The harmonic sophistication in the music of songwriter Adam Brock is no accident; he honed his skills in the Portland State music department.
Brock entered into the jazz program after attending a guitar summer camp at the Berklee College of Music.
“I just had a one-on-one meeting with [associate professor of music jazz studies] Darrell Grant, and he just seemed like an awesome person and musician,” said Brock on why he chose PSU for his place of study.
“That first year was a huge immersion course for me, ‘cause I was pretty far behind in a lot of ways. For the most part, it was a crash course. I really dove in and immersed myself in jazz music.”
During his sophomore year, Brock would face a new challenge: tendonitis.
“Pretty much for the next year and a half or so, I couldn’t really play guitar,” Brock said.
This crisis forced him to rethink his approach to music. He began studying with drummer and PSU jazz faculty member Alan Jones, who helped him to develop his talents away from his instrument.
“That was a big thing for me. He was a really important teacher for me, for the way I think about music and listen to it and play it. He had all these crazy, creative ways of getting better at music besides practicing one’s instrument a bunch,” Brock said.
Now, not only does Brock have his guitar chops back, but he boasts a whole host of other skills including singing, songwriting, producing, arranging and playing multiple instruments. He has even produced a set of animated music videos for his original compositions.
After Brock graduated from PSU in 2011, he gave himself the project of producing one new video each month.
“I started this thing where I’d write a song which was more pop and I would record it, playing all the instruments and singing all the parts. My recording setup was a handheld recorder. [The process] taught me a lot about bass, guitar, keyboards, drums. With the animated videos, the very first one was just me holding up pictures that went with the lyrics,” Brock said.
Brock has started applying his producing skills to the talents of fellow artists like local singer-guitarist Joy Pearson. In addition, Brock has recently started producing commercial tracks for local music supervision company Walker, which creates original music for commercials, film and television.
“That’s been a great learning experience, because I’m writing and recording all the stuff. It’s made me better at engineering,” Brock said.
To see Brock perform is a treat. Although his songs are meticulously arranged, they always sound fresh because of his improvisatory approach. His sweet tenor voice is reminiscent of Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso. When he plays solo, he often uses a looping device, which adds layers of rhythms and rich harmonies.
Many of Brock’s recent shows have featured his quartet, which includes Berklee alumna Abbey Hickman, as well as Amanda Farmer and drummer Barra Brown. The group is hard at work on a full-length album, which will soon be released.
Brock will be performing live at the Kelly’s Olympian, where the Adam Brock Four will be featured as part of The Deli Magazine’s Best New Artists showcase on March 1 at 8:30 p.m.
More information about Adam Brock can be found at www.adambrockmusic.com