Adam Cross of Native Oak – Interview

By day he works in the outdoor activities industry. By night he is folk singer-songwriter that performs under the name ‘Native Oak’. Adam Cross is a is from Kildare and is now based in Cornwall after a period in Central America, but will soon be back on the Emerald Isle. 

You’re from Kildare but you’re living in Cornwall; what made you go?

All it was was that I was living in Donegal and having great winters there, doing the same old, just surfing every day, I was living on the dole you know, having a good time of it. I wanted something different so I ended up in Central America working, and then on the end of my stay I met a guy that welcomed me to Cornwall and I accepted it, I said “sure why not, let’s do something different,” and I’ve always wanted to come here and check a few places out. I’ve been here three years now and I’m just coming to the end of my stay and this winter I’ll be moving back to Ireland. Set up camp again and just kind of chill back to be honest.

So when you were in central america, did that help influence your music at all?

To be honest, I was hoping it would but I was at a writers block, or a dead end or whatever you’d call it and I didn’t get one bit of inspiration…the only thing it did do possibly for me, it actually took my mind away from everything over here in the UK and Ireland, I can just forget about everything that I was.

I just took the time, the moments that I was there, and I just chilled out and let it get into my subconscious so when I came back I was a bit more fresh, I knew what I wanted from myself in the next few years, if that makes sense.

And then setting up in Cornwall, gigging there, is it hard building up a reputation or a fan base? or is it easier when they see you as that Irish guy, or that guy with the beard?

I suppose to build up a fan base there was ‘Irish guy’ and ‘the guy with the beard’ but then also in the work that I had, like, in the outdoor world, working in that industry, you grow quite well and people are quite friendly. It grew out, so it was easy to get a fan base in one regard but then getting it was kind of difficult at the same time.

I would say so, would you have just sent messages to pubs and stuff like that?

Yeah when it comes down to it I would. I’d email, I’d phone, use friends of friends for contacts and just see what I could get, and try and play. In saying that I sometimes just take a few months where I say I don’t want to think about my music any more, I just want to relax and take my mind away from it, in a good sense you know?

It’s growing for me, but I understand I’m a nobody in the music world. It’d be nice to have a manager, somebody that has the contacts and give me some great gigs and stuff, but I’m aspiring to go that way and see where it’ll take me.

Yeah, but if you were to compare the music industry in the UK to the one in Ireland which would you say you would prefer?

I wouldn’t have a preference to be honest, regarding that. once I have an attentive audience happy to be captivated by music that’s always a win-win. If you become background noise to any audience it’s just disheartening. I wouldn’t mind if all ears were to bear in mind I’d want them just to enjoy it and just to delve into my music.
But being at home in Ireland, that is home for me, I love the place.

I’d go home to what I was, I used to play in a band, treating it as a guy in a band, I was happy to get loose as a goose and kind of play along but now I’m treating myself a bit more and having aims and goals and see where it will go. But you wouldn’t know, I will go back to Ireland, but you wouldn’t know where I’d end up in six months to a year.

You’re keeping your options open anyway. Do you find there’s more competition overseas to here? Not competition, maybe competition v.s. potential audience?

I think, there’s not so much competition, but there’s a lot of people who play here. But, and I don’t mean to be rude to people over here, you come across greater players back home on the emerald as opposed to here. I mean last winter I was touring all over the UK, I came across a big amount of players and of those that I quite enjoyed and captivated me, there was probably only about a handful. I probably came across hundreds. In Ireland I find it different, but it might be just keen to my ear.

But competition, no, not so much, it’s just the amount of people out there and it just kind of shows another area of the world, that if you have contacts into somewhere you can get a route in. I’ve had some for things, and I’ve used them and it’s great, but if you don’t know that person you might just be that person away from getting that gig, or that festival, etc..

Yeah, it’s kind of who you know. But you have a couple of gigs coming up, plenty lined up?

Well what happened there is that last winter I gigged so much all over the winter, just playing anything I could to either play a gig, play an open mic, play to anyone that would hear. Even having a session in a room, I’d go to it, I’d go to a folk session with loads of old people – I just wanted to play.

And then I came back and I’d be happy to keep but I thought it’d be better in the long run to take a few months out, chill out, just concentrate on getting my bread and butter money in with the outdoor working then.

When it came that I had a tour in Ireland to do, that was my starter to go get back gigging and stuff. I could try to line up a good few gigs in Cornwall in September before I hit the road again.

You were talking about money there, how are you finding being a musician, for money? it’s not the ideal profession for living on.

I think if I was to have gigs every day of the week I’d be fine, I’d be quite content with it! But it’s still not my bread and butter, I understand that.I think at this stage I would go down the route of an agency or a manager that would have contacts to just book stuff and sort all that stuff out. If I could just be gigging more that’d be great, cause I’m only gigging like once a week now, so on a financial point that doesn’t really work out.

And how are you finding things like Spotify for getting your music out there? do the benefits of the bigger audience outweigh the fact that you’re giving your work away, essentially, for free?

It’s definitely getting stuff out there and I’m definitely getting fans from having stuff on these social media sites, but sure I don’t have the bloody money to go to their countries to go play for them! I know my strong points and I know my weak points and stuff; When I’m playing live, that’d be a strong point, so if I could get people to delve into my live gigs rather than just across the net.

But having a social side of the media has definitely helped me, I’ve been growing a fan base that I’ll hopefully be able to play for in the future. Other than that I could be just another alien ant farm on the internet!

But having an audience base on the internet isn’t without it’s benefits. You hear of these kickstarter albums and things like that; would you ever consider doing something like that? How would you fund if you were going to record an EP?

Last time I was lucky enough, I got it free to record it, but when it came to mastering I had to pay for that. But to be honest I put the head down, I work hard. Last year I worked 80-90 hour weeks just to get money together. I just see my music as a hobby. I could be bolting it up against the wall, urinating it all over the place, but I’ll just put my head down, work hard and move forward with my music and see where I can go with it.
at the end of the day I feel like I’m funding myself.

But you have found success – you were in a Norwegian alcohol ad, was that a lucrative market to break into? how did you manage to get in?

That was a bit of a mad one, I was sitting in London, doing some emails in my aunts place over Christmas. I got this email saying they’d like me in this advert in Easkey in Sligo and they’d like to use my music. Within two days I had flown over I was down there, they were using my music, and a week later I was back sitting at the same table going “did that just happen?” and “did I get a nice bit of pay for that?” and I was like “Yes I did, happy days!”

I don’t have a clue, I don’t know how to understand the textile of all the stats on the net, and is this done me well or not? to be honest, I could answer something to that, but I actually don’t know so I’d be lying.

You don’t know if you have a massive Norwegian fan base…

Yeah, let’s hope it does well, but if not sure, it was a bit of kindness to my bank that can go towards my music and maybe play live about where I am.

And it was all shot in Sligo?

Yeah, it was in a bar in Easkey. And my mate, who was in the movie, he had this movie called “Wet Dreams”, it was a surf movie, and they pretty much picked me off it, and then they saw this clip that I did in London, in Wimbledon, and they were like “I like his image”, so he was like “Hey Adam, would you like to come over for this advert”, and I was like “yeah, Okay, what sort of figures are we talking here?” cause I was skint as a bean, and I was like “pay me that and I’ll come over”

And you mentioned Image there, is that important to you when you’re a musician?

Oh no, no. I was even thinking about that the other day, even when I had the beard, I just got rid of it there recently for charity. I’m not to big into image, but you have to have some sort of image. If I am, then I like an image that isn’t too much into someone’s face, a bit more casual.

I kind of had to trim it all down, it was a bit too much for me. I don’t really care too much about my image, once I’m not a disrespecting kind of fella’ to keep around in the way.

So what are you working on at the minute? have you got any music on the go?

Yeah, so pretty much what’s on the net is nearly three years old, and the writing is definitely older than that. I pretty much have my second album written and done and I’m halfway through my third. I was supposed to record my second album last winter up in Scotland, I was gonna do it in a van, but again I’m gigging too much and I never get the time. I’ll put out the second album this winter, hopefully, and then in the summer put out the third album.

All going well, and It’s hard to get the funding in, you have to work towards it.

That’s it, I’m just trying to get the bread and butter in and actually get money towards putting it out there. I mean I have my little means and ways to do it to keep costs down and stuff, but my mum always says, there’s nothing for free in life. And it’s true, the more you give life a go the more you realise there ain’t nothing free. So you work hard, put your heart and soul into it and hope something will grow from that. If not, I’ll still be fifty years of age, still playing music, still recording my own stuff so I’m not really too stressed.

Yeah, sure if you enjoy it first, and if money comes out of it too then why not! Are you gonna try and do something different with your next album?
The only way I could explain it is, just to back to my first album, a buddy of mine was like, “Adam, I’d love to record some of your stuff”, and I was like, “what stuff”, and he was like “the bits and bobs you have”, so I recorded my EP, put together my bits and bobs, soon enough I had a few songs and we were like “lets just do an album”. And we pretty much put more words together, put more songs together, and it was just a mix, more of an eclectic album within itself.

This one will be more of a concept album, and it will have a bit more thought behind it rather than it being rummaging scraps together. From gigging so much, of just me, I think it will represent more of that, rather than having all these other instruments. But again, If I’m not fully happy with it I would just like to add cello and violin, but keeping it simple as that, really.

And then the third album is…I’ll just call that electric album. I think the second one’ll be raw.

Do you find if you’re wanting to have say, an electric album, would that work out as much more expensive than a raw one?

Oh definitely. I’m planning on recording the second album and then simplifying it down. But when it comes to the third album there’ll be more thoughts, players that I want on it, instruments. More equals more money.

I was just trying to get an idea of what would it be like and I don’t know. Even quoting them again I wouldn’t like to get it technically as high acclaimed as it yet, but my influences would be Rory Gallagher,I think that’s where my mindset is for the third album.

It sounds exciting anyway.

In saying all that now, Ryan, when it comes down to the actual time sure my mind could be changed again and I might have a different feeling. But It’s more my second album, I’m trying to keep focused on that, get that one over in a good manner.

So, the name, Native Oak, where did that come from? Do you find it’s more effective to have a stage name?

I just wanted something that, when people would hear it, would be able to represent my music; strong but warm on the ear as well. But yet again, if I would collaborate with other artists that would kind of become part of the band, they’d kind of get breaking off evenly, and If it’s just my name Adam on the title, and then there’s a band behind you, I don’t want people to quote Adam, I want people to quote Native Oak.

I wanted it to represent everyone that became part of the band, you know? And not to be just focusing around me. You know I’m taking from different artists, and having seen Bonobo live, how they play. And even looking at old trad players, back in the day, seeing them in the pubs. How they have an appreciation for each other, and I like that; not to be focused on one thing. And whenever it’s about the players, then your fans are just a part of your music, they have the goal as well. I wanted it to represent every part of everyone.

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