch That Hertz!: So, first off, tell us a bit about yourself!
Adam Wolfsdorf: Hi! I’m the lead singer of The Energy. I like long walks, moonlit serenades… Just kidding! I’m passionate about music and have been singing and performing since the age of 13. The Energy is the only band I’ve ever been in, but I used to do a lot of Broadway performance. I acted alongside Neil Patrick Harris in the national tour of RENT and played Danny Zuko in the tour of Grease. Performance is pretty much in my bones.
OTH!: How did The Energy come to be? How did you all meet?
Adam: The band started as a cover band roughly ten years ago, but quickly turned to writing originals, recording records, and touring to promote them. The real bread and butter of any original band. We were all pretty different from each other personally, but we shared a diverse set of musical tastes, from classic acts like Led Zeppelin and U2 to the grunge era to more contemporary stuff. And we also shared a seriousness about what we were doing- a desire to “make it” in a pretty fickle industry while also remaining dedicated to the artistry of what we do. I think that led to a lot of experimentation on Realize Your Sin, out third studio album but first with this current core in the band. Our last album was more self-consciously commercial (Streets of In-Between). It feels in many ways like we’ve come full-circle on When We Were Young– the songs are heavier and more experimental again, but still catchy.
OTH!: Tell me, Adam, how did you get started in vocal music?
Adam: I started singing in a school chorus when I was in the 4th grade. When I had my Bar Mitzvah in 7th grade, the cantor told me I had a gift and should take voice lessons. I did. I started studying voice with a guy named Steve Heck in Brookline, MA. He was a really cool guy and encouraged me to find my own style and voice. Then I began performing in school musicals and started studying at Boston Conservatory with a woman named Jean Danton. From there it was on to Harvard. I joined the Harvard Krokodiloes a capella group. We toured throughout the world. From Harvard, I moved to New York and began with Broadway auditions and had success. Then it was The Energy because I wanted to be involved with an original project.
OTH!: I really dig the little hints of soul within your vocal quality- I think it gives your overall sound a more well-rounded tonality and fullness. Who would you say are your biggest vocal influences?
Adam: I am a bit obsessed with Bono. I don’t think I sound like him, but I absolutely love listening to U2. Several years ago, our bass player invited me to go see Butch Walker perform at the Village Underground. His vocal control and ability to switch between delicate and pwerful really impressed me. Freddy Mercury is amazing. People have said that I sound like Geddy Lee. I can see that, although I think my voice is a bit more round.
OTH!: I commend any hard-working indie band that comes out of The City. I can’t imagine trying every day to put myself and my work out there knowing that it’s always up against/competing with so many other musicians and also a vast amount of noise in general. You guys are unsigned and have put out 4 prior studio albums entirely on your own and are gearing up to do the same with your upcoming album When We Were Young. How do you manage in the ‘City That Never Sleeps?’
Adam: You gotta try to put everything in perspective- especially since the industry has changed so much. The commonality of the million-dollar record deal is a thing of the past, Even some very popular acts don’t make much money, so you really have to do it for the love of the craft and the joy of making music. Even our big licensing placements on MTV and similar networks haven’t made us much money. But the recognition is nice and our fans get excited about it. We keep pushing each other and trying to get better as musicians, performers, and songwriters. I think that’s the best you can do.
OTH!: And, on that note, any tips or words of advice for indie bands/artists in busy cities?
Adam: This is going to sound SO LAME and business-like, but… At some point, a band that is trying to grow HAS TO invest money into the band. We did this at a relatively early stage in our development. We hired a publicist, somebody to help with marketing, and brought in a manager. It didn’t make our wallet(s) feel great, but it helped us to push forward and get a wider following. Even now with this new album we have decided to hire Chrissy at Catalyst. These things aren’t cheap, but they help to build the presence and reputation of a band. Like anything else, if you want something, you need to be willing to sacrifice. A lot of artists want fame and fortune, but they think or imagine that it’s a magical journey. The road to success is not magical- it may feel magical at times, but there’s a ton of hard work and sacrifice in it.
OTH!: So, jumping back to your music- I listened to your new single/title track “When We Were Young.” It’s got this really reflective message that looks back on the simpler times of your life. Is it safe to say that this is a topic or theme throughout your upcoming album, or is that sort of introspective style of lyricism just one glimpse into the album?
Adam: I think on this album we started thinking about the fact that we’ve been together for about 10 years. We started thinking about all the roads we’ve driven along together, both metaphorically and literally, and we started thinking about how we got here. I don’t want to say that all the songs are about looking back, but I’d say it’s one of the core themes on the album.
OTH!: Let’s delve further into When We Were Young. Can you tell me a bit about the writing process for this album and your personal stake in this LP?
Adam: The finished product feels like we’ve come full circle, and I think a lot of that has to do with the process. The songs were written and recorded over a longer period of time than on the previous four albums, so I think there was more opportunity to polish them, or even test them out live during our shows. We’ve always been independent, never on a record contract, but I think in the past we’ve operated like we were—deadlines, get the product finished, out the door, etc. It really is rewarding to take our time with a project like this. Looking back, its amazing how cohesive this group of songs turned out, and I think that’s a result of sort of finding “our sound,” even though it’s still someone eclectic. In that sense it’s interesting that we decided to call the album When We Were Young—and feature pictures of our younger selves in the album artwork—even though the album feels like our most “mature” effort yet.
OTH!: So, after When We Were Young is released, what’s next for The Energy? Any upcoming tours at all?
Adam: We’ve kind of slowed down our pace during the process of recording this album, at least in terms of touring. So, I think we’re eager to start playing out a lot more again and connecting with audiences directly in the best way we know how. We’re also hoping to snag some higher profile placements in other entertainment media – film, TV, etc. This is one aspect of our game plan that’s been a bit lacking. I think the depth and diversity of our sound is a double-edged sword in that kind of market. We have a lot of different sounding songs that would work in a variety of settings, but that also makes it more difficult to pigeonhole us- to say, “The Energy sounds like ‘X,’ so let’s use them for ‘Y.'”
OTH!: Speaking of tours, you guys have played/toured with some seriously notable bands- 3 Doors Down, Eve6, Vertical Horizon, to name a few. If you could tour with any one artist (either an artist that you’ve previously played with or someone new to sharing the stage with you), who would it be?
Adam: Come on…. U2! Isn’t that the only answer?!
OTH!: I suppose you’re right! Oh, and speaking of shows, The Energy was the headlining act for the 2011 NYC Marathon- tell me about that! Was it freaking cool or what?
Adam: It was amazing. Not only were we the headlining act for the marathon, but we were featured live on NBC for millions of viewers. They filmed us while we played the single “Go To Girl” off of our last album (Streets of In-Between). That was definitely one of the moments where we felt like we had made it.
OTH!: Alright, now it’s time for the most serious of serious questions. Which would you pick: unlimited breadsticks or unlimited puppies?
Adam: This is a NO BRAINER!! Unlimited breadsticks. I love puppies, but I definitely don’t have timeto take care of them!! Especiallynot an unlimited number of them! It’s not that I particularly care for breadsticks, but at least with breadsticks I can neglect them with no harm done. How could I possibly live with myself if I were neglecting an infinite number of puppies?!!! So not acceptable!!!