Adam Pearce

From the outside looking in, one would not have guessed Adam Pearce would be the musician he is today. No one is his family played an instrument. His parents weren’t what he regards as music fanatics. And in high school, he spent his free time playing sports. Yet at eighteen, he found himself in the Silver Dollar Pawn and Jewelry store picking out a guitar. You may recognize that name, as it was the centerpiece of a show on television called Cajun Pawn Stars. With graduation on the horizon, he realized most people didn’t wear their class rings in the years following and figured he would get more use out of an instrument. So, his father agreed to let him get a guitar in leu of the momento. Two-hundred dollars landed him a pretty little thing off the wall, and away he went. He would attend the Alexandria branch of LSU for the next year and a half. And any spare time he came across was spent on that guitar. He picked up pointers from his father’s friend, his brother-in-law, and Youtube. He began writing almost immediately, assembling four of the five chords he knew to perform a song for his family. Seeing them impressed with what he composed fueled his newfound passion. And that guitar would accompany him on his move to LSU campus in Baton Rouge.

Though music was always at the forefront of his mind, he realized it would probably never pay the bills. So, college was just his way of going through the motions to secure some sort of future. Ironically, campus life provided him with the members he needed to form his first band, Black Magnolia. They scored their first gig at a bar called Bogies, frequented by fraternity and sorority members. And the band did well, performing around town often. With performances under their belt and a solid group of songs, the logical next step was to put out an album. Painting a typical picture, life rendered a passionate musician with small funds and big dreams. Paying for studio time was out of the question. So, he found a house for rent with a garage, obtaining permission from the owners to craft a studio in that garage. This process took roughly two years to complete from beginning construction to completing his album, “Fields Are Burning”. But this course was anything but smooth. At some point, he walked away from his job specifically to pursue a career in music. There was also a falling out between band members during the span of time following construction and preceding recording. He would be left with himself and his bass player. What little money he did have was reserved for an audio engineer. This meant he had a deadline to meet. The week before the album was due, he counted eight ulcers in his mouth. No doubt this was stress related. He scheduled a release party at the House of Blues in New Orleans which was supposed to coincide with his completed product. Though the album was completed, the physical CDs had not been pressed in time. So, he spent countless hours burning copies in the days leading up to the show. He stamped them all with the words, “redeemable later for a real album”. When people showed up to subsequent shows and presented that copy, he gave them a real CD free.

The following year held some big changes for Adam. He got married and moved from Baton Rouge to Jefferson, Louisiana. Within him lied an undercurrent of fear, seeded by a sense of urgency. He shuddered to think of what he might become. In his mind flashed the stereotypical musician, falling short of making ends meet and allowing his wife to support him. So, being both driven and tech savvy, he began to beat the internet down searching for gigs. Adam will tell you, even though he was realistic with his expectations, and even though he took a calculated approach, it was a lot harder than he expected. “Like pulling teeth” were the words he chose to describe the experience. He figured out early on that if he pitched himself as a solo acoustic performer, he could get more gigs. This dispensed with the scheduling issues common to bands with several members, as well as having to divvy up what little money venues paid. It also allowed him to perform smaller spots on weekdays, leaving his weekends open for larger venues. “My first gig that I got after I moved here. I was pumped about it. And they offered some BS bar ring deal; like twenty percent of the bar ring or whatever. Those are almost always BS deals. I don’t take that anymore. And I went and played three and a half hours, and I made twenty bucks. And I’m pretty sure I had a bar tab too, that I had to pay for.” Still, he persisted in blowing up the phone and devised an ingenious method on Google Maps for keeping things organized. “I would zoom out and I would have all these bars, little pins. And I would mark them red, black, green, or yellow. So, red would mean that was something open. I never even messed with it. Green was a gig that I had. It was like that’s a solid gig. And you could click on the little dot and put notes. So, it’s like, Rivershack Tavern, I got that gig. Here’s the contact, follow up with them to book a gig every once in a while. If I labeled it black, that was a dead-end gig. Like, it’s not gonna happen. I’m never gonna play there or the bar is closed. Yellow were all my (prospective) gigs. So, it’s like call back on Thursday between ten and twelve and speak to Rob or something. Most of my pins were yellow. So, I would get on there a few times a week… ok, I need to convert ten yellows to either green or black.” The visual element was something he enjoyed, and it helped to lend perspective in his efforts, offering focus. It also quickly shed light on what areas he needed to increase his presence and the areas in which he approached saturation. 

Upon reflection, these things were apparent to me. First, college was and will always be a transient location. Some people maintain contact in the years following. But many go their separate ways. And this would probably happen regardless of any falling out he had with bandmates. Two, in speaking with Adam, I picked up on the fact that his level of dedication during the Black Magnolia era was unmatched. There was more to the story mentioned in the podcast interview that you can seek out below. But to think that he would’ve remained content with that arrangement for any amount of time is unlikely. Holding others to one’s own standard is a recipe for disaster. And he concedes that this happens with most bands. Burnout is compounded when you bear the brunt of this. But serendipity would step in when he received an email inviting him to try out for a popular television show, The Voice. He realized that people drive cross-country for an opportunity like this. And these tryouts were happening eight minutes from his house. So, he gave it a shot. Adam explains, “We’re in a room, like, the waiting room before you can go in and audition. So, we can hear everybody ahead of us auditioning. They get, like, ten seconds of singing and they go (clapping) ‘thank you for coming, bye’! They’re just cutting people. So, everybody in the waiting room is hearing everybody get axed… They know immediately if they’re not going to make it. So, that’s a little nerve wracking. You’re just hearing everybody get butchered.” Pushing his nervousness aside, he walked into a room with one person, a camera, and a square on the floor. He didn’t have a strap for his acoustic that day, but he spotted a stool in the corner and grabbed it fast. He belted out “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. At two minutes in, he was cognizant of the fact that they were still listening. He would be asked to play a second song, and then a third. Ultimately, he received a call-back and was flown to Los Angeles to audition in front of the executive producers.

After making it past these hurdles, Adam appeared on Season 12 of The Voice, performing in front of a live audience and judges That year was Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, Alesha Keys & Blake Shelton. He didn’t get a chair turn. He cites being given “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, by Procol Harum, as one unfortunate circumstance that contributed to his demise and points out people don’t realize the contestants can’t choose their own song. He affirmed, “I was super pissed-off. If you go back and find that (footage), you can see it in my face. They were like, talking to me and giving me advice. And I just remember thinking y’all can all shut the hell up. I’m ready to just walk off this stage. Gwen Stefani is talking to me like, being all supportive. And I just wanted to be like, shut up. I was so angry, just like seeing red.” But that marked the end of the road for him. And, in case you’re wondering, I did ask, and he did say what stopped him from telling all of them to kiss his ass was the fact that seventeen million people were watching. He had to keep it together. Adam Levine was giving him advice. Carson Daily was all over him. All the while, he was just looking for the way out.

In a rare occurrence, he was one of three invited back the following season. And he was the only one to make it onto the show. This time he was given “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner, a much better match for his style. He made it four rounds into the show, landing him in the top twenty, but ultimately did not win overall. For him though, the whole experience was a victory. Bringing a silver lining to the picture, Adam said “I got a ton of publicity. All of my performances were at the end of the episode. And they built them up, showing little clips. And I never got montaged. So, some people that made it further than me in the show got less air-time than me because their performances got montaged.” He stressed what a great time he had, enjoying five full-length performances that aired internationally. He laughed when he admitted he snuck whiskey backstage, sipping after he got cut. He made it known to producers announcing, “I just wanna let y’all know I snuck whiskey back here. What are y’all gonna do, kick me off the show?” They directed contestants that didn’t make the cut to sit before a psychologist, then sent them on their way. He could see the importance of such a practice, being that for so many, this is THE make-or-break moment in their minds. Immediately following, Adam Levine invited Adam to perform with him for George Clooney’s Halloween party. He got to dress up in costume and sang with the celebrity. Sammy Hagar sang a song with him too and would later stick around to get drunk with Adam. His description of these experiences was priceless, and I do hope you tune into the podcast. Because no one can describe those moments like he did. I could not stop laughing!

After appearing on The Voice, the television show America’s Got Talent showed interest. And he got offers from the show I Can See Your Voice. But Covid effectively cancelled those opportunities. The show Don’t forget The Lyrics has also come calling. It appears as though he’s now in some pool of talent for TV appearances. In a strategic move, Adam dropped the Black Magnolia moniker directly following all of this, opting to seize notoriety by performing under his own name. And he launched a Kick Starter, raising twenty-three thousand dollars to fund his next album, Warbird. Overall, his attitude toward all of this has remained realistic and healthy. He recognizes those appearances as giant ads for his brand. Aside from his solo project, he plays in Mothership, a Led Zeppelin tribute band, four to five times a year. He puts out original music every few months and maintains a Youtube channel where he posts weekly.

In the weeks leading up to this interview, I took a poll asking followers on social media who they would like to see get interviewed. There were over one-hundred and fifty respondents; several of which named Adam Pearce. One in particular, Paula Belmont, stood out. After only a few days of having suggested Adam (and while the poll was still running), she asked “So, are you going to interview Adam or what?” The words on my screen made me want to retort with a “look lady…”. But I explained the polling and interviewing process and made clear my intention. She never left my mind. And when I finally did interview Adam, I mentioned the lady whose name escaped me at the time, describing our interaction. Adam instantly chimed in “Paula Belmont!” He went on to explain that she could best be described as a ‘super fan’ of his. I made it a point to message her when his podcast interview aired. Surprisingly, I did not hear from her. I later learned through a family member that she had passed away. So, I’d like to dedicate this article to Ms. Paula Belmont. My heart goes out to her family.

Author: David Trahan