Adam McInnis is going for broke. Forget material sacrifices, the Austin-based singer is using his wealth of culture, experiences and inspiration to make Wherever You Are one of the richest debut albums in years.
Wherever You Are – produced by Will Hoffman (Flyleaf) and Dwight Baker (Kelly Clarkson) with select tracks co-produced by Adam McInnis – features epic poetry set to the energy of '70s rock, the passion of Motor City soul and the conviction of golden age gospel. There are touches of vintage Greenwich Village folk, Piano Man-powered ivory keys and Stones-style dramatic choruses. Self-described as "alternative rock meets singer-songwriter soul," McInnis can even marry the sounds of Peter Gabriel and Ray Charles or Ben Harper and Cat Stevens without ever losing his own musical identity. And the faith-filled singer ties it all together with a genuine message of hope.
"A lot of what comes through is hope," explains McInnis, who mastered his storytelling style as a script writing major in college. "I talk about real life with all its ups and downs, but I believe new doors will open if you have hope."
The title track, written in a flush of inspiration following a moment of prayer, epitomizes this hope as a spiritual love song set to acoustic guitars, harmonies and loads of melodic energy. "Fall Into Me," the first song he ever wrote for his own music career, tackles the essence of beauty atop understated funky beats and swipes of electric guitar distortion, while "Say a Little Prayer" fires up the Hammond organ for a soulful anthem that would make Stevie Wonder proud. Wherever You Are closes with the ambitious "I'm the One," a Phil Collins- and Genesis-channeling dance-floor love song narrated from the perspective of the Creator.
McInnis even tackles his own salvation story with "Since I Spoke Your Name." He explains, "This is a song about salvation, about letting Him in. Like many people, there were times early in my life where I considered a relationship with Christ but didn’t commit. Since walking through that door, nothing has ever been the same."
The album's 12 tracks cover a lot of territory – from the amped-up rock of "Take These Wings" to the somber piano ballad "Forever Love" – yet it all fits together as a true perfect dozen. This songwriting feat comes naturally to McInnis, though, as a young man who's already walked countless roads far and wide.
Born in Manhattan, McInnis grew up in a spiritually and culturally rich environment. His Black Scottish and American Indian father was a bold gospel evangelist and his Russian mother a classically trained folk and opera singer. As a child, his parents exposed him to international artists and gospel churches, and he spent his youth in the Big Apple during one of its major music renaissances.
"There aren't many singer-songwriters who can say they were born into such a hip-hop environment," he explains. "I'm a mixture of cultures from a big city where I saw big things happen."
Tragically, at age 15, the only son became the man of the house when his father passed away. McInnis recalls, "My mother worked far away so I had to take care of myself and watch over other family members that stayed with us, and I wasn't ready for that at age 15. I had to grow up fast and it created a lot of anger issues in me. I wasn't sure of religion anymore."
Though he struggled through his remaining teen years, McInnis rekindled his faith at age 20. "On the surface, I was achieving the things that I had dreamed about when I was young, but I felt completely hollow. I remember sitting in my apartment one night, thinking about my father and the things he used to say when I was young, and I just fell into prayer. I invited Jesus into my life and asked for something that was real and truly fulfilling. That night, I had a dream. I was standing on stage playing guitar for a huge enthusiastic crowd, but at the time I didn't play an instrument or even really sing for that matter! I took this dream to heart and saw it as a sign that this is what I should do with my life; that this was a way that I could touch people’s lives in a positive way."
McInnis' music talents broke into the national spotlight thanks to a pair of TV shows – he emerged victorious in Joe Simpson's songwriting competition Score and beat out 30,000 other artists to join the 11-person ensemble The One: Making of a Music Star. Now living in Los Angeles, McInnis explored every music opportunity, from promoting a live music club night to working as a producer/engineer to writing songs for other artists. He even became Musical Director at a music camp for children of celebrities like Tommy Hilfiger, Bruce Willis and Leeza Gibbons.
McInnis' music career took an unexpected turn, however, when he paid a visit to Austin, the live music capital of the world. Inspired by the vibrant scene and passionate performances, the singer packed his bags and headed for Longhorn country.
"When you see people playing music because they love it – not because they want to be famous – you realize why you love playing again," McInnis explains. "It makes you want to write more songs, play more shows and explore more styles."
In Austin, McInnis went from playing coffee shops to packing clubs in short time, and the abundance of live performance opportunities gave the singer an incredible live show to match his undeniable song craft. After releasing an indie EP, McInnis was finally ready to put all these life experiences into Wherever You Are, a full-length debut that's stunningly close to his heart.
“When you honestly put all of your emotions and feelings and experiences into the songs, it becomes something real," says McInnis.
And that's exactly what Adam McInnis did with Wherever You Are, an adventurous debut whose scope runs as deep as it does wide.