Q&A with prolific songwriter/guitarist Adam Karch - hybrid acoustic blues that consists of precise fingerpicking

"I want it to bring people together through music. Blues and Roots music has that effect on me but I'm not sure what effect it has on socio-culture...It's a small niche this type of music and it's a close-knit community through blues societies and other organizations. That's one way of keeping people together and interested."

Adam Karch: The Spirit of Americana

Although Adam Karch is from Montreal (Canada), his music embodies the spirit of Americana like a scenic ride across the country. He plays a hybrid acoustic blues that consists of precise fingerpicking that recalls players such as Chet Atkins and Kelly Joe Phelps, along with an innovative percussive technique that is thoroughly modern, while somehow primal and anchored in tradition. Adam has a raw talent that was evident from the first time he picked up the guitar at an early age. By age 14, he was fronting bands, headlining clubs, and dazzling audiences with both his spirited guitar playing and soulful singing. On February 2020, Karch released his ambitious and most accomplished recording to date. Everything Can Change, his fifth album, features 11 songs that showcase not only Karch’s incredible and wide-ranging talents as a guitarist and vocalist, but also his abilities as a prolific songwriter. On the title of the album and its themes, Karch says “No matter what situation you are in, it can change in an instant. We’re all in this together, we make our own skies blue.”

Some of the highlights on Everything Can Change include “It’s Your Song” – “When you are lost and broken and have nothing left, the beauty of music can carry you over any obstacles.”, says Karch. “Playing music is a healing thing you can offer to anyone.” “Fair Verona Blues” a dark version of the tale of Romeo and Juliette, played in the RL Burnside style of hill country blues, an acoustic twist on JJ Cale’s classic “After Midnight”, the title track “Everything Can Change”, a rich finger-picking version of Bob Dylan’s folk classic “Don’t Think Twice”. With such a deep respect for and understanding of blues and roots music, Karch’s recordings and live performances are able to touch the hearts and souls of audiences around the world.  For fans of blues, roots and folk music Everything Can Change feels like coming home.

Interview by Michael Limnios             Photos by James St Laurent Photography

How has the Blues and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The Blues and Roots music have kept me grounded and focused on the simple things in life like good music. It's a sort of music that stays true to itself and as there is always new music coming out you can still sort of rely on what feeling good blues and Roots music gives you (for me I mean.) I wish I lived in the 40's and 50's where things were still a little more simpler and music was appreciated for its simplicity and message. I've been introduced too many people and experiences from playing music. It has set me free and gave me meaning to what it's like to become 100% yourself which I'm still working on.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

The music is essentially guitar and vocals, a very intimate sound where the vocals blend like an extra guitar string. No effects just a rich plug and play kind of sound. As for songwriting, I'm the type who will think about a melody in my head for months and then finally everything will come out within an hour. I'm not the most prolific songwriter but when the idea comes it eventually transforms into a song which I can call my own. Another way I write song is by recovering popular songs and we visiting them with and putting my twist on them as if I wrote them they come completely my song essentially.

"I miss all the greats that passed in recent to past years... I've learned a bunch from them though and I will always keep learning. I hope folk and blues music stays alive and for that matter makes a comeback. A lot of folks don't know but all our music these days has some sort of root connection to old time music."

What do you love most from a solo acoustic performance? What is the hardest part and what are the secrets of?

I'm probably most comfortable performing solo because of the space and room I have to go anywhere I want.  I'll challenge myself while I'm playing a song to go off and see where it can take me. I might have a mental plan of where I might go on the guitar but there is always tension when I play which helps keep the audience guessing to a point. The hardest thing might be talking between songs, I'm not a big storyteller and sometimes I just want to let the music speak for itself but it depends... some night I'm like a comedian and I have no idea how that happens, but it works

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

When I was 18, I was performing at the Tremblant Blues fest and I got the chance to play along with Coco Montoya for a few songs. We were both left-handed layers playing the same white Fender Strat. Every time I play the festival, I remember that gig and how lucky I was to be able to do that. As far as studio, I had a great experience recording this last record due to the fact that we took our time to record this record and sat back and re listened to songs, changed a few things, rerecorded certain songs until I felt it was the best I can do as an self-produced artist.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss all the greats that passed in recent to past years... I've learned a bunch from them though and I will always keep learning. I hope folk and blues music stays alive and for that matter makes a comeback. A lot of folks don't know but all our music these days has some sort of root connection to old time music.       (Adam Kerch / Photo by James St Laurent)

"The Blues and Roots music have kept me grounded and focused on the simple things in life like good music. It's a sort of music that stays true to itself and as there is always new music coming out you can still sort of rely on what feeling good blues and Roots music gives you (for me I mean.) I wish I lived in the 40's and 50's where things were still a little more simpler and music was appreciated for its simplicity and message. I've been introduced too many people and experiences from playing music. It has set me free and gave me meaning to what it's like to become 100% yourself which I'm still working on."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Well, I wouldn't want to change anything on the exterior, I'd rather keep growing and change myself to become who I really am musically and that's the fun in plating, learning and recording music. I wish blues and folk were as mainstream as pop these days just because I think it deserves that chance for the artists and the passion, they put into playing that type of music.

What touched (emotionally) you from the railway adventures? What are the most important lessons of life you have learned?

I've been a part of that program for a few years and what touches me is the stories you hear from passengers as you get to know them more and more after each song. Some sing along, some try to sing and other's don't care at all. It's great to see who puts themselves out there when you present music to them especially in a live and intimate setting like on a train.

What is the impact of Blues and Roots music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I want it to bring people together through music. Blues and Roots music has that effect on me but I'm not sure what effect it has on socio-culture...It's a small niche this type of music and it's a close-knit community through blues societies and other organizations. That's one way of keeping people together and interested.

"The music is essentially guitar and vocals, a very intimate sound where the vocals blend like an extra guitar string. No effects just a rich plug and play kind of sound. As for songwriting, I'm the type who will think about a melody in my head for months and then finally everything will come out within an hour. I'm not the most prolific songwriter but when the idea comes it eventually transforms into a song which I can call my own. Another way I write song is by recovering popular songs and we visiting them with and putting my twist on them as if I wrote them they come completely my song essentially."

(Adam Kerch / James St Laurent Photography)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I'd have to say Newport Folk festival 1963. I would have like to have seen Mississippi John Hurt's performance. If you look at the video on YouTube, It's like he's playing in his living room but there are a sea of people at the show...The simplicity of people closing their eyes and taking it all in. Would have been a perfect folk picnic and I would have loved to have been a part of that. Imagine the stories you could have heard after that performance or after the whole festival for that matter.

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