Llandudno-native Adam Hender is preparing to take the music world by storm with his latest album, Sick. Genuine and heartfelt, Hender’s music contains gorgeous piano melodies and emotive vocals encapsulating the trials of young love. Nowhere is this more evident than in his latest single, “Sick.” Released on September 4th, “Sick” has been gaining increasing airplay on UK Radio; with the single being added to Tidal’s “Rising Pop” playlist and BBC Radio Wales’ A-List.
Hender’s rising popularity isn’t without due cause, however. We were able to catch up with the Welsh singer-songwriter and chat about all things Sick. During our conversation, the reason for Hender’s rising popularity became blindingly obvious, aside from his raw talent, Hender is a rare breed of artist. One who is open, honest, and genuine. When chatting with him, you could sense there are no hidden secrets and that his music is truly an extension of himself.
Which makes songs like “Sick” all the more powerful in retrospect, as the haunting lyrics describe an individual quite literally sick over a long-lost love. Coupled with the moving lyrics, is an equally beautiful music video. Directed by Rob Potter and choreographed by Jamiel Laurence, the music video for “Sick” is a proper work of art. Visually stunning. As Potter, Laurence, and Hender have produced an engrossing piece of art, which elevates the entire story from beginning to end. Story-wise “Sick” weaves the tale of two lovers who, although they were once in love, now find themselves embroiled within a toxic relationship; where only sadness and bitterness remain. Visually we see this played out via the performances of Mthuthuzeli November and Cira Robinson. As the duo carry out Hender’s story with a sense of poise, grace, and power.
In visual accompaniment to “Sick,” viewers are treated to November and Robinson’s impassioned performances; as the duo push and pull each other through various domestic and external settings before eventually parting. All in all, each consecutive aspect of the visual and auditory experience for “Sick” serves to produce and establish a beautiful and moving work of art. One which aptly sets the stage for Hender to truly and honestly, take the music world by storm.
In earlier interviews, Hender has been noted as saying he hopes to become the “Welsh-version of Lewis Capaldi; doing what Capaldi did for Scotland.” At the end of the day, there’s no doubt that Hender will be able to achieve these goals. Seeing as his leading singles from Sick are already receiving critical acclaim. What will really be exciting, is to see how this Welsh powerhouse will continue to evolve over the course of his musical career. Until then, we’ll have to wait patiently for the release of his upcoming album Sick set to drop October 30th via 3tone Records.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, who are you and why should people give you a listen? I’m 22-years old, soon to be 23-years old in October. I kind of don’t want it to be I don’t want to count this year as a year, to be honest. I just want to stay twenty-two, but what can you do? I started doing music when I was around 12 or 13-years old, which is when I started playing the guitar. Obviously, I’ve always loved music and I was always around music. My family is very, I wouldn’t say musical, but they’re quite good singers and are really good at karaoke. I’ll give them that. So, I was always kind of around music and singing. As I grew up, my brothers, were obsessed with Michael Jackson, so I grew up around that.
As a kid, I pretty much knew I wanted to get into music, but I didn’t get into it until I actually moved schools. Where I made a new group of friends and studied music. And it was really cool! I joined a band. It was this indie rock band doing Arctic Monkeys covers and You Me At Six covers, we weren’t very good. I’m not going to lie to you, but it was fun and that’s kind of how I got into it.
At the same time, I was also doing a lot of open mic nights alone, as well. Where I was writing songs and just performing, with no real knowledge of the outside world, seeing as I was only thirteen, fourteen years old at the time. As I got older, around fifteen, sixteen I got a bit more into songwriting and my parents were really supportive of it. My dad especially, as he would drive me up and down the UK. Where I really just began playing [music] as much as possible and that’s how I kind of got my start really.
Doing music as a career is a hard thing to tell your parents, but luckily, they were both really, really supportive which is cool.
One fascinating fact we learned about you is that you were selected as one of Tidal’s ‘Rising Artists’ of 2020. How did it feel to hear this? What kind of thoughts were going on in your head at the time?
It’s so crazy! It’s just one of those things you never expect, even though I always wanted to do music and always felt like I could. I remember, when I was sixteen or seventeen playing bars, seeing people enjoy my music was me doing well. So, I mean, it was like this crazy dream to have radio play or anything like that. And I suppose, the next major step was when I made an EP. After sending it off to a bunch of different record labels around the UK, I was contacted by 3tone Records. The record label I’m at now.
I think I was seventeen or eighteen when I drove my first awful car down there to Bristol and we almost signed on the spot. Obviously, there are more things to do than that. But at the time, that was like, whoa! This is a success, you know? So, yeah, it’s – I’m trying to take every little bit as its own milestone and to get Tidal Rising Pop? Is just crazy. I remember about six or eight months ago when I was featured on BBC Radio One’s “Best New Pop,” which was insane. It’s just all these little things. It can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s a good kind of overwhelming.
Speaking of music, in previous interviews you mention that your songwriting acts as an extension of your lived experiences. How do you gather the courage to write about such personal things? I don’t know, with songwriting I’ve always wanted to write about personal things. I feel like people wouldn’t believe if it was a lie. I don’t know. It sounds weird, but like if I’m going to sing about something, or try and make someone believe something and buy something that I’ve created; I like to be telling the truth, y’know? That I haven’t just made this story up in my head.
When I was writing “Sick,” I was actually in L.A. We [my team] were writing music, I would be sat there writing music and sometimes I don’t think about it; it’s just “ah that rhymes, ok. I’ll use that.” And think nothing of it, until I listen to the demo the producer sends me. At that point, when I listen to the demo, it kind of clicks – that’s who that’s about! I feel like my music is always subconsciously about something or someone. But I feel, if you’re going to be an artist, you kind of have to have that courage [the right amount]. If that’s what you want to do. You just gotta take hold of it and take advantage of it and turn it [those experiences] into a positive.
Could you walk us through your whole songwriting process? It’s hard to do that because I write a lot. I write a lot by myself. Where I just write down ideas, like voice notes. I’ll occasionally jot down any melodies that come into my head. I do the same with lyrics, in my notepad is where I have a majority of them.
Sometimes I’ll read back on them and think, “What was I thinking when I was writing this down?!” But I try and keep everything I write down because everything is an idea. Everyone, every single day has great ideas, you know? So, I try my best not to lose them. If I particularly like one [idea], I can come to my record label here and work it out before taking it to songwriters. I usually take ideas or working songs to songwriters wherever I am, because I want opinions on it. Rather than being cocky and thinking, this is the best song in the world, y’know? Because I can go in there and say, “I did this” or might have a melody in mind, but they’ll be like “Nah that’s a verse” or “Let’s add a chorus on it.”
I kickstart a lot of the work, but it’s a joint effort when it comes to writing. Which I prefer. I prefer being creative around others. People bounce off other people, which I enjoy. Otherwise, it’s just me being really, really sad with a notepad.
How did the lockdown affect this songwriting process (if at all)? Are any of the songs on Sick, a product of your time in lockdown? Well, to be honest, the album and the singles predated the pandemic. I actually finished the last couple of tracks in January of 2020 over in the States. So, when lockdown was announced, the album was finished. I actually went home for lockdown, back to North Wales where I stayed with my mom and dad. At the time, the whole world was at a standstill, and I tried to be productive for maybe two weeks?
After that, I just got the worst writer’s block imaginable. I practiced music, y’know? And in terms of writing music and writing songs, I just didn’t feel like I had a lot to write about. Once you’ve written 10 million pandemic songs, you kind of get a bit stuck. So, I was a bit stuck in place. It’s only actually been the last month or so that I’ve really got back into the swing of actually writing. So yeah, lockdown wasn’t amazingly creative in terms of songwriting, but I did practice a lot of music and try to stay productive.
On the flip side, your Spotify mentions your songs are; “inspired by the fragile nature of relationships and friendships formed from a childhood in North Wales to adventures across North America.” Can you expand upon the latter part of this statement, what adventures unfolded and how did this shape your music? So, I say I got really lucky. Just before I signed my record deal, I wrote a charity single for this charity called Angels of East Africa. Which is run by this American guy called Sam Childers, who is the “machine gun preacher.” Gerard Butler played him in a movie. You might have seen it; it was on Netflix for a long time. He’s this remarkable guy. I think he was a drug addict for the longest time. He was a biker, one of those one-percenter types, and he found God. After he did, he actually moved to Africa and just started helping all the children. Now he’s got a few orphanages, built a couple of schools and all that. He’s consistently building wells and truck stops.
Obviously, he’s doing an amazing thing out there, and I wanted to try and help. So, I wrote a charity single called “Hope.” I sent it to him, and I put it out there, and said, “I hope you don’t mind. This has got nothing to do with me, but I released this song and all donations are going to you. I hope that’s ok.” And that’s all I really thought of it.
Until he actually rang me. It was so weird! He rang me and was like, “Hey Man, I heard your song. This is Sam Childers.” And I’m like, bullshit, y’know? I don’t think he was very happy with the language, considering he found God; but we had a laugh about it. He spoke to me and was like, “I want to book your flight over here. I want you to come on tour with me and open up my show.” So, what he does in the states to raise money for his charity, is that he does things like motivational speeches all around the world. I went on his US tour and basically, opened up his shows with the charity song that I wrote. Which was insane because I was eighteen at the time.
We did 38 states in the space of a few good months, but I remember being really nervous and my parents were as well. Because I went by myself, I flew out to New York. Where we went and we were at this like, interview in a crazy marble penthouse, it was ridiculous. Like, things I’ve never seen before in my life.
So, we did that, and then he was like “Oh tour starts in Oklahoma. I’ve got to fly out tonight.” So, I actually remember, I slept just inside of JFK airport waiting for my flight that night. And I was like, this is insane. I was like, “I’m 18-years old. Don’t know where I am. I don’t know who I am.” But then I got on the flight to Oklahoma and we just kickstarted the tour. We started with like, the deep south. Kind of place like Alabama – it was eye-opening and really set me off. If I wasn’t hooked on music already, like, it just made me want to tour forever. It was crazy and I feel really lucky to have had that experience.
In a similar vein, when you consider the journey your music career has taken, from singing in pubs to this debut album. What are you most excited about for the future of your career? What do you hope fans take away from this album? I love writing music and I love recording music, but I’ve always been about performing. To be honest, there’s nothing bad about it. Nothing bad at all. It could be ten people or it could be 10,000 people. It’s just a great feeling. I get nervous every single time, and I actually really do love it. And that’s what I plan to do, or at least I hope to do in the future. Obviously, the better the record does, the more people I can share my music with. I’m gonna be happy as long as I can do this and tour and share my music.
I hope people take away that there’s no hidden secrets or lies. Truthfully, I hope people are gentle with it and enjoy it. I hate trying to describe a song or album too much though because I want people to have their own thoughts and feelings about it; without being told exactly what it’s about. I feel that’s the beauty of music. Anyone can relate and take it as their own. So, I hope that’s what people take away from “Sick.” I hope it goes global, so I can tour the world, hopefully for the rest of my life – that’s the plan at least!
Are there any songs off the album that are your favorite? If so, why? This is like the hardest question for me! I can never pick a favorite. I’m not gonna lie to you. I feel like I would be betraying the other songs. We structured it [the album] in a kind of story-sense. Again, I don’t wanna say too much, because I’d like people to have a listen and have time to kind of maybe get it for themselves. And obviously, the songs that have been picked for singles. So, maybe I’d say there’s a little bit more preference towards songs like “I Don’t Mind” and “Sick,” which is the latest. But honestly, I can’t pick a favorite. I just can’t do that. I love them all, I’m very proud of them because there were so many songs written for this album. So, the ones that got picked all deserve to stand up on the number one podium together.
Now, if you could only use three words to describe this album, what words would you choose, and why? Honest, heartfelt, and raw (personally). The reason why I chose those three, is just because, as I was explaining before, I want people to believe it’s real. You know? No gimmicks, kind of thing. It’s what I’m trying to portray, especially through the lyrics. There’s this lyric that I just love in “I Don’t Mind”; it says, “he tells his jokes with such good timing” and I wrote that when I was in the states. I remember feeling really, really proud of that lyric and I just thought it was raw. Because I remember being that guy who was “always on the ball” or always being better at something, and always funny in school. So, lyrics like that to me, that are personal and real, really mean something to me. And so, that’s the reason for my three!
Where can people find you online? Are you hosting any concerts on Twitch or IG Live that they can join? Oh, of course! You can find me all across social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @AdamHenderMusic. I’m quite active on all those platforms. Really active actually. I do host a few Instagram Lives and you can always find the links on my social media. I’m actually going to be doing a live virtual show/tour closer to the album debut. Which is gonna be really exciting!