A Night in the Life of: Adam Joseph

Joseph Alexiou

Soulful tenor Adam Joseph has the vocal grace of a hummingbird. He's also a songwriter, music producer, recording engineer and DJ. Originally from Cincinnati, he studied at the Berklee School of Music before breaking into the New York scene in 2004 -- now he performs and DJs regularly at NYC hotspots, including his Saturday night residency at Chelsea bar XES.

So, you are a multi-talented musician, do you work for yourself?
Yes, my production company is Elegant Children Productions, while my record label, Jah Records released my first album, and the Faggotty Attention maxi-single. I've been singing since I was a kid, I went to a performing arts high school, studied classical voice for eight years, but I always loved to sing R & B, and Jazz, so for that I'm more self-taught.

"Faggotty Attention" -- this song came out two years ago and caused quite a stir! It was a departure for you, right?
That was the first clubby type of music that I'd ever done -- my previous stuff was all R&B or neo soul. It was my first really gay-oriented track. I've also made videos from my singles "Flow With My Soul" and "You're Mine," co-directed by Aaron Cobbett and George Lyter.

And then you found an audience?
It was a shocker type song, people could go on YouTube and laugh at it. It was Jonny McGovern's idea, originally -- he was joking that I should do a song about seducing a straight boy and give him my "faggotty attention."

You seem so sweet and unassuming, but one of your lyrics is "you ain't ever had it this tight."
It's not that shocking to me, if you listen to any pop song a girl sings, they're so suggestive -- as soon as a guy starts singing about another guy, it becomes a big deal. Some people take it super seriously -- I was just trying to joke around have a good time.

What are you working on now?
Well, I'm featured soloing on Bob Sinclar's new record BORN IN '69, which will be released May 11. We did a remake of "The Way I Feel," a disco song by Adrian Gurvitz. It was very chill to work with him, and he gave me very little direction and just told me to sing it. Personally, I'm working on a video for a cover of Kool N the Gang's "Fresh," and also recording my next album.

How did you end up in the scene to begin with?
I met Tony Juliano, who owns XES, during the time when I was just trying to make rent and working in a restaurant. He gave me my own show every Tuesday -- he had the budget for a residency with a live band and we would play a two-hour set, which was unheard of. That's how I started getting in the fag rags…

So how did you get into DJing?
I lost my full time music-publishing gig at Major Bob almost two years ago, so it pushed me to do more performances and eventually DJ. It's a good way to make money, but also get out there and be out with the new music. I see what people are responding to and it makes me a better producer.

I was involved with nightlife way before DJing, and that's how I was able to start doing it so easily, working with your friends.

And now you're a scenester! Do you feel that way?
I feel like, I mean, yes, I can go to the club and know half the people there and blablahblah… I usually don't pay to get in the club or for drinks -- who wants to do that? I think that it might have to do with the East Village collapsing, there's not the crazy kind of people going out every night of the week. Back when I first got here in 2004, that's when there was a super tight community of people working and living off of nightlife as an industry. It was crazy, but it doesn't seem to be way anymore.

What was the East Village like in the Golden Days of 2004?
I used to just walk down Avenue A, hitting up Opaline, the old Boys Room, The Cock, Starlight, Phoenix… they were all happening at the same time. The sole reason I lived there was so that I could go to the parties and walk home. I prefer Brooklyn now to the city -- to come back to the calm and relaxed neighborhood is good. I'm from Cincinatti, after all.

How did you develop your look? It's vaguely thug-ish but the jeans are tight…
Linda James is the one who gave it a name: Homo-Homeless Teenage Runaway. It's about high tops, and tight jeans, lots of different baseball caps. I like bright colors and comfortable fabrics.

I shop at Daffy's and on the street, finding random shit but with a touch of one really great staple, like good jeans or really cute shoes [he glances down shyly to brand new, deep black Diesel high top sneakers, trimmed with patent leather] -- I try to keep it casual but with urban awareness.

You've produced for Kevin Aviance, who was impressed with your ability to work so efficiently and quickly? Whom else have you impressed with your speed and talents?
Well, I've worked with Jonny McGovern, Peppermint, The Ones, Patty Austin, and I once opened a show for Martha Wash.

As far as production goes, it's about making bold decisions -- there are so many different ways that you can approach a song. You're very vulnerable as a producer, because you throw ideas out there to musicians, who are sometimes very guarded with their enthusiasm for what you do.

What's the best thing about being in the NYC music scene?
I like to -- after working all day -- go out and hear my tracks played in the club and see people react to it. It's become more and more of a regular thing and that's really cool.

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