In the stratosphere of independent LGBT music makers, Adam Joseph is one of the most legendary. From his earlier days with the single ‘Faggoty Attention’ to his work on the small screen with collaborator Jonny McGovern on the consistently buzz-worthy Hey Qween!, Joseph has crafted some of the most buzz worthy music around (you find me a bar where when ‘Linda Evangelista’ plays, the children don’t live!) With a keen ability to take one idea and craft a musical masterpiece around it, Joseph’s latest single is a love letter to the iconic ‘Whitney Houston’ (with the single sharing the same name). I sat down to chat with Joseph and while the world has definitely slowed down a bit this year, Joseph has been anything but resting. From a brand new podcast (launched in quarantine) to a live stream show to preparing for Hey Qween! Season 8 (as well as an eagerly anticipated third studio album, poised for 2021) Joseph is doing anything but, sitting still.
Michael Cook: How did you get started in the music industry?
Adam Joseph: After attending Berklee College of Music, I threw my life savings into recording my first album and moved to New York City hoping to “make it”. After a couple years of working at restaurants during the day and gigging anywhere I could at night, I realized that I could probably make just as much money if I poured my efforts into music full- time. I started my own songwriting/music production business out of my bedroom in the East Village and have been working for myself ever since. I have never been much of a mainstream “music industry” person; I’ve always had a very DIY/indie approach and somehow I’ve managed to make a career out of it.
MC:Your work with ‘Gay Pimp’ & Hey Qween! host Jonny McGovern truly has brought you nationwide attention. What has it been like working with Jonny and the team on so many singles & projects?
AJ: Working with Jonny has been amazing. I always felt honored that he chose me to co-write and produce so many songs for him, especially because I had almost no experience producing when we started working together. Collaborating with him has opened so many doors and velvet ropes for me throughout my career and his work ethic has been an example of how hard and determined you must be to survive in this business.
MC: The single ‘Linda Evangelista’ put you in front of a brand new legion of fans; the RuPaul’s Drag Race fans! What has that been like?
AJ: RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite show so to become a part of the show and have music that I produced be introduced by RuPaul and played on the show was thrilling for me. I had never experienced a “viral” success to that extent so it was invigorating to see ‘Linda Evangelista’ take off overnight. In turn, it inspired me to work even harder to create music for this new audience, or “the kids” as I like to call them.
MC: Tell me about your latest single ‘Whitney Houston’.
AJ: This new song has been a few years in the making. I actually wrote ‘Whitney Houston’ in 2015 while I was living in Europe. I remember I was walking along the beach of the Baltic Sea after having a few drinks and the melody and lyrics just popped into my head and stuck with me. I had the idea to quote the lyric and melody of Whitney’s classic “I Will Always Love You” as the hook. Then later, when I went to write the rest of the song, I had the weird idea to try writing all of the lyrics solely out of Whitney Houston song titles and lace in some of their classic melodies as well.
I recorded several different versions of the song over tracks from a few different producers, but none of them landed in the right way. I really wanted an authentic late 80’s sound to match the vibe of Whitney’s early days. Finally, one of my friends recommended producer Kendoll King. I sent him the song and he just nailed it right on the head! I love 80’s music and I feel like we captured that sound with this record. Whitney was undoubtedly one of the most amazing voices of our time with a catalogue that can’t be matched, so I wanted to celebrate her and all the joy she has brought to the world.
MC: You also recently dropped the single ‘Second Coming’ with Gustaph. What was that collaboration like?
AJ: Working with Gustaph was a blast! I knew of him from his song ‘Do You Feel The Same’ by Hercules and Love Affair which was a staple in my DJ sets when it first dropped. We met on Instagram after realizing we had a mutual admiration for each others music. More often than not, I don’t get to actually work with artists in person and everything is done remotely over the internet. I actually went to visit him in Belgium while I was doing a European tour last year and we went to his studio, drank lots of coffee and wrote and produced “Second Coming” over a couple of days. It was really fun swapping production tricks and collaborating on all aspects of the song from the lyrics to the melodies to the instrumentation. We had so many of the same inspirations that it all came together seamlessly.
MC: We recently lost Lady Red Couture. What was it like working closely with her as a friend and collaborator? What do you miss the most about her?
AJ: Lady Red was a very close friend and I was completely shattered by her death. We had so much fun working together on her album Stunt Queen and she was so proud to release it to the world. Our main goal in creating that music together was to show off her amazing personality and spirit through those songs and I think we accomplished that. I will miss her laugh, her words of encouragement and her playful, yet unapologetic attitude when it came to expressing herself.
MC: The world of drag is one of the many backdrops of your career. Who are some of your favorite performers out there?
AJ: I live for any queen that can get on stage and make me laugh, cry and inspire people to live their best life. A few that stand out are the legendary Kevin Aviance who I’ve had the chance to work with on several occasions. Peppermint, who recently released her new album A Girl Like Me: Letters To My Lovers that I co-wrote and produced on. The ethereal and enigmatic Erickatoure Aviance, who I have a podcast with called Turning Purple where we discuss life as an independent artist, and Lady Bunny who can make me laugh harder than anyone I’ve ever met.
MC: Collaborations are another large part of your career; who are some of your favorite collabs? Any dream collabs out there that you would love to make happen?
AJ: I always enjoy collaborating because of the new ideas and energy that it can conjure up between artists. Some of my favorites include Jonny McGovern, Ari Gold, Lea Lorien, Peppermint, Inaya Day and The Ones.
Dream Collaborators? Missy Elliott, Lizzo, Pharrell, Chaka Khan and Erykah Badu. One DJ/producer that I definitely have my eye on and would love to make some music with is Honey Dijon.
MC: What’s next for Adam Joseph?
AJ: I’m working on my third studio album at the moment! I’m hoping it will be released in early 2021. I’m also going to be back on Hey Qween! with Jonny McGovern for season 8 and I’m producing on a few different projects for other artists so you will see me wearing lots of different hats (and wigs) in 2021.
MC: How have you stayed creatively fueled and inspired during this crazy time in our country?
AJ: Creativity and inspiration comes from struggle and change so I’ve certainly had no lack of that! Even though I’ve been stuck at home for most of this year, it has been one of the busiest for me! At the beginning of quarantine, I started a new podcast called Turning Purple with my friend and housemate Erickatoure Aviance and we also started a weekly livestream show on Twitch called The Living Room. We both needed a creative outlet to perform and keep our chops up, so we’ve been using that as something to look forward to on a weekly basis. Fortunately, most of my work centers around working from home in my studio so I’ve just tried to focus on staying busy, moving forward and continuing to give people new music to enjoy through these uncertain times.
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