Gospel may be undergoing a resurgence in the mainstream (one quick look at Chance the Rapper and Kanye West confirms as much) but that doesn't mean it ever truly went away. In fact, many artists have used the music of the black church in other genres to execute their messages. Adam Ness, a vocalist and musician originally from Detroit, embodies that spirit.
Before embarking on his current solo career, Ness spent years working in the gospel scene. "They only help each other," Ness said about his experiences with the gospel community. Ness even moved to Chicago to join a gospel group (the project never truly got off the ground but gave Ness the freedom to explore his own music).
Although he wouldn't describe his current music as gospel — each song incorporates genres such as R&B, soul, rock and jazz, among others — he still incorporates gospel elements. "There's no feeling like gospel music so I definitely try to bring the spirit in every song," Ness said. "The spirit can be translated as funk or soul or just outright nastiness."
When crafting his songs, Ness avoids a formula, instead relying on his instincts to lead the direction of the music and the lyrics. "There's no specific genre that I try to put on each song," he said. "It's just what I'm connected to in the world at the time." In general, he doesn't want any one song to sound like the other.
In 2014, Ness released #HighPlaces, a soulful, lovely EP of eclectic songs that didn't feel rooted in any one sense of place and time. From the fluttery trumpets to the soft, rhythmic guitar, the EP was a bright introduction to Ness as a solo artist. It also strays from the trends of the city, avoiding the minimalist, synthetic beat-driven R&B of his peers.
His new EP, currently untitled, will take a departure from his first EP. Ness is only four songs into the project, and he expects to include seven tracks with a release date in August. Expect more trap soul elements, a genre popularized by singers Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez and Fetty Wap.
"I love that music. I love that sound. And I felt as an artist that I wanted to play with it myself," Ness offered about his musical direction. The new EP will be an audibly darker record full of minor chords and Ness singing in a lower register.
"How interesting would it be to have a vocal that's normally doing 10,000 things just be minimal," he said referring to the differences between a gospel-like vocal run and the straightforwardness of trap soul.
Although the music sounds noticeably different compared to his last effort, Ness said that he has been working on this latest EP since the release of #HighPlaces. The music has always been a part of him, even if he wasn't sure where it was going at the time. Lyrically, Ness' new songs lack a resolution, something he seems to be fine with, at least for the time being. He draws inspiration from his life experiences, which aren't straightforward. In his lyrics, you get a sense of the messiness of life, our insecurities and our questions.
"I just wanted to know the truth about things," he said.
Britt Julious is a freelance writer.