Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter John Amadon is celebrating the release of his third full-length, Seven Stars, a collection of haunting melodies that make good bedfellows with easy-laid beats; an album that finds tight hooks with a from-the-heart lyrical sense that will make you feel as if you personally know the songwriter.
Multi-instrumentalist John Amadon is the kind of artist that creates music without any financial support or promotional backing from a label. Knowingly off the beaten path of the music industry, he is driven not by the pursuit of fame or money, but by a passion for songwriting. He holes himself up in friends’ basement studios, his only ambition to challenge himself songwriting wise, and to create the best art he can. All for art’s sake; not to please A&R guys, not to create something he thinks will turn elitist writers into his fans, and certainly not to “sell out.” He does it to make himself happy, to make records he can play for friends with a smile and pride. But, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want people to take notice and find enjoyment in his music either.
He rarely plays live, doesn’t tour, yet he keeps writing, recording, working on his songwriting, and getting stronger with each new song. The result of this is heard in his latest offering, Seven Stars, a soothing blend of the upbeat and the relaxing, a well-grooved record that is as much a headphones listen as it is something to play in the car, crusing down the highway, with the windows down and sun giving you a driver’s tan.
“I spent one out of every eight dollars I earned working as a bartender and bookstore employee on the making of Seven Stars,” says Amadon.
Known around Portland for his seven-year stint as bassist for roots-rock/pop artist Fernando, Amadon is equally known for his locally self-released solo records. Upon leaving Fernando¹s band after the release of 2006’s Enter to Exit, Amadon took a break from music only to be re-inspired to make a record, the record that would become Seven Stars.
“I took a nearly five year hiatus from music and songwriting from which I didn¹t actually expect to return,” recalls Amadon. “At a certain point I started working on a few songs and began to consider recording again. At about the same point I began spiraling into a strange madness focused around a girl I had become pointlessly and desperately obsessed with. The writing began in earnest for this record when I started using songwriting as a tool to help myself sort through this obsession that was making me feel as though I was coming apart at the seams.”
>From the madness, songs began to take shape, with Amadon finding himself writing more than he ever had in the past; he was very prolific instead of, in the past, struggling – and sometimes forcing himself – to finish songs.
“Once I directed my songwriting focus to this issue,” he says of his obsession with this girl, “I found myself writing with an urgency and an ease that I had rarely felt before as a songwriter. In addition to the raw catharsis the writing provided me, I realized that songwriting had become a much easier exercise for me, and that now, instead of struggling to express, I was able to express quite freely. I had found my voice as a writer.”
With a record’s worth of material, Amadon called in several friends, including Scott McPherson (live and session drummer for acts including Beck, Elliott Smith, Neil Finn, M.Ward, She & Him, Bright Eyes, et.al), Mike Coykendall (M.Ward, She & Him), and William Slater (The Grails) to help him flesh out the record.
“Making Seven Stars was the most hurdle-free thing I¹ve ever done,” he says without hesitation. “Experience has taught me this is very unusual in the record making process. The writing, the recording, and the post-production all went off essentially without a hitch, and each stage was very rewarding. I got to spend a lot of time working with good friends in an environment very conducive to creativity. I honestly can¹t remember a single bad or even unproductive session. It was pure creative pleasure and catharsis.”
The result, for Amadon, is a record that he feels is artistically legit on its own terms, on his own dime, with no compromise or settling. He believes in every song on this record, and doesn’t stop from beaming with pure, proud joy when he talks about the record.
“I am very proud of the vocal and musical performances throughout, as well as their presentation, and the very cohesive way the record comes across as a single piece when listened to from start to finish. I wouldn¹t change a note, a beat, or a lyric,” comments Amadon. “I put a great deal of work into insuring that there would be no filler at all on the record, not only avoiding filler songs, but filler within songs.”
“Some bands are able to make records that sound really clean, without flubs, clams, or pitch issues,” he continues. “Yet they don¹t sound artificial. Listening to my first two records over the years, I have often lamented how many little flubs I allowed to pass through to the final mixes, either through inattentiveness or laziness. Knowing how much that bugged me with the first two records, I made a real attempt to get everything right, to the degree that I, or my collaborators could hear errors to be fixed. I feel pretty confident that I made a record that is clean performance-wise without being sterile.”
Though some may write John Amadon off as a hobbyist making records only for himself, Seven Stars is nonetheless an ambitious offering, grand enough to stand up to any competition. That’s a lofty statement. And although he isn’t out toiling in sweaty rock clubs every night of the week, chasing something that for many is unobtainable, he is holed up in his living room, bedroom, or a friend’s studio writing and recording, always pushing himself to make a better song, a better record, and something that will withstand the test of time. Welcome Seven Stars.