There are multiple definitions for Sirens, the title of the full-length debut from South Carolina singer/songwriter/guitarist Adam Cross. Two descriptions might apply: a warning signal or the sea nymphs whose seductive singing was said to lure sailors to their destruction.
As an artist, Adam exudes both a persuasive authenticity and a real life perspective. “I was watching other relationships that were tanking hard. I stepped inside to observe,” he says. But he notes parallel dramas in his own life with these words “My best songs come from the times of hardship.”
Formidable electric guitars, thunderous drums, breaths of keyboards and other defining elements of modern rock underscore the songs of Sirens. Acoustic guitars convey an alternate delicacy. The vocals are assured and intimate, soaring from a gritty tenor to an unexpected falsetto and back again. Transparent and confidential, it is a voice offering full access to the clarity of the lyrics.
A cast of drawn characters inhabits Sirens. It might the gorgeous girl with a cigarette and a glass of orange juice who shares her plans to depart a small town to pursue her dreams in “A Feeling.” On “Castles Burning,” Adam appropriates the image of a friend's former fling, whom he describes as a “jaded, bi-polar, ex-girlfriend.” The song title “Dance,” offers an observation from the periphery of the dance floor, as the narrator observes the physical rhythms of a beautiful woman. “I'm gonna steal her,” he confides. “Lost” is drawn in sparse, essential language. “I wanted to see if I could use six words in the verses and somehow paint a picture for people without telling them what to think,” Adam says.
A striking vulnerability underscores Adam's songcraft. In person he is upbeat, verbal and outgoing, but his lyrics reveal deeper layers of contemplation and compassion. “I'm a little bit embarrassed by them sometimes,” he observes. “For the most part, I think it's my therapy. And I think when I write something I feel, it's true.”
Truth is the point: growing up in a small town of Aiken, South Carolina, Adam says he didn't fit in a town more attuned to golfers and retirees than rock and roll. A deceitful ploy from an insurance agency in the aftermath of a car wreck offered two options he recalls. “Dump the money into a demo of my music and drive a clunker, or get mediocre car and forget about it. I decided on music. I lived out of a 1985 Honda for a year, occasionally sleeping on a friend's couch that smelled like booze and fungus.”
From these experiences emerged the songs, the urgency to communicate, and a circuit of clubs where he could earn a living as a performer. Now, with the release of this full-length debut, Adam is poised for ascension from the small towns of his native South Carolina to bigger venues, brighter lights, more experiences and certainly more songs.
“I think that some of the best music lets you hurt and heal,” he says. Sirens is an invitation to witness the evolution of Adam Cross: with the chronicles of his songs, and the compelling tone of his truth.