If you haven’t heard of Adrian Marcel, yet, I’m not sure where you have been. With a hit single like “2 AM” climbing the charts, tours with artist like Keyshia Cole, and the stamp of approval from a legend like Raphael Saadiq, this Oakland crooner is breathing fresh air into R&B music and radio waves. His genuine and humble demeanor will make you fall in love with his personality, but it’s that smooth voice that creeps in and out of falsetto that will make you fall in love with his music.
You hail from the city of Oakland, California. What is it like coming from an area with such deep roots in not only music, but in the world of Hip-Hop and R&B?
It’s a blessing to be able to be around in an era when Oakland is still in its prime and can get a light shining on it. I think at times Oakland can get a bad rep and it’s disappointing because there is so much positivity and culture. And like you said there’s a history, and a rich history at that, which comes from my city. And I’ve just been blessed to be a part of that and I’m happy that I’m able to be a part of it now when more light is being shined back on it again and there is this new generation that is bringing a new feel and good music with good vibes out of the city. So, I’m extremely happy about it.
And Oakland is known as a city that harbors a lot of talent, but it can be difficult to break out into the international sphere. How did you deal with this in your career?
Well, a wise man once said, “If you want different results, sometimes, you have to go somewhere different and do something different”. And for me that was moving to Atlanta. I came up in Oakland and I was a part of all the different music programs. I went to the Oakland School of the Arts downtown and I went to the Young Musicians program at UC Berkley. My mother and father always kept me in that field, but when it came to actually pushing for my career I had to go elsewhere to kinda get something new, find some new inspiration. And that’s what Atlanta was for me; it was finding a new swag. The way they ride their rhythms and their work ethic out there is very similar to Oakland and I’m mixed with it too. I think that had a lot to do with me having a chance.
So where did the journey to realizing your dream become real for you?
Well, my management, L7, with Yancey Richardson came and found me. I was doing some Youtube stuff. And they moved me out to Atlanta and I locked myself in a basement for six months doing nothing, but write and record with my best friend Jane Hancock. And from there we went out for a deal and Republic jumped on and it became a great relationship ever since
And you went from a kid from East Oakland, to a grinding musician in Atlanta, to Rolling Stones “10 New Artist You Need to Know”, to BET Music Matters, and now performing at the most recent BET Awards. How has working with BET been for you?
It’s amazing, you know. BET has been a very supportive outlet and foundation for me. Steven Hill and the team over there, they are just amazing. They gave me a shot and are still giving me a shot. So, I have to cherish that and appreciate that, especially, like you said, coming from Oakland. It’s been a blessing. Everybody has been very supportive to my music and the work ethic we put in, so it’s just been blessings on top of blessings.
And you performed James Brown “It’s a Man’s World” at the BET Awards and it is clear to see from your music that you pull from a wide variety of legends and musicians. What are some of your inspirations?
I came up in a lot of old school, so James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Al Green, Bill Withers, Donny Hathaway, Teddy Pendergrass…I mean it’s just a lot of great vocalist like Maxwell and Marvin Gaye. I pull from people that you can feel the passion from their voices.
And your ability to play a number of instruments and vibe out with the band on stage gives you a bit of an edge over a lot of artists today. How has that affected your sound and performance?
Well, like I said I went to an arts school and various arts programs. And my mother always kept me in piano lessons and things like that. Though, that was not my first love, to play instruments, I always understood the language, and I understood musicians and how to vibe with them. And it’s a feeling type thing, to be on stage and have musicians vibe out with you, that’s what I came from, that’s what I know best, and that’s where I’m most comfortable at. It’s amazing; it’s a great feeling. It’s really just a passion thing.
Your first EP was “7 Days of Weak”. How was the process of creating that and having a legend like Raphael Saadiq put a stamp on it and co-sign you?
Well, again, I gotta shout out my team. They were doing some business with him and he heard the music and he flew me out. And when he found out I was from Oakland it made it even better. We kinda just had a conversation and talked and it kinda just built into a relationship. You know, Raphael, or Ray as I like to call him, is like my big brother. He’s always giving me advice; he’s always helping me stay focused, and keeps me thinking of longevity, rather than moments right now.
One of my favorite tracks off the first EP was “I’m Still”; the song carries a kind of honesty and truth. What was it like making that track for the project?
It was the first song. Really, it kicked off the music we were going to do for the EP. It was the first song that we really laid everything on the line. It took us about 15 minutes to write the song and it was just so natural. We actually started with the second verse. You know the line, “I got a call from my ex, said congratulations on the deal…”? When we wrote it was like, “Do you really want to go there?” and I was like, “Yeah, let’s go there. Let’s be real”. Because a lot of people feel when you get your deal and get signed a lot of artists forget who they are or where they come from. But, with myself, I have so many great people around me that allow me to be myself and they help me to stay that way and stay grounded. And I wanted people to know, especially my hometown, that I’m still the same person, nothing has changed. I still do it for my city, I do it for my fam, and I do it for the love and the passion.
And you mentioned the need to be genuine in every song that you make and “I’m Still” is an example of that. Where does this need to keep it real with your audience come from?
It comes from my city, Oakland. It’s a tough city and a very competitive city. We have a lot of pride in ourselves and in our work. And for me that’s the city I grew up on, that was the motto, that was the foundation. And they will love you, but they will spit you out if you’re not giving them respect. And it’s also from my family. I was raised with morals, that are still instilled in me, from the beginning. My father made it a point to make sure I always stayed humble, stayed real, stayed genuine, and personable. That’s how you make your stamp in life and have longevity. I’m not in it for the quick bucks. I’m not in it for the fame, because fame can come and go, and anybody can be famous, but everyone can’t be great. And how you stay great is by staying humble, staying personable, and just staying yourself.
Fast-forward to the present moment and you’re currently touring with Keyshia Cole. How was it getting the call to tour and work with Keyshia?
It was amazing. And she’s also from Oakland, as well. She’s almost from the same area as me. So, to be a part of that with somebody else who got out of Oakland and made it internationally the way she did, she’s a legend in my eyes already. So, for me to be in the same kind of footsteps, it’s amazing. She’s very welcoming and I love to watch her do her thing and I love to watch how she controls everything around her.
And the tour is currently in progress; what can fans expect to see from Adrian Marcel live?
I like to call it a “ratchet-soulful-sexy” show, you know. It’s a good time. I like my audience to feel like each night they are seeing a different show and it is different every night. I mean it’s hard for me to say what it is, but it’s fun. You will laugh a little bit, you’re gonna scream a lot, you’re gonna have a great time. You can let loose and be yourself, just like me, because I’m gonna let loose and be myself. I’m going to be emotional and leave it all on the stage.
Now the big radio single “2 AM” is everywhere. How was it collaborating with Sage the Gemini and creating a hit?
Well, Sage is from the Bay too, so it’s been a lot of Bay love that’s been around me. And that’s like my homie, we are super cool. That’s my brother. I love that he is himself. He heard it, jumped on it and wrote a crazy verse. And it was crazy because we hooked up with the guys who wrote it and when I heard it, I knew it was the one and that it was still me. I don’t like to do any songs or music that isn’t relatable to who I am and what I’ve been through. And it was perfect because through all the soulful stuff that I talk about, there is turn up time. There is time to go to the club and have a good time; sometimes you see something you like and you act upon it. So, it was just a timing thing and it’s been doing very well, it’s been moving up the charts, so, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
With the new EP and an extensive tour schedule, it seems like you’re always working. Is there any down time and what comes next for you?
Well, you never know. Every time I think I have some time, I don’t. But, other that we have “7 Days of Weak” on iTunes right now and we just put out “Weak After Next” which is like the sequel to the first. And it’s just a little more of an in-depth conversation with my audience, so that they can really get to know me even more and understand that this is a consistent thing and not that “7 Days a Weak” was just something here and gone.
After the tour we are locking down the album. We are looking at a 2015 February release date; hopefully a Valentine thing for the ladies. Very cliché R&B, but hey, you know. But, of course even more shows, more growth, and much more to come. You really just have to follow me and pay attention to see it.
You mentioned your most recent project “Weak After Next”; How was it collaborating with artist like Snoop Dogg, Kelly Rowland, Casey Veggies, and E-40 on this project?
It’s amazing because it really felt like growth. Like from”7 Days a Weak” when no one really knew who I was and to now have so much more support and appreciation from other artists. Legends is how I look at them and it’s all a blessing and amazing. I grew up on Snoop and the West Coast thing. I love how he really went back and gave me a really solid verse and really solid record. It couldn’t have been without him. And Kelly Rowland, she’s a beautiful person inside and out. That’s my homegirl. I love Kelly. Anything she needs from me, I would break my neck to do. She’s been there since the beginning. My very first tour was with her and she was so sweet and welcoming. And Uncle 40 (E-40), he’s amazing. I grew up on 40. And I was so inspired by that Oakland independent movement that was created. And I told him he doesn’t understand how much he has inspired me and wouldn’t even know it. And it’s just amazing, like Casey Veggies and everybody that came out and supported the project. It’s amazing. There’s no better feeling. “Weak After Next” is definitely a growth project, just to show the audience where I’m at now. And I want them to always feel like they’re up-to-date with any project that I’m doing; it’s all about my life and where I’m at, because again, I just want to be honest and real. I don’t talk about anything that isn’t completely 100% me.
Moving forward in your career, who are some artists that you really want to collaborate with?
I really want to work with Drake. And I’m a big fan of YG. I loved his last project. It was real and genuine to the artist. I think Chris Brown and me would make something crazy. But, if I had to say my all time favorite collab would be with Marvin Gaye. If I could have had that opportunity, I would have loved that. And also Maxwell, I think that would be amazing.
Check out Adrian supporting Keyshia on tour:
Friday, August 15 Houston, TX House of Blues
Sunday, August 17 Dallas, TX House of Blues
Thursday, August 21 Anaheim, CA House of Blues
Friday, August 22 Los Angeles, CA Wiltern
Saturday, August 23 San Francisco, CA Fillmore
Monday, August 25 San Diego, CA House of Blues