Among the reactions to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer in the attack on counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past August, one in particular stood out to New Haven-based singer-songwriter Seth Adam.
“I remember reading the interviews and some people were saying, ‘I can’t believe this happened here in Charlottesville. We’re a sleepy little college town; this is so weird.’ And I was thinking to myself, ‘Yeah, it is a small peaceful town, and it is weird and unfortunate.’ But I kept remembering how everyone kept saying, ‘I can’t believe this happened here.’ And I finally thought, ‘OK, this can happen anywhere ... anytown.’”
Adam wanted to “at least offer something in response. I want it to offer a solution, and in this particular case it was trying to frame a positive reaction of love, standing strong with love.”
With that a song was born.
“Anytown,” Adam’s latest release, is a thoughtful meditation punctuated by hopefulness and a desire to speak his truth.
“This is me being myself, being a father, being a citizen, being someone that believes in the power of rock ‘n’ roll and the power of music and the power of love and just saying, ‘Hey, let’s all stand together,’” Adam said.
The chorus echoes these sentiments:
It’s a day for disbelieving
That this could happen here in Anytown
But love is never leaving
If we’re around in Anytown
This is where the memories dwell
Something to remember well
That we can tell the stories to remind ourselves.
Adam has been telling stories with his music for most of his life. Raised in Wallingford and a resident of New Haven for around 10 years, he has been playing music in some form since the age of 5. Vocals, guitar, bass, drums — he has been doing it all, both solo and with a band, since around 1993.
Adam did “Anytown” on his own. “I did every single thing myself, from writing to playing every instrument to recording,” he said. Meanwhile, he plays drums for the band Tuesday Saints, bass for Arms & Voices, bass for Mighty Purple once a year, and occasionally guitar with Ponybird, as well as other fill-ins with friends once in a while.
“I dig playing with a lot of different people,” he said.
Adam’s penchant for working with and having a dialogue with others also was a factor in making a video for the song.
“I had the idea of asking people to tell me what love, acceptance, and kindness means to them,” he said. “How could you dig those three concepts and sum it up in a bumper sticker kind of tag line, and I thought, ‘oh I could do the old hold the sign with words on it in front of the camera, splice together some footage of myself playing,’ and that’s basically what I did.”
Adam put out a message on Facebook asking for participants to record about 20 to 30 seconds of themselves holding a written message about love, acceptance, and kindness. He received a good response. He got more with some coaxing, from across the country. His friend and bandmate Jeff Burham, a teacher, recruited some of his coworkers to participate.
“From a macro point of view I wanted it to be inclusive because that’s the underlying message,” Adam said.
The video itself is as simple and hopeful as the song, a black and white meditative piece that volleys between Adam singing and playing his guitar alone in a room to various individuals (in full disclosure, this reporter is one of them) holding up signs with their own messages of love, acceptance and kindness. One recalls the iconic Bob Dylan video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which has become the template for this type of piece, but in that video Dylan is known more for his disconnection with the action. By contrast, the earnest faces and words of Adam and his costars readily connect.
“Anytown” is not Adam’s first foray into social commentary. In the past year he released two songs, “Politician” and “Whose America,” which also delved into his thoughts on what he has witnessed happening around him recently.
“There are no more heartbreak songs. I’m happily married,” he said with a laugh. “I want to write to get people to think, make them feel like they’re not alone in their thoughts. Maybe it’s the hopeful hippie optimist in me.” He laughed again. but then turned serious. “I have this belief that we can all get along even though we have differences. I want to offer a response. I want to offer a solution.”
The first person seen in “Anytown” after Adam is a woman standing on a leaf-strewn lawn holding a sign. “What you put out there is what comes back to you,” it reads.
The message sets the tone for Adam’s intention to convey love, acceptance, and kindness as a means to create more of each, and to open the world up to the possibility of offering others the same. As one of the first new local releases of the 2018, it’s a pretty good place to start.