Solo acoustic guitarist and singer Adam Strack has become a fixture of the local music scene in recent years. A native of Fort Wayne, the musician has managed to parlay an acoustic covers format that began as a temporary job on the shores of southern Florida into a long-term career here. Even before he began playing his own solo acoustic gigs, however, Strack became a familiar face to local music fans through his stint in Still Groove with Hubie Ashcraft, now of Allan & Ashcraft fame. While that band is still officially together, Strack left prior to his marriage after spending about three years in the outfit and now concentrates on playing his solo acoustic act that he's been honing since 2008.
While Strack has written and contributed to original songs in the past, he sticks mostly to cover songs at his solo gigs. "I haven't written originals in a very long time. Most of the originals ... I wrote when I was younger, in my late teens, early 20s," he says. "Most of what I do is just, like, covers at my shows ... anywhere from Jack Johnson to Bob Marley to Otis Redding to James Taylor, the Jack Brown band, I try to get a little bit of everything in there."
Even though he comes from Fort Wayne and cut his teeth musically playing in the local scene, Strack gained the experience he needed to break through in a solo career by playing several months of gigs in southern Florida and Taos, New Mexico. He arrived in Florida initially in early 2008, along with his wife who was based there temporarily for work. Rather than pick up a general employment position for his time there, he decided to give the music scene there a whirl by playing cover songs at tourist-oriented outlets.
"I went down to Florida, took my gear, and I started just going to audition. I would go set up my stuff and just say, 'Hey, let me play just an hour of music during some downtime on, say, a Monday or something.' And I'd set up my stuff, and I'd play for them, and I got hired almost 95 percent of the time from just playing acoustic music that I'd played forever," he says. "And that really boosted my confidence because nobody knew me there. I felt like if they were hiring me it was because they liked what I did and not just because they were friends. So that was really good for my confidence as far as feeling like I had something musically for people to enjoy."
Like many solo musicians, Strack often attempts to develop a rapport with his audience at his gigs in order to make the session go smoothly. Depending on the situation, however, Strack says interacting with the audience may or may not be fitting.
"If [the audience is] engaging me with eye contact and sitting there and watching me play, I'll probably be much more inclined to talk to them," he says. "If I see them in conversation and I'm just kind of providing ambient music while they talk, then I don't necessarily need to talk to them."
Strack's interaction with his audience sometimes takes the form of the actual music he's playing. He rarely works from a setlist prepared prior to the show. More often he plays songs he thinks a particular audience will enjoy, devoting a sizeable portion of his sets to audience requests.
"Mostly I just go up there and try to read the crowd and try to figure out what they might enjoy, or sometimes I just play what I feel like playing," Strack says. "I play spontaneously. I used to write out setlists, and I do like it better when I have a setlist. That way, if nobody's really asking for songs and I'm not really doing a set direction, I don't sit up there and have a lot of dead time. But I haven't written out a setlist in a long time."
Strack does approach his song choices in terms of what kind of message or mood he wants to get across. On Strack's Myspace page he describes himself as a Christian, and while he doesn't play religious music per se, his desire to play more positive and uplifting music for his audiences does affect his song choices.
"I'm not up there preaching at all. If anything [my beliefs] have to do with the songs I try to play and some of the songs I don't want to play," he says. "I'd say before, when I was not a devoted person of Christ, I didn't really care about lyrics. I used to listen to stuff like Alice in Chains or [Staind's] Aaron Lewis, and I just tend to not listen to that stuff anymore ... not because they're bad musically, but just because more times than not it's dark music. It's down, depressing, let's-wallow-in-our-misery kind of music, and I just don't dig that."
While his jaunts in Florida and New Mexico several years ago may have boosted his confidence as a solo act, Strack says he feels the local music scene is filled with more talent than many places that have more outlets for musicians to play.
"I feel like Fort Wayne is a blue collar town. People around here who don't have a ton of money to blow. In a touristy area it's just a lot easier for people to spend their money," he says, "and so you have to be really good." In a town like Fort Wayne, he says, "you have to have a following or you're just not going to get hired a lot."
His time in Taos, New Mexico was particularly different from his experiences in Fort Wayne. That desert community, known for its arts scene, had slightly different music tastes than what he was accustomed to, and could sometimes present a bit of a challenge in terms of what songs were well-received by audiences there.
"That was a really different experience because that was a real artsy-fartsy community, which was just something I had never been around," Strack says. "That would be where you want to play all your offbeat stuff ... they want to hear some John Prine or some D-side Bob Dylan stuff, some stuff that is just way out there that not a lot of people would know."
Fans who are interested in learning more about Adam Strack or want to keep up to date on where and when he's playing can check his Facebook music page, where they can also connect with him, make comments and send messages.
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July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion