Spirit Animal – Adam Masterson Urges Trusting Your Instincts on ‘Wild Wolves’

Wild Wolves
Adam Masterson explores romantic fear and uncertainty on “Wild Wolves.” Photo – Anna Gabriel

When it comes to a passionate relationship, Adam Masterson urges people to follow their instincts.

The New York City roots-rock singer-songwriter quickly identifies the romantic fear and uncertainty others face on his latest spiritual single, “Wild Wolves.”

“A passionate relationship can be a terrifying place because you’re at the mercy of someone else. It can be filled with uncertainties,” Masterson said.

“Wolves feel like a good image because they seem both above those things as creatures that know how to survive with the uncertainties of the wild … but at the same time, they can be kindred spirits that know the frailties and vulnerabilities of fear.”

Masterson freely explores those primal “Wild Wolves” emotions as ascending piano, aerial synths, spirited electric guitar, playful bass and speedy drums sprint across the open countryside.

He sings, “There’s something out there coming/And it’s after you and me/I’m so scared of losing/You among these trees.”

“Maybe for me, the song isn’t about salvation in a relationship, but more about finding a good omen in the uncertainty and danger that surrounds us … (and) trusting in (your) animal instinct to survive and connecting with your spirit animal,” Masterson said. “(By) being at ease with the wild wolves that will always be part of your nature, they’re leading you to knowledge of yourself.”

In light of the track’s nature-themed title, Masterson started writing “Wild Wolves” while running last-minute errands in London. A verse melody and chorus popped into his head as he waited in a crowded tube station.

“I’m in this crowded tube station singing into my phone. My first attempt didn’t work. I hit the top note, but it didn’t have any magic, so I put my phone away and forgot about it,” said Masterson, who hails from West London.

“Up on the high street, I was running late and was preoccupied with that. I barely noticed the entire chorus melody coming to me until I sung out loud the line, ‘If dogs run free.’ That was the first line I got, and then I followed it with the line, ‘They’ll give the kiss of life to you and me.’”

Masterson quickly finished writing the rest of the track and later shared it with co-producer Craig Dreyer (synth, organ) at Mighty Toad Recording Studio in Brooklyn. Together, they invited Paul Stacey (lead guitar), Brett Bass (bass), Ben Stivers (piano) and Charley Drayton (drums) to record “Wild Wolves” in early 2020.

The band recorded “Wild Wolves” live and tracked drums, bass and vocals to analog tape while finalizing it digitally, including overdubs for Stivers’ piano and Stacey’s guitar. Collaboration continued remotely since Masterson had relocated to the U.K. with his family during the pandemic lockdown.

“This song clearly wanted the best of the best because it got the hit squad and the dream team,” Masterson said. “It was pure magic working and recording with these unbelievable talents.”

Bring Back the Freaks

Bring Back the Freaks
Adam Masterson tackles the current challenges artists and musicians face on “Bring Back the Freaks.” Artwork – Callum Scott-Dyson

Masterson also celebrates the unbelievable talents of today’s artists and musicians on “Bring Back the Freaks.” The thought-provoking single tackles the surmounting challenges people face with creating music in a Spotify-dominated, algorithmic-saturated world.

“Well, I think we’re living in a completely different paradigm right now, and maybe that’s what the song is about. You can’t be a rebel these days; you have to be ‘on trend’ or ‘trending.’ You have to be on that conveyer belt where the experience has been preordained and designed for you by our online masters,” said Masterson, who also released an animated video for the track with Callum Scott-Dyson.

“They say social media is great for artists and musicians, but social media doesn’t allow for you to have a deepening experience of arts and culture. It’s not purposefully designed that way, and increasingly, it’s the only way left for artists to communicate. So I feel real artists are hamstrung and lost in the mix.”

Throughout “Bring Back the Freaks,” pensive acoustic guitar, hopeful piano, shimmery cymbals, elevated vibraphone, soft bass, thudding drums, uplifting slide guitar and cinematic strings remind artists and musicians who the “real rebels” are today. It’s no longer the Leonard Cohens, David Bowies, John Lennons, Vincent Van Goghs and other creatives of the past.

Masterson sings, “Dear Delilah/It’s 6 a.m./I think I might just cry/There’s a voice on the radio/That says that Leonard Cohen just died/And there’s a new boss that starts today/I’m on the factory floor/Same old people in the blacked out cars/But they’re ten times worse than before.”

“The rebels these days are people like Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, anarchists, who have ripped up our world and remade it on their own terms. Made billions off the back of other people’s work and called it ‘content’ to gut all meaning out of the word ‘work,’” Masterson said.

“He’s like the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ the curtain fell long ago, yet he’s still getting away with it. Meanwhile, several generations of new songwriters and bands, who would have brought much more life and feral rebellion to arts and culture, have been lost.”

Masterson started writing his rebellious anthem as part of a “21 songs in 21 days” challenge. With a guitar in hand, he developed the track’s title and first verse in a one-hour session while the rest of the lyrics came later.

As the lyrics flowed for “Bring Back the Freaks,” Masterson collaborated with co-producer Dreyer, Drayton (drums), Bass (bass), Stivers (piano, vibraphone), Scott Sharrard (slide guitar) and James Hallawell (string arrangements) to shape its expansive instrumentation.

“Charley Drayton suggested we record this to click, unlike the other tracks, which was a great call. It has a sound and a confidence from the very beginning. Craig Dreyer loved the initial live tracking and thought it was finished with just me, drums and bass, and Scott Sharrard played some wonderful slide guitar throughout it, which gave it a George Harrison-Duane Allman feel,” he said.

“I remember getting obsessed with the instrumentation of John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ with its mix of harmonium, vibes, ornate piano and strings, and also David Bowie’s ‘Quicksand’ with vibes and a focus on strings and piano. Both of the artists are mentioned in the song, so I thought I’d salute them with their influence on the instrument choices.”

Green Note Show and New Material

Adam Masterson 2022
Adam Masterson wants to book more live shows and release new material soon. Photo – Robert Ascroft

Outside of his latest releases, Masterson will return to the live stage Monday at the Green Note in London’s Camden Town. He will share the stage with country-folk-blues artist Kelley Swindall and electro-pop artist (and sister) Laura Masterson.

“I’ve done lots of gigs with Kelley in New York, and I’m a big fan of hers. I’m excited to see her perform in front of a London crowd. She has a great style and presence onstage,” Masterson said.

“My sister has always had a wonderful voice when we were kids. She’s just started writing and singing again since the lockdown and has been playing her first few gigs on the circuit. I saw one last year in Dalston. I’m excited to hear if she has any new songs.”

After Monday’s show, Masterson plans to book additional live dates along the East Coast and return to the U.K. this spring. He’s also recorded two new tracks, “Trap Door Heart” and “Timebomb,” and has enough material in reserve for up to two new albums. (Masterson’s last release included 2020’s high-voltage, five-track EP, Delayed Fuse.)

“I like different styles and have different influences. I haven’t listened to all the tracks in ages, but I will begin again and see if there’s a sequence for a full-length album.

“I was six weeks away from putting a full-length album out several years ago. It’s a big regret that I didn’t as I had a little budget to do it and promote it. But I was talked out of by several folks who became very enthusiastic and believed the material was too strong and needed more of a chance with some kind of deal and went off and shopped for this.

“I did feel at the time this was pure hokum and that world didn’t exist anymore, and I’m bummed that all the excitement I was feeling at the time about releasing music was drained out of me. I’ve learnt the lesson to always trust my gut,” Masterson said.

Show details:

Adam Masterson with Kelley Swindall and Laura Masterson

8 p.m. GMT Monday, Feb. 28

Green Note, 106 Parkway in London, NW1 7AN

Tickets: £13.10

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