Adam Hill's my name, not sure what’s my game. I wrote songs for 30 years then I wrote the novel Old Timer’s Blues. Figured I’d change it up and finally crack the code on being an overnight success. This blog is about how do you find happiness, joy, and meaning when we live with the message, “Do what you were born to do!!” You do it, and nothing happens. This week we consider deleting my bandcamp page. This blog is better than me posting photos of my cat and tacos no?
My bandcamp page lives on the "great equalizer," the internet. The internet with the promise to reach an audience. Well, what if it doesn’t work and it sucks your soul? How does an artist let the world know about their work? This last week I tried rewriting the past. Spoiler alert, it only brought up more questions.
I listened to Political Beats podcast episode with Jessie Opoien on The Old 97’s. It jumped out at me from the choices because we opened for the 97’s once. They slept on the floor of the rough little spot our band had. We had lunch. We had dinner. For a short time we had a mutual crush. The podcast talked about the mid to late 90s alternative country movement. Since I screwed it all up, I’m not even a footnote in that movement. I recently did an interview about this because someone wanted to know about The Satellite Pumps in a, “where are they now” column for the online mag, Blank News. Cue scene from Spinal Tap, “Gentlemen, a bit of your past is playing in the other room.”
That evening the family, watched Spiderman into The Spider-Verse. Deal is there are spider heroes from alternate universes. The one in the universe we are watching is killing it. He’s married MJ. He’s got a motorcycle. Spiderman from another world is a Spiderman that lost MJ, lives in a crap apartment, is overweight, and is not killing it. Ok, he’s still a superhero but he’s clearly not living his best life as Spiderman.
So like you do when you want to feel worse, you look on the internet. I looked up The Old 97’s Wikipedia. I wondered what my bands page would be like if I hadn’t had a freak out at 23?
The Satellite Pumps were a rockabilly pop punk band in Knoxville from 1996-2001. They are recognized as pioneers of the alt-country movement during the mid to late 1990s along with bands like Uncle Tupelo, Drive-By Truckers, Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, Old 97’s and The Bottle Rockets.
Their first record Rock N Roll Kissin’ (1998) was an update of the demo they recorded in their apartment to land with Bloodshot Records. They were inspired by 50’s era rock n roll, country and pop all mixed with an early Replacements attack. Their classic songwriting mixed with a charismatic live show took them quickly from the bar band scene to mid level venues.
1999’s Turn My Heart Up took the basic rock n roll of the first album, added the hot jazz Want You, Neil Diamond pop in Romeo Knows, and blistering cattle thrash Eyes Like Diamonds. Ballads like Hurtin’ and Steel Guitar solidified Hill’s reputation as the unrequited love song writer.
In 2000 they moved from Knoxville to Nashville. This move would later be blamed as the bands falling out. Their third album Lo-Fi Goodbye with Lost Highway found the band losing their vintage vibe for a solo Paul Westerberg mixed with 80’s pop country sound. The album yielded Billboard Top 100 hits “100 MPH LUV” “Whycantchoo” with notable ballads, “Down Anyway” and “Matches.”
Adam Hill’s solo debut, Willingness (2002) moved away from The Pumps loud-fast sound with a hushed folk blues meditation on Appalachia and isolation. The album featured fiddle, upright bass, clarinet and accordion without drums or electric guitars. It topped numerous year end lists and revealed another dimension to Hill’s already formidable writing as a deconstructionist master of Appalachian folk.
Hill would tire of Nashville, call it “Music Business City” and cite how it commodified Alternative Country into Americana Easy Listening. Hill would move to Memphis in 2005 because the lawyers there wear Birkenstock’s. Hill met his wife, Lurlene Myers at the Arcade Diner, where she was a waitress. After taking a two year hiatus Hill returned with Banjo Moon recorded at Ardent Records with the Stonesy singles Falling Star and Come Down. Banjo Moon topped year end lists and garnered “Saving rock n roll” praise. The next year’s release Smoke Trees was more introspective, although it featured strong rockers in Think I Think and Lazy Old Sun.
Little Time (2014) showcased Hill’s mastery as a song crafter with the ability to evoke complex emotions in simple songs. The song Hong Kong was re-recorded as rock song with drums and organ as a single for the movie Women on Bicycles and won a Grammy for Best Song. In 2016 Hill and his wife moved to Maryville, TN. He retired from music to pursue writing crime novels. He blamed increased difficulty separating himself from a sea of crap as reason for retirement.
How happy would I be? What sense of meaning and happiness would I have? This was what I think should have happened. But I was terrible and afraid at everything at 23. So let’s say the black hole opens up like in The Spider-Verse and the Adam from the world I made up above, comes to this world. “You mean no one ever heard all my songs? You work in an office? I have to get back to my time!!!”
The more you let a single belief define you, the less capable you are of adapting when life challenges you. If you tie everything thing up in being the point guard or the partner at the firm or whatever else, then the loss of that facet of your life will wreck you. -James Clear
I read that about a week ago in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. I wish I’d read that when I was 23 or 33 or 43. I don’t know that it would have sunk in. I think it sunk in. I've always thought my plan A, B and C is I am a songwriter. That's it. I just spend my life doing other things, like work.
Maybe the other world Adam would be like, “You get to stay home. You got kids!”I know I could rewrite that bio and add some more of the reality of this world. Alternative Country became 70’s easy listening closer to 1999. I think the rock n roll is saved dream of alt country was dead when Oh Brother came out. A band fronted by a guy who was able to do all that stuff would not have been me. But let’s say my 23 year old anxiety riddled, professionalisms averse self, with heroes like Paul Westerberg, Hank Williams, Roger Miller, Alex Chilton, and Johnny Thunders would have kept it together. Which is a funny list because I’m a rule following, Christian libertarian, with a work ethic that informs my self worth. I show up 15 minutes early to everything. I have 0 chill. I am not rock n roll. But I have a bandcamp page and I play electric guitar like my house is on fire. If I say rock n roll it was like Buddy Holly, a suit and glasses not like the 1960’s. That’s a long gone notion.
My wife is sure if I’d gotten a bit of what I wanted I’d be dead. If I hadn’t left Knoxville in 1999, I’m pretty sure I’d be a mess or dead. If I’d be honest we were more Flat Duo Jets than Old 97s. So take the success levels there, The Flat Duo Jets do not have fuck you money. The Old 97’s don’t for that matter. In my dreams I’m Eddie Money catchy, in this world, I’m a lot more Tav Falco.
I had a pastor tell me once, “If you were as good as you think you are, something would have happened.” Sometimes I think he was 100% right. Sometimes I think God saved me. Sometimes I think, “I’m as good as I think I am and God made me invisible for cosmic kicks” Sometimes I think,”I was terrible at everything. I’m an antisocial weirdo in the world where artists are marketers.” Sometimes I think, “If you needed that much validation for your art, maybe you need to validate some other things for yourself first.” If I could rewrite music history I think I’d use it to get Charley Patton to sing Rivers of Babylon. Can you imagine that? I can hear it in my head. It’s beautiful. That's what I'd use my wish on.
Well, my bandcamp page isn’t costing me anything but it keeps an idea alive. I’m not sure what that idea is anymore. I’m not sure what that idea is costing me. I don't think I ever had any idea how to be an artist. I’m not going to figure it out today.