Without sounding too much like a Hallmark card, life is meant to be an adventure, right? We’re creative animals, social and daring, curious and caring. And all kinds of things in between. For Adam Flaig, guitarist for Cincinnati rock and roll icons Mad Anthony, every day is some kind of adventure. Between his “day job” at Southgate House Revival (if you’ve been to the venue anytime in the past year, you’ve definitely seen him, if not talked to him) and his travels abroad, he’s busy creating, playing, and honing a craft that has turned into a bit of a life preserver.
With Mad Anthony on an indefinite hiatus (but ready to play if the planets align just right), it was time to find his own path. Somehow, that path led him to Portugal. Across the Atlantic the goal was to write and record an album with musicians from the area. The catch? He’d never met any of them before.
The end result is a truly pan-continental effort, bridging an interesting gap between songwriting styles and ideologies. There’s a common language on display throughout the album’s runtime, though - a simple, loving sense of appreciation for music itself. You can hear it in the subtly dynamic instrumentation, the longingly honest lyrics. As an ode to the power of music, there’s nothing subtle about it. You can hear the love in every note.
This month you can catch Adam as the Artist in Residence at Southgate House Revival. Every Wednesday night, tSGHR gives hand-picked musicians the run of the Lounge stage. This month, Adam’s taking full advantage of the opportunity. Read more about what makes his time as August’s Artist in Residence so special below. The interview was edited for clarity.
So you cut your teeth in the Cincy music scene as guitarist for Mad Anthony, and have been working on your own solo music for a while now. What did you take away from your experiences with Mad Anthony that you brought into your solo stuff?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15 - and immediately began writing songs. Or, at least making up song ideas alone in my bedroom. About 3 years later Mad Anthony formed and we were writing constantly, separately and as a group. We just always had something on the burner.
For me, I just enjoy playing music and writing songs; whether it’s a melody that pops into my head or I’m making a conscious effort to sit down with a pad and pen to start something from scratch and complete it. Having a dedicated team of friends to play with and refine our personal and collective skills has helped more than I can really comprehend. I’m so grateful for that.
Last year you spent some time in Portugal, absorbing the culture and creating music with a group of musicians in a foreign country, in a way completely different than what you’d done before. Can you talk a little about that experience? Did it change your perspective on anything - music, music scenes, life?
Oh boy… I could go on and on about Portugal and the friends I made, and the experiences I had, and the food I ate. Did I mention the food? As a whole, it was a beautiful experience that was about so much more than making music. It’s impossible to put it succinctly.
I have a lot of silly ideas, and I spend a lot of time thinking “Wouldn’t it be cool if I…?” And I usually hesitate or talk myself out of it, and fear carrying out the idea after I spend too much time scrutinizing it. But the idea to go somewhere I had never been, to complete an album with people I never met, it just seemed like the right thing to do after Mad Anthony went on hiatus. The only thing that really set this day dream apart from the rest was the fact that I just didit.
I had a friend in Aveiro, Portugal, and he offered to host me. Everything fell into place after that. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and I think about that now when one voice or another wants to talk me out of the daydreams.
With Mad Anthony around but spread across the US, you’re playing music on your own a bit more, in some cases, with musicians from the area. Right now, you’re halfway through your Artist in Residency at Southgate House Revival. How did that come about? What’s that been like?
First, a big, loving shout out to Ali and Ringo! I want to congratulate them on the birth of their daughter! They live about 6 hours away now, and are thriving. I couldn’t be happier for them.
I’m so lucky, because even though Mad Anthony isn’t active right now, we’re always ready to play a show. At home, I’m surrounded by extremely talented friends to play with at the drop of a hat. It’s the best of both worlds.
Most recently, I’ve been playing with a group of friends and making music in a totally different way than what I was used to with Mad Anthony. It’s been wonderful for my peace of mind. We call ourselves The Jelllyfish, and when we’re together, music just pours out. So the Artist in Residency at Southgate House Revival is a chance for me to craft some solo songs live, while The Jelllyfish is 100% experimental, improvised, and relies on crowd participation. If you come to a Jelllyfish show, you’re automatically in the band. Bring a friend or an instrument, same rule goes for your friend.
What makes your Artist in Residency so special for you? What drives this sense of adventurousness, community, and collaboration?
I think the one thing tying all this together is the idea of mental health. Creating, especially music, has always been a form of therapy for me. I find salvation in music. I was diagnosed with clinical depression this year, and it’s something I didn’t even know I was struggling with until a professional assessment. I still have a hard time accepting it, but I’ve been seeing a therapist and feel myself improving little by little.
I just want to talk about it. I want to take a swipe at the stigma of mental illness. I’m so lucky to have people around me to make music with and if I’m alone, a guitar is never out of reach. I’m fortunate - I have an outlet an outlet through music.
That’s so awesome, man. So where do fans, listeners, and audience members come in?
If there’s someone that feels like they don’t have an outlet, I really encourage them to stop by Southgate House Revival the next couple of Wednesday nights this month. The Jelllyfish is a chance for everyoneto participate. I’ve seen people get up and sing, and release some deep tension they’ve been holding on to for too long. I can see it in their eyes, and I can see the relief the music offers them, even if it’s just a temporary thing.
Depression is something I may deal with all my life, it’s a part of me. But so is music. I don’t know if music can help everyone like it helps me, but it may lift the fog just long enough to spark some inspiration, and may lead people towards finding their own salvation. I really look forward to developing this idea with my friends, and at the very least, offering hope. Ihope you can out to Southgate House Revival the next couple of nights in August and see for yourself. I hope it helps.
Thanks so much to Adam for taking the time to answer my questions!
You have two more chances to be a part of The Jelllyfish - this Wednesday, August 21, with No Recess (a Nirvana tribute band including members of JIMS & Ethicist) and next Wednesday, August 28 with Harlot & the Hounds. Bring an instrument, bring a friend, and enjoy a one of a kind therapy session inside The Southgate House Revival. Cheers, friends!