Interview: Rick DeJesus (Adelitas Way)

Photo by Kyle Macdonald | Kyle Macdonald Photography
Photo by Kyle Macdonald | Kyle Macdonald Photography

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with frontman Rick DeJesus of Adelitas Way after they played the Iron Works in Buffalo, NY. Drenched in sweat, beer, and a little bit stoned, Rick and I got a chance to talk about a lot of things- the state of modern rock in today’s listening world, details about their upcoming album Getaway (out February 26th), and our mutual connection in coming up in the music industry from rough and tough sides of town- and loads more!

And, fair warning, this interview is anything but orthodox.

Katt: Hey there, Rick! First off, I should warn you, I run my interviews in a little bit of an unorthodox way. I hope you don’t mind.

Rick: I usually do mine in an unorthodox way. It’s all good.

Katt: Right on, right on. So, this was your first time in Buffalo, NY, yes?

Rick: Yep!

Katt: Well, welcome!

Rick:  Thank you!

Katt: I’m not from Buffalo.

Rick: Where are you from?

Katt: I’m actually from Ithaca, New York- about 3 hours away from here.

Rick: Right on, man. You make sure you’re safe on that 3-hour drive back.

Katt: Thank you! I’ll be fine, I promise. I’m staying with a few locals for the night.

Rick: That’s really good. That’s why it’s good that you’re in the scene- you’ve got some friends that don’t mind helping you out.

Katt: Thanks! Yeah, it is definitely good and I’m very grateful. So, there’s an awful lot that I’d love to ask you about regarding music, but I want to start with you first, Rick: tell me about Philadelphia- you grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood. What was that like?

Rick: Yeah. Philadelphia made me… Y’know, I’ve always had a ‘West Coast attitude.’ I’ve been an ‘East Coast boy’ with a West Coast attitude, but Philadelphia toughened up the West Coast side of me a little. You had to know who you were in Philadelphia, y’know? You went through a lot of trials and tribulations in figuring out who you were. I knew who I was when I left there. It toughened me up and it put me through a lot of trials and tribulations and a lot of tests. I got to see a lot of things in my life that helped me grow to be the man that I am.

Katt: Yeah, I hear you.  I’m originally from Detroit-

Rick: Yeah, so you know!

Katt: -so I can sympathize. Just getting out of a tough area and a tough life is sort of a massive achievement because there’s plenty of people who would love to break out and be able to do what they can and want with their life and they can’t.

Rick: Well, Detroit is one of those places, too, man. It’s a place where you can easily be bullied or you have to fight for your things or you have to learn to face confrontation all the time. And, uh, I never liked confrontation, but Philly definitely made me a little tougher and I’m sure Detroit made you tougher, too.

Katt: I hope it did. I feel like it did. So, you were born in Philadelphia in a tough neighborhood- how did you get into vocal music? Was it something you just woke up one day and decided you wanted to pursue? Because you said it yourself in “Bad Reputation”- you like to drink a little, you like to smoke a little, we’re all the same a little, but you, sir, you were born to be bad.

Rick: That’s what it is, that’s what it is

Katt: Did you wake up one day and realize your birthright and decide to pursue vocally in Hard Rock?

Rick:  I’ve always been singing to girls, man, since I was younger. As a teenager I would sing to them to try to get them. And it worked a lot, too. But, I did wake up one day with an epiphany. I sort of found myself and y’know… I just wrote some songs, man. I just followed my path. I believe that we all have a path in life which is why… If you die in some random act…Obviously, it’s not the ending to the book you want, y’know? I don’t mean to bring that sort of thing up and I’m gonna sound crazy for a minute, but I really believe that I was guided into this and I was guided into the people in my life and I’m on the right path of what I’m supposed to do. I believe that I can do exactly what I’m doing right now since 2001-2002, y’know? I believe that I can show up to cities all around the nation and play to rooms full of people who loved the music I was making and creating. I believe in myself as an artist, a songwriter, and a singer. And I’m hard on myself, y’know? I performed tonight in Buffalo and people are gonna tell me all night that it was a fantastic performance, but, y’know, I’m very hard on myself vocally. Because I don’t like to sit back and think that I’ve got it all “figured out”. Like, tonight I definitely smoked a little too much weed and I drank a little too much before we played and I suffered a little…. I gave my all out there, but if I could go back and give myself some vocal corrections, y’know, I have some things. The moral of what I’m saying is, I’ve played 500 shows or more and I’m still trying to find myself to be the best motherfucker out there.

Katt: But that’s good, though! I commend that! I’m personally very tired of vocalists who walk out and say “I know I gave my all and it was the best I’ve ever done and I don’t need to change” because then they become complacent with their performance and God knows if that’s actually true or not.

Rick: Yeah, I feel you. I’m not complacent with my performance. I try to warm up for an hour before we take the stage.  I try to give the fans something better than even the night before and I continue to try to be better vocally every single night. And I continually try to put more energy out every night than what I’ve ever put out in my career. And I continually try to make people understand what I’m saying in these songs through the emotion and the emotions I’m conveying when I sing.

Katt: I definitely got that a few times tonight! There was some point where I just thought, “Woah. This is a moving performance. I feel this within my soul and my bones.”

Rick: Thank you!

Katt: And I know you’ve got it down. Which makes me wonder… Whenever you go out and perform- right when you take the stage- is there anybody you think of or who you’re doing it for? 

Rick:  Every time, Every time.

Katt: Is it for you, or your band? Is it for your fans? For Philadelphia? For everyone?

Rick:  Every time, I think about the same person. It’s funny, you ever watch Walk Hard? When Cox thinks about his whole life before he hits the stage? I think about two things before I go on: I think about what I meant when I wrote all these songs; I try to get into the feeling of all of these songs before I perform them. When I close my eyes, the last thing I picture before I walk on stage are my daughters. I close my eyes and I picture some of the things they’ve said that have brought me to tears to try to inspire a little extra greatness. I think about my family: my wife, my kids that I left. But every time before I walk on a stage, I pray. I thank God. And then I think about my kids. And then I go on to play.

Katt: Wow. Rick, that’s… that’s really beautiful and heartfelt! That must be hard, though: being a full-time musician and a full-time father. How do you balance between the two?

Rick:  Well, I think being a dad is gonna make people even appreciate Adelitas Way a little bit more because I’m not  gonna leave my kids just to go out on tour  in random acts of touring, y’know? A tour has to really be worth it for me to do it and I’ve turned down a lot of runs and I think that at the point where we are, y’know, we’ve had some really bad experiences opening up for bands that we didn’t wanna open up for or we didn’t feel like… Y’know, they just treated us really shitty-

Katt: -Sorry, was this during Virgin Records, or…?

Rick: Yeah, yeah. We went out and opened up for a band that we just shouldn’t have ever done it. Maybe we gained some fans off of that- and I’m grateful for it- but it wasn’t really worth the experience. What it did do is it put a drive in us that if we didn’t want to answer to anyone, then we’ve gotta headline one. And look what we’re doing- we’ve built something! We’re filling rooms and I think we’re gonna headline once every couple of years and make our way around the whole  United States. Y’know, that could be the only time people see us. Who knows? We’re not gonna be a band that’s gonna be in your backyard every two weeks when we have lots of other stuff going on. We’ve got kids, y’know? And I love what we do too much to put our bodies through it all. When we come through, I want it to be special.

Katt: Yeah, absolutely! If you don’t mind me asking, are you still at a point where you guys are still sleeping in the van at night or on some nights of a tour?

Rick: No, no.

Katt: Because I was talking with your opening band, Eye On Attraction, and one of them said, “Man, we’ve been sleeping in the van. It’s not fun.”

Rick: Yeah, nah. We did that already. We’ll sleep in the van if schedule permits because sometimes… You gotta remember, like tonight we played Buffalo [NY], but we play Toledo [OH] tomorrow. And we’ve gotta go.

Katt: Yeah, you’ve gotta book it.

Rick: So we’ve gotta go get in there. We’ve gotta drive 10 hours and then we play the next day. So those nights, you sleep in the van. But when we can, we get nice-ass hotels between shows.

Katt: That’s good! Very good! I’m glad. I was talking earlier with Justin from Through Fire upstairs in the balcony and he just turned and looked at me and said, “Man, I do not feel good. I’ve been sleeping in a van for too long, I haven’t been eating right, I’m out of cigarettes. I’m not doing so ok.” I felt so bad for him.

Rick: Yeah, I’ve learned from those mistakes already. We rest. We eat right. We find a way to take care of ourselves. We’ve been out here for so long that we know that we gotta drink a lot of water and we’ve gotta take our vitamins. And we know that we’ve gotta stretch for an hour before we play. We know, man.

Katt: Yeah, sounds like you have the routine figured out.

Rick: Definitely, man. We make sure that we get in a bed and rest a little bit, too. I mean, obviously, it’s very grueling, y’know, we’ve got 10 hour drives and shows back to back at times- we have 7 in a row coming up after this. But during that 7 in a row, you better believe that everybody in this band is doing everything they can to stay on top of their game.

Katt: That’s excellent, yo! I feel really bad for bands who come out, especially on their first couple times touring, and they really haven’t gotten down a whole schedule or routine for themselves. By the time they get halfway through their tour dates, y’know, you can tell, they’re down to the bone.

Rick: Yeah. It’s sad.

Katt: Yeah, man. But, regarding Adelitas Way: you guys have got all these chops and you’re a DIY Hard Rock band. How does that feel? That’s a tough genre to be very DIY in now because I feel that there was- or at least a year ago there was- a lot of hullabaloo over the idea that “Rock is dead.”

Rick: Of course, of course. Y’know, people always wanna talk about something   and it was cool then to say “Rock is dead” for a minute, but you can tell, Rock is not dead.

Katt: Oh, yeah, just look at tonight! It was a live! It’s so alive!

Rick: Y’know, we’re 11 shows into this tour and there’s been 11 packed houses.  There’s not one that’s been a bad show and we’re starting to make our mark on Rock music and we’re very blessed and very grateful to our fans and to the people who are our army and follow us. Rock is certainly not dead. I think it was just cool to say that, but those times are over. It’s in a swing back. Yeah, we’re doing it ourselves, but I think this could potentially be the biggest Adelitas Way has ever been and we’re on our own label.  So, it’s kind of crazy.

Katt: It’s gotta be crazy cool, though.

Rick: For sure.

Katt: To get to here- to where you are- you made a lot of hard cuts in statements and interviews prior. I remember in a previous interview, you had a whole stance or argument (for lack of a better word) regarding internet piracy of albums.

Rick: –Yup.

Katt: -And you said, “That’s bullshit.” I totally agree with you on that and I also believe that it was bullshit that people gave that sort of blanket & BandAid statement of “Oh, well you can just sell merch instead,” as if that excuses the fact that people are stealing from the artist(s) that they’re litening to on the reg.

Rick:  The only thing that I don’t like that people do is when they get attitude about robbing us. Y’know, if people are nice and they’re just like, “Y’know what, I listen on Spotify but I love you guys and I still come out to your shows,” I’m cool with that. Sometimes on the internet I see people say “Take your private plane to see us” or… Y’know, even the other night, someone in Hagerstown [Maryland] was mad because they wanted to meet me and they left before I came out the other night and it’s like, “You’ve got too many expectations. I go out there and I talk to everyone, y’know?”

Katt: Yeah. I mean, you’re only one man. You’re not this omnipresent thing, you’re just one dude.

Rick: Yeah, so for me… I think for people that, y’know, they just have a negative attitude about using artists, they don’t understand the truth. Y’know, we’re not complaining because we’re lying, we’re just trying to tell the truth that music is free and the only way this band makes money is if people go out to shows and if people buy T-shirts and if people buy the CDs, or if people buy the vinyls and stuff. Y’know, when it comes to iTunes, we do well with that. When you get down to YouTube and Spotify, like, y’know?

Katt: Yeah, but streaming is the way of the future

Rick: Yeah, you’re right. It’s the way of the future, so you gotta tell people “You know we don’t have private jets. Y’know we don’t have limos waiting for us. But, if you’re gonna listen to us, then we appreciate you listening. If you fall in love with us and you love what you hear, then buy an album. Or buy a t-shirt. Or buy a vinyl. Come to a show. Any of those things. And that’s a great fan right there.”

Katt: So, do you think that that’s how we’ve saved Rock music or how we’ve been saving Rock music?

Rick:  I think Rock is being saved because the radio is getting back on track with the direction that it’s going. I think that fans are listening on the hubs like Spotify and Apple Music and discovering more bands and going out to see those bands when they like ‘em. I’m cool with streaming, man. And it’s already here, we’re never gonna defeat it, we gotta just… Not join it, but we gotta just use it to facilitate our music through it so people can fall in love with us. Y’know?

Katt: Yeah. Admittedly, I… I hate to say it, but I didn’t even find you guys until my best friend said, “Hey, I found this band on Spotify and YouTube and I think you’d really like them.” I wish I could say that I found you guys during a show way back when, but I also know that if she hadn’t stumbled on you guys, then we’d both still be in the dark when it comes to Adelitas Way. So, I hate to say it, but it works in that regard.

Rick: Yeah, I hear you. But, y’know, the worst part is that- aside from a fan base- Spotify doesn’t reward the bands at all. They don’t at all.

Katt: Oh, yeah, it’s terrible. I do work for a couple of independent record labels and one day we looked at the breakdown and… I mean, for the labels, we get a teeny percentage off of it, but the actual amount per song that we make is .00624 cents PER song stream. It’s sickening.

Rick: Oh, I know, I know. I’ve got my own label.  I know what comes in.

Katt: Yeah, and it’s like, “…Shit.”

Rick: Yeah, I know, but the matter is this: you can’t beat Spotify. You gotta join ‘em. And the one thing we can make as far as decisions go- our new album Getaway will not be on Spotify.

Katt: It won’t?

Rick: It won’t.

Katt: Wow.

Rick: We’re only putting the singles on Spotify. We’re gonna put “Bad Reputation” on and we’ll put another song or two on, and if people like the songs that they’ve heard, then they’ll go to iTunes or wherever and they’ll buy the record.

Katt: That’s so smart though, yo.

Rick: And if they want it, we will eventually put it up on Spotify, but they’re just gonna have to wait.

Katt: So, you’ll do a promotional period of “Alright, if you heard these singles and if you liked it, then this is how you get the full package.” I like that. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that you CAN do it like that. And then they end up wondering how they can make money off of Spotify. And the answer is you don’t, BUT you definitely can manipulate how and where people can listen.

Rick: Yup, exactly!

Katt: Speaking of Getaway: I love the title. I’ve loved the progression of Adelitas Way and the fact that it’s literally readable in your album titles. For instance, Stuck was at the end of your issues with Virgin Records, then you released the Deserve This EP as you underwent a sort of breakaway, and now we have Getaway. So, is it safe to assume that this album is sort of like “Adelitas Way Unchained?” This is you guys on your own?

Rick: No… No, no, no… I think… You gotta remember, we had a great relationship with Virgin for the first two albums. They left us unchained. On the 3rd album, a new team came in and they really wanted us to make a pop record, so we put a couple of pop songs on and we put a couple of our songs on…It was a battle. It was a war.  We released the Deserve This EP and that was us just doing our thing. Y’know, you gotta remember that Adelitas Way is almost like two different entities with the same man involved on both sides. Like, I’m involved in everything that goes on with this band and there are some songs that I write that are not with the band. They’re almost… Not “Rick DeJesus” songs, y’know, but you can hear those, y’know?

Katt: Yeah, I hear ya. You know where you put your flair and your bearings in, yeah.

Rick: Yeah, exactly. That’s Adelitas Way. That sound. When people are like, “I want that classic Adelitas Way sound,” it’s usually THOSE songs. But sometimes, you gotta remember, that we want to push musical boundaries. We want to. We’ve been playing together for 6 years, y’know, and I think on Getaway what you hear is more of us. You hear a balance of some songs that sound like Adelitas Way and you hear some songs that sound like Adelitas Way trying to do new things and working together as a unit and making an album. Because there’s not gonna be 10 singles. There’s gonna be one or two. You gotta make a record. You gotta make something that people feel and think, “They took chances on this. This is a different sound.” Y’know, I’m not trying to make the same record every time.

Katt: Right

Rick: I think that I’m just going with the flow and working as hard as I can and doing what I always do. Whatever comes to me, I write about it. Whenever I feel, I write about it. And I’ll continue to do that until people look back on my career and after all my records, I don’t care if they pluck one or two out of each album or if they pluck a playlist together, but…

Katt: Right, but at least they can definitively say that this was Rick DeJesus.

Rick: Yeah, and that playlist will be brilliant.

Katt: Yeah!

Rick: They’ll listen to those songs and they’ll be like, “This was underrated. This song was a brilliant song.” Y’know?

Katt: Yeah, absolutely! And I like the fact that you can say that you guys varied it up when you say that you had that “classic Adelitas Way sound” but you also have new things coming in the mix. You’re not afraid to say, “Now we’re trying something different.” And I like your viewpoint on the album. There’s been a couple of bands that I’ve recently written for or worked with who say, “Nah, man, our EP is just a bunch of singles.” And I’m sitting on the other end saying, “Well, let’s think about an album. Isn’t it more of a snapshot of where a band is at?”

Rick: Yeah, You gotta think about it. You gotta think that. We’re trying to take that Soundgarden & Pearl Jam route on a lot of the stuff we’re doing.

Katt: Which I really appreciate, man. I miss that.

Rick: We’re just gonna rip, dude. We’re just gonna go in this jam room together and play our asses off and see if what comes to us and that’s how songs like “Sometimes You’re Meant to Get Used” are made. Songs like “Deserve This” and “Filthy Heart.” Y’know, we just got in there and we were like, “Let’s feel this! Let’s feel this vibe!”

Katt: Yeah!  And that’s awesome! I have to ask. I saw in a previous interview that you did back sometimes around January that there’s a few songs that you’ve dedicated to people in Philly.

Rick: Yep.

Katt: So, is it kind of safe to say that Getaway is not only just a way for listeners to sort of escape into your music but also your escape from Philly?

Rick: That was the concept of this album. It’s about escaping listening to the record and escaping from your troubles and also, like, y’know, uh that Grand Theft Auto mentality of speeding down the highway at times, y’know?

Katt: Haha, yeah. Just GTA5 it.

Rick: Y’know, yeah. But, uh, the song that I dedicated to some of my friends in Philly is a song called “The Good Die Young” and… y’know, there are some people that had been in my life and had been a part of my life since I’ve been on my journey doing music and, y’know, they’ve come and gone and… And y’know, it makes me sad and I felt like, y’know, I had to pay homage to some of those guys. I had to let them know that I was thinking about them and that I’ve got 15 songs and an album to write and I could take the time to set aside and write for some of my lost friends.

Katt: Yeah. I really appreciate that because it so starkly contrasts your image. I feel like everybody knows you as this guy who walks out with this really awesome and classic “Bad Boy Rocker” swagger. You’ve definitely got it down and it was well deserved, right?

Rick: That’s me.

Katt: So, there’s that hard-ass Philly boy that ran off to Las Vegas, but then you can also be so heartfelt at the same time.

Rick: Oh, yeah, I’m very emotional. Totally.

Katt: That’s hard, though. Or, I want to say that’s hard to pull off in the music industry because that’s a place where you can get kicked in the teeth a lot.

Rick: Yeah, but I’m starting to figure out that some of these motherfuckers are scared of me, so it’s all good.

Katt: There you go! Hey, y’know what, that’s how it’s gotta go!

Rick: Yeah, ain’t nobody kickin’ me in the teeth, at that.

Katt: Oh, yeah, nobody’s getting one in on you, dude. Tell you what, one of my last questions for you comes from a reader of ours, Caitlyn. She’s wondering what was your biggest challenge was in the making of this album? And how did you end up working through it?

Rick: I think my biggest challenge was balancing a record out. Y’know, you gotta try and make everybody happy all the time when you’re making an album and I think it’s tough to balance that out. I think another hard thing for me was really making sure that the lyrics and the melodies were great. Johnny K really pushed me. And I have a close relationship with him, so he was really on me. He was really like, “Dude, I want you to be the best you can be” and “Let’s hammer out these next 12 hours” and…I mean, there were some really grueling nights, y‘know, making  sure that we got the right message across to people.

Katt: Totally, yeah. Oh, man, what’s it like working with Johnny K?

Rick: it’s amazing. He’s a great guy.  A-list producer all the way!

Katt: That’s awesome! I was excited to see that you were working with him. I was pretty curious beforehand.

Rick: And we self-produced half of it in Johnny K’s studios.

Katt: OH, MAN! You got the whole experience! Woah, that’s just so cool!

Rick:  And he kind of helped us with it.  He let us do our thing. So that was similar to the Deserve This EP. We self-produced that EP pretty much.  We brought an engineer in and… I don’t want to say I self-produced it, but at the end of the day, I had the direction of where the record was gonna go and we all…Rob contributed a great ton, Trevor contributed some great drums, Andrew put in tasty bass licks and it was great!

Katt: I really dig the collaborative input that you all have but you also retain control of the reins.

Rick: You got it, you got it.

Katt: Yeah, it means that Adelitas Way is you all the way!

Rick: Totally!

Katt: So, before I let you go-

Rick: Yeah, I really need to put some deodorant on

Katt: -Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Rick: I’d like to thank our fans. Without fans we’re nothing. If we didn’t have you, we wouldn’t have shit. So, I wanna thank the fans for being so good to us!

Getaway will be out on February 26th via The Vegas Syn / The Fuel Music.


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