Let me introduce to you Adam Coltman. He is the sound behind Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, One Direction, Christina Perri and Paloma Faith, to name just a few. But as my conversation with Adam evolved, the big names that he worked with faded and instead the words “As one door closes, another opens” came to mind.
So, let’s open the first door to Adam Coltman.
The journey of becoming a producer and songwriter all started when young Adam played in rock bands with his mates while he was studying law. But the combination of law and playing in dark pubs until midnight wasn’t exactly the door Adam wanted to open. As he opened the door to a real job of being a lawyer, he quickly realised that that wasn’t for him, turning instead to the door of music. And as he decided that music was something that he needed to pursue, he opened the door of Sticky Studios in Surrey. As he walked through the doors of Sticky Studios, Adam was greeted by Jake Gosling. They went on recording some of Adam’s original songs and just like that, all the doors in the past closed shut and Adam never left Sticky Studios.
Over the years that followed the opening of that specific door, Adam was under Jake Gosling’s wing, learning new skills and working together. While working under Jake Gosling, a small window opened. The window of being a musician first and then a producer. Adam recorded his first EP, played a few gigs in London for his 5 to 6 mates that he dragged along to his gig in London.There he decided that he wasn’t cut out for the life of a rock star and closed that window.
As the window of being a musician closed, Adam knew that he should hold on to his craft as a producer, realising that he felt the most at home on the other side of the recording desk.
While talking to Adam, I looked around at all the doors that had opened and closed again for Adam and asked him if he ever went on to study producing and music or whether he just learned the tips and tricks from Jake Gosling. He chuckled and answered, “While working at Sticky Studios, Jake was still recording my music and I think he just got sick of it, here is a desk and a recording board, just do it yourself.”
Throwing someone in the deep end there, Jake? But luckily for us, Adam knew how to swim and before he knew it, the young man that Jake had taken under his wing became one of the best producers in the music industry.
Sticky Studios wasn’t just one door that opened for Adam Coltman, but it was the start of a series of opened doors. There is a door that Adam the songwriter opened with a song that he wrote for Matt Wills.
But let me open the door to Matt Wills for you, and I can promise that if you’ve listened to this song, you won’t close the door on Matt Wills soon.
Now that we’ve opened and closed all the doors that led Adam Coltman to where he is now, let’s open some more producing doors.
One thing that I’m always curious about is whether the creative process differs from one genre to the next, and who better to ask a producer that worked on albums that vary in genres? For a while Adam spent a lot of time with UK rappers and grime artists, which is a very beat driven style of music. You can just sit at a desk and create a beat, and rappers will be able to do their thing over the beat you created. When you work with singer/songwriters, however, it’s another ballgame completely. When producing a singer/songwriter, you sit at a piano or with a guitar and get a vibe for the songs in that manner. The big difference in the creative process is whether you introduce the melody or not.
As I’m writing this, I can still remember how starstruck I was when Adam answered my call. With that in mind, how do you take the first step to connect with stars such as Ed Sheeran? And the answer to that question is really simple. Adam was at the right place at the right time. When he walked into Sticky Studios on his first day, it was also Ed Sheeran’s first day in Sticky Studios. Yes, I know you freaked out, so did I. So while you grasp this big moment, have a listen to Paloma Faith:
And because of the Ed Sheeran door that opened for Sticky Studios, many other labels and artists came knocking on Jake and Adam’s door.
Being a producer is art and as we all know, there must be some inspiration behind the art to create something that will inspire others. With that in mind, I asked Adam to tell me abut which other producers he takes inspiration from. And just when I thought I knew Adam Coltman, he showed me another side. And what is that other side, you ask? He really enjoys the work of electronic producers such as Flume. What they do with sound design is what leaves Adam in awe.
Adam is a music guy and it is important for him to find the musical vibe, the instrumental aspect of anything, and the words comes freely. That’s why he looks at the artist when it comes to the lyrics, and while he sticks to the melodies and instruments of a song. It’s got to be truthful to them because Adam’s not the guy on stage singing his heart out. When you are a writer, there is a real skill in knowing how much of yourself to put in a song, and Adam just sweeps in to tweak it a bit.
I had this call with Adam just a week after Van Coke Studios opened in Cape Town and it broke my brain to understand how it is possible for a musician such as Francois van Coke to produce other people, so I asked Adam about it right away. After explaining many of my thoughts on the matter, I sat back and waited to hear what Adam had to say.
“I do appreciate what these guys are doing to find the next thing. The more people can support each other in this industry the better, I think.”
And with that short answer Adam opened the door in mind that has allowed me to appreciate local musicians even more.
You know the songs that you stand still in silence for, just to listen to them no matter where you are? That song that you play all over again if someone interrupts you? I have a few of those songs, but what makes them so precious?
I asked Adam and he replied with his calm voice, so full of passion, that he likes songs that give you the feeling of having heard them before. Just as the Beatles did so well; they could make you miss someone that you hadn’t even met yet, just by giving you that feeling of longing when you listen to the music. There is something about melodies that is so familiar and new at the same time. Music taps in your psyche and it connects to you in such a level that it feels like home to you.
When it comes to lyrics, it’s also important for the artists to be relatable. Just listen to James Bay, Lewis Capaldi and Adele, they are not ground-breaking artists but they give the listeners something that they can relate to. They say the words in such a pure simple form that is conversational and connects directly with people.
Let’s open the doors to the South African music scene.
Adam worked with Jeremy Loops on his song Gold and we all know that Jeremy Loops has the whole world at his feet; people from all over know the words to his songs by heart. But is it possible for local musicians to play with the big dogs in the international music industry? The South African music scene is getting there and has gained a lot of popularity thanks to people like Jeremy Loops.
When an aspiring artist opens the door to work with Adam, he immediately looks for the star quality in that person. There is this a certain presence in the people that you know will do well. When the door of opportunity opens for you, you have to own your craft and you have to learn what you don’t want to do as much as you do want to do.
Although Adam has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry he also works with up-and-coming musicians such as Andrew Duncan. Adam really likes working with people like Andrew because he sees a blank canvas. The sounds aren’t completely defined yet and they are sort of finding it as they go long working on the EP.
Adam doesn’t do music because it’s an easy job, instead he carves out a little niche for someone and he loves seeing new musicians exploding and developing in great artists.
When asking for advice for aspiring music producers Adam feels strongly that you don’t necessarily need to go and study for it, but rather to throw yourself into the deep end and get yourself a mentor that will help you to swim.
As the end of my conversation with Adam approached, I wanted to know if an artist is only as good as their last album, a sentiment that Adam couldn’t agree with more. That is the only way to keep the music door open.
So, what are the next doors for Adam Coltman?
Adam has a number of releases that will be coming out soon. Names like Andrew Duncan, Folly Rae, Bad Kids and Matt Wills are just some of the few that you can get excited about prior to the release. Adam is also working on a side project which he will be performing in as well, but can’t say much more about it. But as I see how his eyes light up when he talks about this new project, I can promise you that it is something worth looking forward to.
Adam Coltman and I jumped into a time machine for my last question. While traveling to the future of music, Adam predicts that especially the urban music scene will get stronger with people like Stormzy and Slowtide. This genre will just going to keep moving forward and becoming more established. Another prediction for 2019 is that the indie rock scene is going to keep growing. Adam can’t wait to be surprised when he goes on Spotify to explore new and different music during the remainder of the year.
Doors opened for Adam and shut closed again. Adam had to open a few windows to experience the breeze of change and opportunity that came through,but had to shut it again. One thing ]is for sure: the door of Sticky Studios opened for Adam Coltman a few years ago, and now he opens doors for so many people that couldn’t even open the window.