If you don’t know the name Adrian X Eccleston, chances are you have heard his music. His distinct guitar sound can be heard on tracks from hometown heroes Nelly Furtado, Jacksoul and The Weeknd, while also playing on international tours with award-winning artists Kylie Minogue and Drake. All of his musical experiences have led him to his latest venture; his debut solo album and a series of live shows that both define his unique sound. We sat down with Adrian X to talk about his growth as an artist, his personal style and his upcoming concert in Toronto.
Q: What was it like growing up in Toronto as an aspiring artist?
Adrian: I am very fortunate because I went to arts school my whole life. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 9 years old and my parents drove me to every guitar lesson. A bunch of my best friends made a band together so I’ve been experiencing “band life”and making music with other people since I was 13 – it just never stopped. Some people feel like, “oh I don’t want to go to band practise today”but that wasn’t an excuse for me, there were never any excuses.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence to your music? I feel like Jimi Hendrix is a big one?
Adrian: He’s a whole lecture and story in my life. He’s the guy that wrote the whole vocabulary for not only just the electric guitar but the style of music and being a black man making music. He’s such an inspiration for everything. I’m also inspired by every instrument, particularly ones that are played by jazz musicians. I went to jazz school and I dig that incorporation and that amazing sound. I am also inspired by some of my friends – the people who worked on this album with me. 40 (Noah Shebib) and Doc (Doc McKinney) are some of my favourite producers. Doc produces The Weeknd and 40 is responsible for all of Drake’s stuff. These guys are making amazing sounds. I like bands like Pink Floyd, Massive Attack, Sade and I love Bob Marley.
Q: What is the one “must have” piece in your wardrobe?
Adrian: Definitely black jeans. I’ve been loving black jeans for a while. I wanted to step out of the “Levi’s comfort zone”; it’s like, “What do I do now?”Over the Rainbow is a definite place to come and buy your denim because you carry the brands that are unique and interesting. Traveling around the world, you learn about a brand like Nudie.I bought a couple of pairs in the UK and said to myself, “I really like these jeans, where am I getting these in Toronto?” It’s really cool that there’s an international brand flavour that Over the Rainbow has.
Q: How does your style reflect your identity as an artist?
Adrian: I actually used to work in a retail store around the corner. I loved every second of my retail days and working in a clothing store. Meeting all sorts of people, it kind of all goes hand-in-hand. Fashion and music, being a social person, it’s a very social job. I just feel like you get inspired when you’re on the streets and you see people rocking dope stuff. I would say my style came from just observing and being a part of street fashion. If I didn’t work in retail I wouldn’t be as stylish as I am.
Q: You’ve done a lot of touring and worked with many well-known artists, what have you taken from those experiences?
Adrian: Some of the coolest feedback I’ve been getting about my solo show is that even though we’re only able to do festivals or clubs that are for 300 people, the reaction is still, “man you’ve got an arena show”. I am blessed and lucky enough to have played in every arena you can think of so I go to rehearsal with arena-type energy. The Kylie Minogue tour in the UK was the most intense and professional tour I’ve been on. You need to show up every day, everyone’s on time, there’s 120 people moving at the same time setting up massive video walls. They would have an intermission in the middle of her show so people could go buy her merchandise then come back for act 2. It was like Vegas-on-wheels; costume changes for everyone. I definitely learnt a lot from that.
Q: What is your definition of the Soulgazer experience?
Adrian: That’s a great question. The music, the whole experience, it goes hand-in-hand, it should take you to a place, it’s like an instrumental journey. It’s a vibe, just press play and vibe out. You get lost in your own thoughts and it’s the sort of music that sparks creativity. It’s not a mindless listen. It’s not an intense listen of me shredding guitar solos for an hour. It’s groovy, it’s baby-making, it’s a story above all else.
Q: You decided to go Vinyl for this album, may I ask why?
Adrian: This is my first record, it took four years to make it. I love that vinyl has made a comeback. I think it’s a really important music medium that’s gone away. It’s unfortunate; kids are coming up and not getting the experience of physically holding something in their two hands. The experience of putting side A on and when it ends you have to get up to flip to side B, that whole thing is really an important hands-on approach to music.
Q: I know Drake comes up a lot but we had to ask…
Adrian: Drake is actually a big Yorkville shopper; he stays on the street when he’s in town. But playing with him is like the biggest experience I’ve had. Its the greatest feeling when someone from your hometown becomes such a major celebrity. I was in this store one time and his manager Future [the Prince] had just been here and we tried on the same jeans. It’s so casual. I think that’s a perfect example of how people should act when they get famous. You shouldn’t let this fame thing get over your head. You’re still just a human being. We can all hang out and support each other.
Photographer: Ashlee Hutchinson | Stylist: Nigel Seebaran
Adrian X’s interview is part of an ongoing “OTR Live Concert Series”, where Over the Rainbow promotes a local artist or band’s concert every few months. Adrian X’s show manifests the “Soulgazer” experience and will take place at Tattoo (567 Queen Street West) on October 28, 2014. Doors open at 8PM.