“I’ve constantly been wanting to share new material with our gatherers, especially the ones who are online every single night. There’s been a really great process behind it.”
We’ve covered it in abundance here at DigBoston, but it’s a definitive fact that livestreaming has become a primary source of musical entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many artists have taken part in this creative medium in some way, but very few have done it as consistently as Boston’s Adam Ezra. Either solo or with his folk-jam band the Adam Ezra Group consisting of fiddler Corrina Smith, drummer Alex Martin, and bassist Poche Ponce, hundreds of people have tuned in on a nightly basis at 7pm via Facebook to enjoy a virtual performance. Ezra and his musical comrades refer to these shows as the Gathering Series, and they’ve been going on in various locations for nearly a year. The 365th consecutive edition is on March 12.
Ezra and I spoke about adjusting to performing virtually, staying out in the desert, and what it takes to stream every night for a year.
Going back to when you started the Gathering Series last year when COVID-19 cancelled everything, did you have any prior experience with live streaming and virtual shows? Were there any major adjustments that you had to make?
For so many of us in these times, it seems like everything has been a major adjustment in this last year. We knew what livestreaming was and we’ve probably done a handful of attempts at it here and there with 50 or 100 fans or something like that, but this is something totally different. It did not unfold in any kind of organized or planned out fashion and to be honest I felt really bad during the night that we had to cancel our next show. It was on a Friday night and it was such a weird thing for me at the time, so I went live and it was less of an intention of performing a concert with it being more of a way to share some thoughts and feel a little less alone and a little less scared. There was this wonderful response from our community, I must have been live for around 40 minutes and at the end of it I wanted to do it again the next day.
The next day, when I went live again, there were twice as many people tuning in from our community. Then I did it the next day, and the next day after that, and so on, and that’s when we started calling it the Gathering Series. It’s been a pretty huge journey, I’m not technologically savvy in the slightest, but over that time I’ve graduated from livestreaming on my phone to getting some decent software, cameras, and lighting when I need it. It’s taken some adjusting, but despite this crazy year we’ve all been living through it’s been an incredible journey for me.
During the series, you’ve performed over 2,500 songs. Have you been habitually learning new songs and writing new ones during your spare time over the past year or so? If that’s the case, what inspires this prolific output? Do you find every day giving you inspiration to write new music? How has this creative process been going for you?
Very quickly into the Gathering Series, we literally started tracking the songs we’ve performed. We actually have a spreadsheet online of songs that I’ve played every single night and a list of them. I’m going to guess that statistic of 2,500 songs is not the number of different ones but the number of intervals on the spreadsheet. I do know that the real number is way more than I’ve ever performed when I’ve been on the road and playing shows. It’s had its challenges, and playing online every single night has brought some awesome, incredible creative ones.
I’ve constantly been wanting to share new material with our gatherers, especially the ones who are online every single night. There’s been a really great process behind it.
I’ve been playing for 20 years and I’ve been writing songs all the time. For the entire time, most of the songs I’ve written are in a backlog and a lot of the songs there I’ve never had the opportunity to perform for people. I would say over the past 300 plus nights, I’ve alternated between constantly trying to write new material, which I love doing, and digging way, way back into the catalog. There are some songs that I wrote during the very first year I was playing music that frankly are a little embarrassing for me to share because they feel like they’re coming from a different voice, an undeveloped voice.
When you go to a museum that features an artist, you’ll see paintings and sculptures that are finished products, but there will also be a room that shares the artist’s notebook and unfinished sketches. I’ve taken some of the gathering experiences, especially when I’m sharing new or old music, to do a kind of thing where maybe it’s a rough draft of something, but it’s still a piece of art from me that I appreciate and I’d like to share with the people tuning in. That has a really beautiful challenge along with it being a nice way of sharing something from myself that I haven’t been able to share before. I’ve also dug deep into a lot of artists’ material that have influenced me over my life and this series has given me an excuse, for lack of a better word, to learn new songs that I’ve never had the opportunity to learn before. That’s also been a wonderful journey for me as an artist as well, just to dig deep and analyze some of the songs that have impacted me during my life.
You recently moved out to the Mojave Desert in California, right?
Sort of. I don’t know if the term “moved” is the correct way to put it, my wife and I have a place in Chelsea and we’re actually planning on heading back home after the 365th gathering. Last year, we created a system in which we could have pop up, guerilla, grassroots concerts in the backyards of fans with hundreds of them safely spread out in socially-distanced plots. We were able to play for real human beings again and we did close to 50 of those. Starting in April, hopefully the weather will be nice enough to have those kinds of shows again, but for the past couple of months my wife and I have been staying in a cabin in the Mojave Desert. We figured that it’s something we can do when I’m not on tour and I can work from home, so for the time being we’ve been on our own out in the desert. It’s been wonderful.
Can we expect a full-length album or EP? Or do you plan on just releasing singles for the rest of the year?
Like most things in my life as an artist, we’re kind of letting it happen as it happens. I will tell you that we are constantly working on 19 studio tracks.
Each of them are in various stages of completion, and we have one of our most popular live songs that we haven’t released a studio version of called “Switching To Whiskey” due to be released on the same day of the 365th gathering on March 12. We also have the next handful of studio songs finished, so for now we’re going to continue to release singles on a monthly basis. As we finish recording music, we’re basically going to share it with our fans and community.
We found with “All Right Today” that with it being our first release since COVID-19 started, it has also given our fans a chance to mobilize in really exciting ways that we’ve never seen before. We’re excited to keep on releasing music and we’re kind of calling it the “Album Project” only because I’m not sure how many people in the world are consuming albums in the traditional sense that much anymore. As more and more of our material gets finished in the studio, it can very well be that we decide to put all of those singles in a more cohesive way with an album being the culmination.
Do you have anything special planned for the 365th edition of the Gathering Series?
Over the last month, the gathering has taken place in various locations while we’ve come up with new video and studio releases, but I’m not sure what we’re going to do for the 365th one. As much as the series is owned by our community, it’s also owned by us. Regardless of what we end up doing, the specialness of the night is going to come from our community. I’m sure they will rally around in amazing fashion like they always do and this is a testament to them truly more so than myself and the band.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Providence Journal, The Connecticut Examiner, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Northern Transmissions and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.