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Adam Green - It really seems like the more my music gets out, the more mixed the audience becomes

Feature: Jack Foley

"I WAS still a teenager when we got our record deal with Rough Trade, so I was really living a double life," recalls Adam Green recalls.

"On the one hand, I was touring the world and making albums, but on the other, my parents didn't really have any idea what I was doing.

"I come from a family where everyone has degrees: my dad's a professor of neurology at Columbia University, my mom's a psychiatrist who works at the Museum of Natural History, and my brother's an astrophysicist.

"I'm absolutely the first person in my family to not go to college. To them, it was absurd that I had to do this other thing."

His obsession with this 'other thing' has arguably given the world one of today’s most acclaimed and argued-about young artists.

With a style that steps closer to the likes of Bacharach and Jacques Brel with each release, Green has created Gemstones, his third solo record, combining his singular songwriting vision and plaintive, almost-angelic tenor with elegant melodies and playful art-pop arrangements.

Gemstones is billed as an album whose songs transcend indie rock in favor of more enduring virtues, and it offers 15 prime examples of Green’s sculpted-yet-irreverent songcraft that has won him a sizable and ever-increasing audience in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan, where he's toured with the likes of The Libertines, Badly Drawn Boy, Ben Kweller and The Strokes.

Julian Casablancas, of The Strokes, was one of the first to notice Green’s talents.

He says of Green: "It always amazes me how he can express such deep meaning with such twisted humour. Adam is eccentric and down-to-earth, with newfound technical proficiency over a wider spectrum of styles. I love it."

And the accolades keep coming. Rolling Stone praised his 'pure genius', Mojo referred to him as an 'unexpectedly rich talent' and Elle Girl called him 'wicked awesome'.

Gemstones therefore looks set to continue the creative evolution that began with Green's work as the male half of the much-loved duo, the Moldy Peaches, and confirms the 23-year-old troubadour's status as both an artful wise guy and an earnest dreamer.

The album showcases his unmistakable romantic sensibility as well as his barbed sense of humour: from the Doorsy, cinematic pop of Gemstones and Over The Sunrise to the Brylcreem swoon of forthcoming single, Emily.

Gemstones follows 2003's orchestrated Friends of Mine and Adam's stripped-down, home-recorded 2002 solo debut, Garfield.

The former release marked his first recording in a professional studio, augmenting his plaintive, sexy croon with sophisticated string arrangements that enhanced his increasingly accomplished songwriting.

Friends of Mine also spawned a surprise hit in Jessica, a pointed yet poignant jab at showbiz superficiality — in the person of ubiquitous pop icon Jessica Simpson. The video received substantial MTV airplay.

Gemstones combines Green's surreal lyrics with a punchy, rock-oriented sound that reflects the input of his four-man band, which toured with him behind Friends of Mine and joined him in the studio to record the new album.

"This record's more melodic and more rhythmically complex than the last one, and there's more twists and turns and surprises inside of the songs," says Green.

"It's also more of a physical record. I think that comes from touring consistently with the same guys, and feeling like they can play the songs the way that I hear them in my head."

"These songs," he adds, "are all road-tested, and I've been playing them on tour for the past year.

"The standard thing is that you're not supposed to play the songs live until the record's already out. But it's exciting to keep adding my new songs to the set, and I think it makes for better records."

Adam Green was 14 when he and partner, Kimya Dawson, joined forces to form the Moldy Peaches, whose albums incorporated a resourceful mix of youthful sweetness, potty-mouthed surrealism and perfect pop craftsmanship.

By the time the duo went on indefinite hiatus in 2001, they'd captivated critics and won fans around the world, while propelling New York's 'anti-folk' scene to international prominence.

As a solo artist, Green has quickly evolved from the Moldy Peaches' spontaneity to a more instinctive, crafted approach.

"Moldy Peaches was about going from idea to execution in five minutes. We'd think of something, we'd write the song, we'd record it, and it was out. We only recorded at home because we didn't have any way to record in a studio," explains Green.

Ironically, Green's fevered compositional imagination was liberated by adversity.

"I injured my hand a few years ago, so I stopped writing on guitar," he explains. "Now I've got this little digital recorder that I walk around with, and when I get an idea I'll just sing into it.

"That really opened me up, because I used to be limited by what I could play on guitar, but now I just make up the songs however I want and figure out the chords later. I feel like I developed my songwriting muscles that way."

It's the measure of the unpredictable appeal of Green's songs that he's won the affection of kindred spirits from across the social spectrum.

"It really seems like the more my music gets out, the more mixed the audience becomes," he says.

"All over the world, my audiences range from 11-year-olds to 60-year-olds. It's such a mixed bag, I feel like I'm Pete Seeger or something."

Gemstones is released by Rough Trade on January 24, 2005

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