Helping music lovers find new acts to obsess over is kind of our thing. With so many emerging artists to choose from, we wanted to let you, the fans, in on who’s going to be everywhere soon. That's why we're excited to announce Big Break, a new feature that highlights everything you need to know about the fresh faces turning the industry upside down. From the secrets behind their viral tracks to their big plans for the future, read on for the 411 on the industry's most promising up-and-comers.
To see Adrian Jêan perform is to be completely under his spell—between his impossibly smooth vocals and impressive arrangements, he creates an utterly dreamy atmosphere through song. Drawing comparisons to artists like Sam Smith and Frank Ocean with his powerful and controlled voice, Adrian has a unique star quality that goes beyond just having natural talent. His confidence, charisma, and compositional abilities make it feel like he’s been singing and songwriting forever. While many of his songs are based in pain and hardship, he finds the emotional upswing to leave his captivated audiences not only swooning, but uplifted and hopeful. Expertly bouncing between the upbeat and the understated, his tracks find their home in R&B and gospel influences without forfeiting their poppy charm.
If you reside in the Big Apple, you may recognize him from his residency at the Velvet Underground Experience this past fall. There, he serenaded exhibit-goers on Thursdays with everything from classic covers to moving original songs in the Bandsintown Studio. Since then, he has landed a set at this year’s SXSW festival and has been penning and recording songs for his first EP, expected to drop later this year. A true connoisseur of his craft and the perfect model for following your dreams no matter what, Adrian gives off the impression that you’ll be seeing his name lighting up huge venues very, very soon.
We got a chance to catch up with the rising star to talk about his musical roots, his upcoming EP, and his songwriting style—check it out below, as well as his brand new single, "See the Stars"!
What drew you to music?
I always knew I wanted to sing, but there was this peak moment when my Aunt bought me a Panasonic stereo from Sears—I’d play music in my bedroom so loud and sing along to it on that stereo. I would make my sister and cousins sit around on weekends, for what I called my “concerts," pretending to be playing in some major stadium. I even went as far as to thank the audience for showing love to my opening act. I’m pretty sure Tina Turner opened for me once.
Any experiences or early life events that inspired you to write and sing?
When I was about 12-years-old I met a singer, Teena Marie, who, at the time, was my absolute favorite singer on the planet! I had broke in backstage to her show at the Liacouras Center in Philly. Total groupie, I know. I was pretty chill about it, and I think that’s what lead her to exchange information with me. Whenever she would come to Philly she would take me around, and it really opened my eyes to a new perspective on life. Suddenly I thought, if little old me, this ghetto boy from the projects, could be hanging out with my favorite singer in the world, then certainly life doesn’t have to stop here. It was in one of those moments when she sent her limo to take me back to the projects that I decided “I too can sing and make music, and just maybe one day I’ll help some young kid follow his or her dream too."
Eventually, I just accepted the cards I was dealt, and decided to play my hand the best way I can. Today I just write about it.
Shit, it’s hard to think about those days. They were so dark. The process was just a deep belief in myself with a combination of discipline and resilience. And don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say that I’m this epitome of success. However, I’m certainly not stopping until I can state precisely that.
Word painting. I love it so much. Particularly in the background voices. I love to tell true stories, and I’m always looking for simplicity with texture.
No. It’s definitely natural—I don’t intend for it to happen at all. It’s just what comes out.
Yeah. Actually, I have an incredible voice teacher, Don Lawrence. He’s pretty great and renowned in the business. He’s worked with everyone from Whitney Houston to Lady Gaga. He’s responsible for that sound on A Star Is Born. The foundation was there from the start, but Don really sealed the deal with the sound.
It’s real. Next.
Arrangement definitely. It’s me and a piano first. Plucking out the melody and arranging chord structure. Sometimes I pull from old concepts but I usually let the arrangement guide me to the emotion.
Funny… It’s almost always the same routine with a cover: I call up my best friend, who is also an awesome singer. We talk about life. We talk about songs, old and new. And then we discuss what the song means to me. Then, we sing together until we’re blue in the face and the perfect version of that song, for me, comes to life.
Teena Marie, of course. But pretty much the greats: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Luciano Pavarotti, Beyoncé the Queen. All of them played different roles in different moments for me.
I have a ton of more music to release as the year goes by, and I have a music video to produce next month. I’ll partake in a songwriters camp back home in LA in early April. I see myself as “going hard on the mutha fuckin’ paint!” Just kidding, I’ll be working (laughs).
The presentation of a future star. Wishful thinking.