Houston Music

Adam Bricks Manages Change on Trials

Adam Bricks
Adam Bricks Photo by Sergio Trevino, courtesy of Adam Bricks
The songwriters we’re interested in are the ones who manage change the way they’d write a song. At first, they may not understand where it comes from or even embrace it, but they acknowledge it exists, consider its possibilities and tinker with it, scribbling down this verse and scratching out that line until there it is, something substantial that establishes their new place in an ever-shifting world.

That’s where we find one of Houston’s most notable songwriters, Adam Bricks, in the summer of 2024. His new album, Trials, is getting the release show treatment Friday, June 21 at Continental Club and change is not just the theme of the album, it’s prevalent in his personal and professional life.

“It was kind of a break-up record from a previous relationship that started out with a few songs,” Bricks said by phone from New York City, sort of his home away from home here in Houston. “’Funeral’ was one of the songs and our next single, ‘Someone Else’s Wife,’ is also from a break-up kind of situation. I was engaged to be married and that didn’t work out, so some of the songs are from that and then the rest are kind of just from everywhere. There’s a song called ‘Death’s Just a Friend,’ as well as ‘Dateland.’ Most of those last singles were songs that lived on my cell phone for a long time.

“That’s where they lived for about 10 years and I just found them again and they felt right to put on the record as well,” he said. “So yeah, it’s been a long time coming because my last record was in 2016.”

That album, Relations, followed 2013’s City Songs, which introduced Bricks to Houston music circles. As he told the Houston Press in 2016, City Songs was “about coming to terms with making your own decisions and facing the consequences,” while Relations was “about relationships with people and how they develop. The sad and the happy and the wild.”

“It’s about struggles with personal relationships and change in general,” he said of the new album. “I had some health issues in the last few years that kind of put me in the hospital a few times. Coming out of that, thinking about it, reflecting on it, I guess all that kind of came together.”

And, of course, Bricks was affected by the pandemic. We were living in a changed world and he tinkered with that change, like a good songwriter. You can hear the sonic results of those days on the new album, he said.

“I think it made people question if they wanted to do music anymore, if they wanted to get in front of people and play. It took me awhile to get out of that mindset just because of the anxiety of being in that situation,” he said of lockdown times. “It was a weird kind of pause for a lot of people.

“I started building pedals during the pandemic to make money so I’m starting to use more effects with these songs, starting to focus on guitar,” he added. “Some of the guitar that you’re going to hear on this record is me. There’s also a good chunk of guitar that was recorded by Jason Willis from Buxton. I think he was on ‘Funeral.’ He was on a song called ‘Company’ and he was on a song called ‘Feather and Ball’ we’re releasing in a little bit, as well as ‘Someone Else’s Wife.’ So, he’s on a good chunk of these songs.

“I didn’t know anything about effects before the pandemic so it’s kind of like a new territory for me and I’m just messing with a lot of different stuff.”

Something that hasn’t changed is the group of musicians surrounding Bricks, artists who’ve put their stamp on Trials. For instance, Say Girl Say’s Brigette Yawn sings on “Death is Just a Friend.” Guitarist Sean Spiller is featured on the album. And Bricks recorded the songs with longtime bandmates drummer Brendan Hall and bassist John Griffin, who also produced the album’s 11 tracks. The full album is being released by Sonder House, a New York-based record label.

Bricks had lots of love for Hall and Griffin, calls their playing tasteful and informed. They know what he’s going for from their past work experience, even if these songs are more guitar-forward than previous tunes.

“The work relationship is very easy. I’m not a guy who needs multiple takes on a lot of stuff. Like I get things pretty quickly in the studio and I think (Griffin) likes that,” Bricks said with a laugh. “We try to keep it fun – I try to keep it fun – because, you know, it’s important to have that fun while recording.”

Another change – one Bricks views as less fun – is how artists get music to listeners now. He’s trying to grasp the change of the modern music industry by doing some things to bend the algorithm to his favor.

“The whole world of CDs is dead. That wasn’t the case in 2016. We toured. We came to New York, we played some shows up here and I sold CDs. People came and bought them. Now that everything is Spotify, it’s different. We try to get as many listens and get on playlists and stuff. All in all, just getting music to people is the main kind of thing and I’m just happy to put music out so people can hear it.”

To ensure they do, Bricks is releasing lots of singles from the album before posting Trials in its entirety. Next up is the track “Someone Else’s Wife.” He said there should by three tracks out by the release show and then more dropping week after week until the whole album is eventually released.

“It’s releasing music in a new, strange world that is not what it was in 2013 when I put out City Songs. It was a whole different world. Now everything’s online and everything’s social media, all that stuff. So, I’m doing whatever I can.”

That includes Instagram reels and TikTok videos, too, uncharted territory for Bricks until now.

@adam.bricks5 #acousticcovers #songwritersoftiktok #songwriter #albumrelease ♬ original sound - Adam Bricks
“I’m not a social media guy. I’m not the guy who’s going to be on social media all the time trying to push stuff usually. I have fun making songs but a lot of this extra stuff. I just try to have fun with it because I think that’s the best thing you can do in the situation a lot of musicians are in.

“We have these extra tools now and we can use them to reach a lot more people. So, I feel like, in the future, I’m just going to keep making music. I love songs the way that I make them with John and Brendan.”

There’s one other important change in Bricks’s life, one that’s spurred moving these songs from his voice memos app to music’s streaming platforms.

“I have a whole bunch of new songs about my new love in my life, my fiancée, and I wanna sing ‘em,” he said emphatically. “I need to get these old songs out there into the world so people can listen to those, but I’m really excited about what’s to come because I do have a lot of new music that I still have and I want to record with John and, I don’t know, maybe take a different route and get more electronic? I’m not sure.

“I’m just really excited about this record because it’s been a long time in the making. We really love playing it live with a band and everything so we’re really excited about sharing these songs with everyone.”

Adam Bricks, with Mister Data and Sergio Trevino, Friday, June 21 at Continental Club, 3700 Main. Doors at 8 p.m. and showtime at 9 p.m. for this 21 and up album release show. $10 in advance and $15 (cash only) at the door.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.