Adam Weiner may be known for stripping himself of his signature white tank tops while performing, but now he’s showcasing himself to the world on another level, baring his soul (and the souls of others) on a new record.
Low Cut Connie’s sixth album, Private Lives, a love letter to the human in all of us, is out now and it’s a long time coming. Frontman, multi-instrumentalist, and all-around first-class human being, Adam Weiner, broke down how some of these songs have deep-rooted origins over a decade old, while others were made just a year ago in a spur-of-the-moment jam session. Each and every one, regardless of how it came to be, tells a story, creates a moment, and evokes emotion, which is all that Adam wanted going into this finalizing this record, this passion project of his as both a storyteller and a musician. In this special edition interview, I had Adam go through the tracklist of Private Lives to take the personality, reality, and truth behind each song one step further.
Private Lives, the album, kicks off with the title track, which was also released as a single. Do you think this song is all encompassing as to what the album is about?
No, but it was definitely a song with a really late addition. It was one of the last songs that I recorded for the album. I think there were two others that made the album that I recorded after it, but I wouldn’t say it’s all encompassing, but it did sort of give me a sense of what the whole album should be. I had like 40 to 50 songs that I created over like three years, going back to 2017 before the Dirty Pictures albums came out, I was recording for this one and the whole thing was such a mess. There was so much chaos over those few years and the “Private Lives” song kind of cinched it all together. I kind of knew which songs I wanted to be on the record once I had that one. It was semi-cohesive. Cohesive is not my forte, but I certainly saw a thread from that song through a number of the other songs.Right after “Private Lives,” I got the “Look What They Did” song –that was one of the last things that I recorded, but once I added those two, I kind of knew what the album was going to be.
“Help Me” is your most recent release for the Private Lives album and possibly my favorite thus far. There is so much heart in it, I can’t even describe it, but can you?
Well, what I can tell you about it is that when I never did anything like this before. First of all, I produced this album myself, which was a challenge, but I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to push myself further and let myself go out further into the deep waters and try to get my own sound… not like another producer’s sound. A lot of times people want to put you with a producer and it ends up just sounding like their music. But with “Help Me,” I really knew what I wanted, but it was a risky song. I felt like I had never done something so raw. I did that whole thing in one vocal take. Once I had that vocal take, I knew that the song was done. I just sort of opened up my brain and let the words spill out. One thing that I will mention about “Help Me” is that when I was a lot younger, in one of my very first bands when I was living in New York City, I made an album, one of the first albums I ever made that maybe 10 people in the world has ever heard. That album was called horror, HORROR. The second song on that album was called “Phenomena,” and I had the song and the music, but the words… I hadn’t left them in the oven long enough when I put out that song. Over the years, that song has sort of stuck with me, then eventually it turned into “Help Me.” It took about 13, 14, maybe even 15 years, it had to stay in the oven and then it was ready. That was a song that I would point to, “Help Me,” that I’m proud of. It’s a process that I started when I was really young. I’ve lived a lot of life. A lot of things have happened to me, good and bad, in those 15 years. I guess the universe was just telling me that I was ready now for that one.
“NOW YOU KNOW”
I really love this song. It’s anthemic and it’s bluesy and it pushes the story of the album even further.
That was the last song to be added to and the last song recorded for the album. There’s many, many, many different lineups of bands on the record, because it spans three plus years and half the album is mostly just me and Will playing. Certain songs like “Run To Me Darlin” and “Quiet Time” and “Stay As Long As You Like,” are mostly just me by myself. But this particular song, “Now You Know,” was the 2019 Big Freedia Tour road band that I put together, which was just a fantastic group and had a lot of swagger. We recorded that pretty late in the process. I thought the album was done, but I kept adding things and subtracting things. “Now You Know” was the song that I actually wrote in stages. I wrote it last August of 2019 and that we actually recorded it in the fall. We recorded it in Louisville, Kentucky in the fall of 2019. I spent a week in Atlantic city in August and that’s where that song came together.
“RUN TO ME DARLIN”
Perfectly juxtaposing the previous track is “Run To Me Darlin,” which comes next. It’s a stunning little sonnet of a song that I hadn’t seen coming, but adored immediately.
Thank you. It is one of my favorites, as well. I wrote that in Germany. In fact, that song, “Run To Me Darlin,” is actually an excerpt. It’s a much longer piece. It’s just a slice of this song, a longer song, that I wrote it in a youth hostel in Germany. I was staying in a youth hostel in Berlin a long time ago by myself, just traveling and touring. I did these sessions where I would just sit down at the piano and just sing whatever is going through my brain. That’s one of those.
“TAKE A LITTLE RIDE DOWNTOWN”
Following that is “Take a Little Ride Downtown,” which is so much fun. I think there’s equal parts heart and grit to it.
I lived in New York City off and on for 13 years and at the beginning of Low cut Connie, I was living in New York from 2010 through 2015. I lived in Spanish Harlem up on 118th Street and I got to know some people in the neighborhood. Living in that neighborhood was fabulous and I wrote a lot of good songs when I was living in this little apartment in Harlem. That was one of them that sort of came out of my New York time.
Next up is another song with a lot of energy to it. It has such a cool little intro, too, and I was wondering how that came about because I listened to it and was just so taken in right off the bat.
Thank you. This took a long time to come together, and I have to say that it proved to be the most challenging song I think that probably the most I’ve ever recorded or put together. It may be the song I’m most proud of on the record. When I talk about how I produced the album, myself, I really had this vision in my head, what I wanted that song to be like, not necessarily what I wanted it to sound like, but how I want people to feel when I hear it. I didn’t want to stop. I kept working on it until I felt like it had gotten to that point where it was making people feel the exact way that I wanted that song to make people feel. I can’t really say specifically how the intro or any part of it came about. It was such a long process and it was like these pieces are their own little living organisms that just kept growing and changing. What I thought it would be at the beginning was not what it became, but it kept growing and it kept wanting to develop. I never thought from the beginning to the end that we would have this piece that was so lush. I played the song for the first time in an AirBnB we were staying in on the road. We were staying there on tour in this Airbnb in Colorado, and we had a day off with that line up of the band at that time. So this would have been 2017 or maybe 2018. I was playing electric guitar. I was playing some kind of Neil Young style stuff with some of the musicians in the band. I started to play “Wild Ride” and it was very different from what it ended up with, but I knew I had something special and it had a kind of hypnotic effect over everybody in the room. It was a little bit disorienting, like the people I was working with at the time couldn’t all kind of figure out how to play it, so it really did take every bit of three years to put that particular song together.
“IF I DIE”
I think this one is a quintessential Low Cut Connie song. I don’t know if you feel the same, but it feels comprehensive of what your sound and style has been over the years.
Yes, I would agree. I think what’s interesting about “If I Die” is what you see is what you get. I’m playing the guitar – and this is the first time there’s a lot of me playing guitar on the album. I’m not really a good guitar player, Debra. I’m a pretty decent piano player, but I really am not very skilled on the guitar, but I certainly give it my best shot and I shoot straight from the hip. So what you hear with “If I Die,” is you just hear me basically in a rehearsal with a group of musicians in a studio in Kentucky that was in Louisville. Basically, I’m just running through the song as it’s coming to me and I don’t really think we did it twice and never played it again. When we revisited it in mixing, I had forgotten when we’d done it. There’s something about capturing something like lightning in a bottle right out of the gate. We did that with our first album, Get out the Lotion, everything was just done on the first take really. It’s just a group of people in a room going for it, you don’t really know what you’re doing, but you’re going full speed. You’re running right at the wall full speed. That’s what I think happened there with “If I Die.”
“IT DON’T TAKE A GENIUS”
Just reading the title, I knew that I was going to love this song. I absolutely think that I was right, because it is so stellar and has a lot of interesting layers throughout. What are your thoughts on it?
I’m proud of that song. You know, over the years of Low Cut Connie, I’ve always said when people ask, “What kind of music do you play?” And, people used to say “Garage rock and punk rock or rock revival,” you know, all of these words that people say. At the end of the day, the music that I play and that I love is soul music. At my tough cookie shows, I call it a soul music variety show, but soul music to people is like a specific genre. They think of James Brown and Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding, who are all immensely influential on me, but still, to me, soul music is just music that has soul and its goal is to move you – not to be clever, not to show off technical skill. It’s not sort of high-minded in this complexity, it’s just there to move you emotionally, physically, you know? I felt like “It Don’t Take A Genius” is an example of what I’m trying to do with my music and trying to play soul music. I always ask people when I interview them for my tough cookie show, “What kind of music do you think you play?” And I get the weirdest answers, but rhythm and blues is like the most common answer. RnB, rock and roll is RnB at its core. The rock and roll that I love, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Rolling Stones, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, is rhythm and blues. It’s music that is supposed to move you. It’s supposed to make you dance. It’s supposed to make you sweat. It’s supposed to make you want to take your clothes off. It’s supposed to make you just want to be crazy and just sort of activate all your senses. “It Don’t Take A Genius” is an example of something where I was like, we’ve really come all the way in this process within these nine years, from Get out the Lotion to here to being that rhythm and blues soul band that I kind of always wanted to be.
“LOOK WHAT THEY DID”
If you could describe this song in one or two words, which is difficult, but I’m going to ask it, how would you do that?
The next song, “Tea Time” just proved to me what powerhouse musicians you and your band – past, present and future – are. Even a song under two minutes can be roaring and intricate and passionate.
Well, “Tea Time” is the little ugly stepchild of the album. I kept trying to cut it off the record. Then I kept coming back to it and saying, “Oh, this might be my favorite one. I think I got to keep it.” The record is all these little mini movies and I’m very conscious of how I want people to feel when they listen to a song. The thing with putting something like “Tea Time” on there, right after “Look What They Did,” I really want there to be a range of emotions for people. If you’re going to spend an hour with something, I want you to go on a ride, as I say, a wild ride, you know? And “Tea Time” is, in and of itself, a truly wild ride. I don’t know what it is. I can’t say much about it. It did start off in an AirBnB demo session. All I can say about it is that I was finished recording it before anybody in the room knew anything of what we were doing. I don’t even know if everybody knew that the mics were on at that point. I don’t know that anybody was understanding what I was doing, but I had this expression that I like to use and I’ll share it with you. I would always say to my partners in crime – who are Will Donnelley, who plays guitar and is just my right arm, Adam Hill, who is the main through line engineer to this record, Zach Goldstein and Dave Chale, who are my other engineers – I always would say to them, because I don’t do a lot of pre production. I don’t really like to explain anything. I would just say to them, “I want to shorten the distance between my brain and the tape,” which basically means I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to do it. So something like “Tea Time,” happened in about two minutes flat and that’s all there is needed. That’s all that needed to say about it.
“THE FUCKIN YOU GET (FOR THE FUCKIN YOU GOT)
What is the meaning behind this one? Because as much as I think that it will be a fan favorite, I also think that there are a lot of ways that it might be able to be interpreted.
Well, I can just tell you that there’s a book that I love about Ava Gardner. Ava Gardener was just an amazing screen legend and Hollywood actor who was in a lot of films from the 1940s through the middle sixties was her career. She was married to Frank Sinatra at one point, she was very good friends with Ernest Hemingwa,y and she was just an incredible person, brilliant person. There’s a book about her and it’s really just conversations with her when she was old. She was so funny and told all these crazy stories, but one of the stories that she told, she’s talking about this terrible break up that she went through with a Hollywood legend producer and how her career was so adversely affected because of this breakup. She’s talking about how difficult it was and then at the end,, as she’s smoking her cigarette, she just says, “I guess that’s the fucking you get for the fucking you got.” I read that and I had a song within a day. I also listen to a lot of New Orleans music and I’ve had little bits of the New Orleans presence in a lot of my music, like “Little Queen in New Orleans” on our third album. I think our fans are pretty well acquainted with my love of New Orleans music. What I had never done, though, was actually attempt to do something really like a piece of New Orleans funk, you know? I’ve done like New Orleans piano music, but I’d never tried anything really kind of deep New Orleans funk, so it just felt right for that particular song, too.
The complete antithesis of that track is the very aptly named, solemn, but poignant, “Quiet Time.” It’s a little bit of a break between these really passionate bangers. How did this one come about specifically?
It’s not even really a song, it’s really like a song poem or what they call a tone poem. If you’re talking about it in terms of the narrative, there are other songs on the record, like “Look What They Did” or “Now You Know,” where you sort of travel somewhere and end up somewhere. In this particular song, you don’t travel anywhere. It’s really about stillness. I’m just one of those people that when I meet people or if I see people I am wondering…. Like if I see a homeless person on the street. My first thought is “What was their childhood like?” What was the life before this moment?” I have got a song on Dirty Pictures (Part 2) called “Hollywood” that is a character study of this homeless person in Los Angeles who was singing on the street. In this case with “Quiet Time,” I was really thinking about elderly people, people at the end of their life, and people that live in nursing homes or who are in the hospital and really spend their last days in total isolation – not just physical isolation, but there’s this kind of drifting away from reality that I think happens. I’ve experienced it, watching my own relatives diminish as they get closer to death, but one thing that I always think about, because my grandmother, before she passed, when she was in her eighties and lived in a nursing home, she would have boyfriends and a love relationship. She had a boyfriend who was like almost 90 and they got together. He was like 87 and then one of them would have to get moved, like the rooms, to another part of the hospital or the family would have to take them away. I remember thinking, because they had to say goodbye to each other, and there’s some discussion of like, “I’ll call you,” but you knew that this is the end. You know that this was like the last rays of light and of love in their lives. I put this piece together for “Quiet Time” and I was just thinking about that. What is love in those last moments as you’re facing death? Talk about music that comes to me and then take on a greater resonance later. This whole record, like it was all recorded before quarantine, but this song has taken on such a resonance for me since quarantine has begun because we’ve lost so many people in nursing homes during this last seven months. Not only have we lost people, but there are a lot of people who can’t see who are alive and who can’t see their families or can’t see their loved ones because of the coronavirus. I was speaking with a friend of mine a couple months ago after he heard this song and we were talking and he said, “You know what this makes me think of?” He has a grandmother’s about 88 or 89 in a nursing home. He said, “I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to hug my grandmother again, so I call her on the phone, but I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to hug her again.” And then I said, “I wonder if she’ll ever get to hug anyone again ever.” I had a really beautiful conversation about this song with my friend, Larry Gold, and I want to mention this name, because he did the string arrangement for the song. Larry is a legendary string arranger who is from Philadelphia here and he has done strings going all the way back to the sixties on so many hit records. I mean all the way back to the Philly soul music of the seventies, like The Delfonics and Patti LaBelle, but all the way up to now, he’s done strings for Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake and Mary J. Blige and Kanye. He played the strings on Lana Del Ray’s “Video Games.” He’s an older guy and he’s a good pal of mine and he’s semi-retired. I asked Larry if he would do the strings on this, he also did strings on “Wild Ride.” He did such an amazing job with the string quartet on “Quiet Time.” He got very emotional doing this piece. He’s coming to the end of his career after an amazing run and we had some real conversations about what the song is about and it really resonated with him and he just poured his heart into the string arrangement. I’m so thrilled with it. I think we really got a true Philadelphia soul song.
“Charyse,” I’m wondering if this is a real person, an idea of a person…. Is there a story to tell there?
All I can say about it as it comes out of my New York years. I lived in different parts of New York over 13 years in a row. I lived there in different chunks, but I lived in Queens for five years. It was a very chaotic and not necessarily healthy time in my life in my twenties and that’s where “Charyse” came out of.
“NOBODY ELSE WILL BELIEVE YOU”
I would love to see this one, “Nobody Else Will Believe You” played in a road trip scene of a coming-of-age movie. That is exactly what I pictured listening to it. Did you have fun making that song? Because it sounds like it!
Yeah, it’s funny. It’s one of the rare times that I let somebody else play piano. I think it might be the only time I let somebody else play piano on a Low Cut Connie song. But Lyn Wood, my friend who played guitar on some of the other songs, we traded. I said, “I want to play with your guitar,” but it’s kinda become like an unofficial theme song for my tough cookie show. I performed it a lot and it’s kind of like the entire ethos of Low Cut Connie and how I do things. Nobody’s going to hand you anything, certainly not the music industry or the entertainment business, but anything in life that you really want, if you’re trying to blaze a path, you really got to do it and you got to commit to it and you got to be a total 100% focused ninja on that thing that you really want to make come true. Not only will people not open the door for you, but a lot of people are going to get in your way. I have learned that the strongest rocket fuel for an artist is self-belief – and self-belief is a difficult thing! It’s a muscle that you have to develop. I get to speak to a lot of younger artists and writers like you and I’m hopeful about the future because I hear a lot of energy, I feel a lot of energy, and I hear a lot of curiosity about art from folks younger than me. I kind of am offering that song to them, to your generation, because I want people to know when they’re starting out on a very perilous journey in terms of art… or anything creative or unique or trailblazing. I’m just telling you, it’s going to be a long road, you got to commit and just, you must believe in yourself, and you must unburden yourself from negativity of other people and small mindedness. I never get tired of singing it, because it’s like a reminder to do you shit and do it well.
“WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME”
Another pre-album release, “What Has Happened to Me” is a solid four minute banger that I think a lot of people can find themselves in. Can you describe it in two words only? If not, what does it mean to you?
A total mess. Like I said, though, I’m very conscious of how I want people to feel. When I write, when I create something like “Wild Ride,” I want people to feel like they’re completely immersed in a world. When I talk about some of the music that I have been inspired by in my life, one of the things that I always talk about is Prince. Somebody asked me recently in an interview to talk about Prince and what it was like to hear Purple Rain when I was like five or six years old. I basically said that when I heard “When Doves Cry” on the radio, it immediately sounded familiar, but completely unfamiliar. It’s like looking at modernist art, like Picasso, where it feels like this world, but it’s also another world. It’s like a dream when you’re in a dream. A lot of times it feels completely real, but it’s also totally disoriented because you’re like, “Why am I a woman in the dream? Or why do I live in China?” That sort of alternate parallel reality thing is something I’m always striving for. Can you create a piece of music that really feels elemental, but also new? “What Has Happened To Me” is an example of something where I really could have redone it and presented it in a much more understandable, concise way, but there’s something about that performance and the way that I got it down that it seems to me to feel very elemental, but also disorienting. It has like a thrill, a sort of visceral thrill to it, but you’re not really on sure footing. It’s a fairly inebriated song, I’ll put it that way.
“LET IT ALL HANG OUT TONITE”
This is a song that I immediately thought needed to be experienced live, it has that energy. Was that one of those songs that kind of came together in one swift take?
Yeah, it was very quickly put together. We actually have played that song – not a lot, but a little bit – in 2018 and 2019. It is in the repertoire and it’s simple. It’s sort of a sequel to my song, “Me and Annie,” on our third album. It’s like a sequel in that I’m always trying to remind people to unburden themselves, right? Whether it’s stress, self image, grief, or gender ideas or sexuality ideas, or race, or all these things that just from being a human being in society are things that we carry every day. It’s like a weight and it’s very constrictive sometimes. I’m always trying to remind people to kind of unburden themselves, even if it’s just for a short time. One thing I will say about “Let It All Hang Out Tonite,” if there’s one song on this album that I cannot wait to play on stage with a band when we’re on the other side of this, whatever version of live music and touring there is to come, whether it’s two years from now or three or whenever, I can’t wait to see it be in a room full of sweaty people playing this song after everything that everybody’s been through and continues to go through. It’ll be a pretty cathartic moment and I’m committed to making it to that point when we can all have that moment.
“STAY AS LONG AS YOU LIKE”
That brings us to the concluding track last, which in my opinion, is the ultimate concluding track. It was a single release, but I think it still holds a finality and a warmth to it that not many albums know how to end on. So did you write “Stay As Long As You Like” for the end of Private Lives or did it just suit the record’s end quite well?
Oh no. Like I said, there was no plan. This was the most chaotic disorganized and, at some point, unpleasant recording processes, and other points, ecstatic. The Dirty Pictures albums and the Hi Honey album and the Call Me Sylvia album, they were all done in a blip, whether it was a certain number of days or a week or two. There was go in and execute, and then go home. This thing was three plus years of my life, plus amplifying all these other periods of my life from before Low Cut Connie. It’s such a range and it was just such a mess putting this whole thing together. Then when I finally, in 2019, was coming out the other side of it, I really felt like I had this group of songs that really went together and was going to, I hope, make people feel the way I wanted them to feel. I knew that “Stay As Long As You Like” was going to be a special moment on the record. I just didn’t know how it was going to work. In the midst of getting into the final processes of the mixing and everything, I did a solo concert in New York at Joe’s Pub and we recorded it. It was such an amazing show, because it was the beginning. 2019 was the beginning of me doing solo concerts. I’ve done quite a few and by myself both last year and the beginning of this year. That’s like a whole other experience for me to sit there at a piano and just like sit there for two hours and just play whatever I feel. It’s a different thing than being Low Cut Connie in front of thousands of people running around and getting half naked for people. It’s just different. I performed “Stay As Long As You Like” for that audience in New York and it was such an amazing moment. Anybody that was there can tell you that it was such a special night. It was sort of like my coming out party as a soloist. People didn’t know that had it in me, you know? I performed that song and it was like, I said, “Hey, I have this new song,” and it was one of the first times – if not the first time – I’d ever played it in public. It was one of those things where it feels like you’ve sung it a thousand times and have heard it. I almost thought it felt almost like somebody else wrote it and I was covering it. I decided to go with that live recording at the end of the album with the people, just to sort of remind people to go back to the beginning of the record with Private Lives, where you get all these snapshots of all these people. Here we are, back again, with that group. We’ve sort of gone into this little wild ride where we peek behind the curtain of all of these individuals, all these characters like “Chayrse” and “Look What They Did” and “Quiet Time” and “Tea Time” and all these very weird character portraits with different voices. You almost feel like you’re seeing something or hearing something you shouldn’t, but then we returned to where we were with Private Lives, where we’re in a group and we’re back out on the street. That’s why I tell people that the tough cookies show is an extension of the record because there’s an awkwardness with writing and performing songs that are about “private lives,” whether it’s my private life or a homeless person’s private life or “Beverly” or “Charyse” or “Little Queen of New Orleans.” There is an awkwardness in terms of this intimate place that we go to, that I go to, with people… that public and private thing. There’s an awkwardness to it, but it is sort of a thing we need. Here I have this show that I now do every week where I’m basically in my underwear, in my house, and broadcasting into people’s bedrooms, living rooms, garages, workplaces, where they’re by themselves. It is sort of a media representation of what I’m doing with Private Lives in terms of bridging this gap between the public and the private. None of us are actually together and none of us actually know each other or even see each other, but at the same time, we are all getting intimate with each other. We’re all having the shared experience. I learned a lot from making the Private Lives record and sort of sticking to my guns with how I wanted it to be as raw and intimate as it ended up being. In tough cookies, I carry that with me, because I’m not trying to shy away from that.
PRIVATE LIVES IS AVAILABLE NOW ON ALL STREAMING PLATFORMS AND FOR PURCHASE ON LOWCUTCONNIE.COM!