Adien Lewis is an American singer/songwriter/producer from San Francisco.
Known as ADN, he recently featured on Canadian singer/songwriter Elissia Mariah’s latest single “Maybe It’s Me” and on “Smile” by Apollo Theo.
Along with his solo projects, Lewis produced and co-wrote numerous records for worldwide artists, such as the smash single ‘Move’ by K-Pop artist Taemin.
Now based in Los Angeles, ADN will be releasing new collaborative projects as well as his new single ‘Fit The Mold’ in the coming weeks.
Introduce yourself. Name, location…
Hi! I’m Adien Lewis (aka ADN), a singer-songwriter and producer from the DMV/San Francisco, and currently living in Los Angeles.
When did you start writing songs?
I want to say I first started writing songs seriously when I was in high school. But really, I think it was even before that. My mom made it a point to teach me piano when I was young and so I would always make up songs and play random melodies on that, even before I knew how to make a “real” song.
Who was your biggest musical influence growing up?
There were so many, spread across so many years! I think every kid was influenced by their parents’ favorite music, one way or another. Michael Jackson, Janet, Whitney, Phil Collins, ABBA, etc. were a few of my mom’s favorites when I was young (and pretty much anything on the smooth rock and the oldies station back in the 90s and early 2000s). On my dad’s side, he listened to a lot of hip hop: Dr. Dre, Tupac… Blackstreet’s No Diggity was the first song my dad played that I really remember rocking with!
On top of that, I was a big radio listener back then. Around that time, radio was still the main route for hearing new music. So whatever was hot on popular radio in the 90s/early 2000s, I was probably into it: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Nsync, Backstreet Boys, Destiny’s Child, Usher, etc. I remember the first time I heard “Run It” by Chris Brown: it was late at night and I was supposed to be getting ready for bed but I was still up listening to this radio show. They played the song and asked listeners to call in afterwards to say what they thought. It was the first (and probably the only) time I called into a radio station to ask them to put a song on repeat.
I’d also say that my college years in the Bay Area had a lot of influence on my music today. It was really the first time I was free to listen to whatever I wanted, no matter how weird, or vulgar, or how many drug references it had! I have those years to thank for my love of all things electronic, EDM, and indie-alternative. I discovered Imogen Heap right around the end of high school and she’s been one of my biggest influences since. I got really into dance music, and the bay area gave me a greater appreciation for west coast hip hop too.
Do you remember your first musical memory? Are you coming from a musical family?
Honestly, I can’t say that I have one specific first memory. When it comes to music, it’s always been a constant in my life as far back as I can remember. My dad was very musical. He could sing and play guitar. My mom’s side of the family is Filipino, so music and karaoke were always a big thing whenever we got together. Filipinos basically are required to have MagicSing at all family gatherings.
You recently featured on Elissia Mariah’s single “Maybe It’s Me” . How did this come about? Who produced it? How was it like to work with her?
Yes, I did, that’s one of my favorites recently! Elissia is an extremely talented singer from Toronto, who I met through her manager and longtime collaborator of mine, Smash Hitta, back in 2016 when she visited LA. I did co-production on her previous single, Million Ways.
The song did well and she came back earlier this year for another set of writing sessions.
We knocked out ‘Maybe It’s Me’ in like a day, from top to bottom. We came into the studio, discussed some conceptual ideas, came up with some scratch melody ideas, and while Smash and I worked out the guitar and the chords/vibe, our co-writer Brite Ma and Elissia worked on the lyrical ideas. By the time we had finished producing the verses, they were basically done with lyrics.
From there, it was really just matter of finishing the chorus production and recording vocals. Usually we’ll go through a couple different production ideas for a chorus before we find something that really sticks, but ‘Maybe It’s Me’ came pretty fast: I remember we had agreed early on that we wanted it to have a “cool” drop that felt big, but used minimal lyrics. I’m a big fan of weird production that rides a tightrope between “quirky” and “pop-accessible”, so Maybe It’s Me’s chorus drop was my way of trying to make something that felt quirky and kind of jarring, but made you still want to listen through to the end.
I think we were able to achieve that. People really seem to love those big, swelling synths next to those cute, blippy plucks! I feel like the kind of push and pull and the interplay of the synths in the drop is almost reminiscent of waves in the ocean, giving it a bit of a hypnotizing feel to it; like you’re always waiting for the next wave of sound.
I use Serum as my go-to synth plugin these days, and for ‘Maybe It’s Me’, I remember pulling up Serum and just kind of crafting different sounds until we found something where everybody in the session would go “yeah, that’s cool!”
Then we went in and recorded both our vocals on the same day at our co-writer, Brite’s studio. Elissia is a great vocalist, especially when you consider that she’s only 16. Obviously in any recording session, there’s some vocal directing that goes on. But Elissia is the type of artist where everything she sings just naturally sounds amazing, so getting good takes out of her isn’t hard. She’s a real fun girl to be around! After that, there was probably one more 2 hour session where Smash and I did final mixing tweaks, and that’s the version you hear today.
You also appeared on Apollo Theo’s record “Smile”. What was the inspiration behind the song?
Yeah! That’s a great song. I actually can’t take the credit for that one though. Katerina Bramley and Curtis Richardson wrote it and Freedo and Shuko produced. They wanted something light and effervescent, similar to ‘Happy’ by Pharrell, so that’s the vibe everyone tried to evoke with the record.
What’s funny about that song is that I wasn’t even supposed to be the singer originally, I was just referencing the demo. But you never really know what to expect with the music industry, sometimes things don’t work the way you plan them. I’m very thankful to them for keeping me on the song, and super proud of how well it’s been doing.
What kinds of music do you listen to?
All kinds! Whenever anyone asks me this, I always just say “anything that sounds good”. That can be pop, hip hop, rock, country, folk, k-pop, anything really. I try to be very diverse with my own music, so I take in as many styles as I can.
If I had to pick my favorites though, I’d probably say I’m a big pop and r&b junkie. And I absolutely love all kinds of electronic music. These days I’m listening to a lot of Jon Bellion, Lauv, Allie X when it comes to pop.
Flume, Dawn Richard, Galamatias to scratch my itch for really weird electronic. Clean Bandit, Galantis and Ekali are a few great modern EDM acts. I’m really digging Vic Mensa and 6lack’s new projects. Drake, Frank Ocean, Miguel and Blackbear always got me on my r&b wave. BTS, EXO, TAEMIN, and Blackpink are just a few of my favorite K-pop acts.
You are also a producer. When did you start making beats? Do you prefer producing your own records or to have a few producers to work with?
I started producing back in high school. I was in a group and we used to write our own music and perform at school events. I really only dabbled around that time. I think I really started to get serious about producing when I moved to the Bay. I wanted to do covers on youtube, but I didn’t know anybody in music and I couldn’t get a response from anybody I reached out to for help. So I figured “I’ll just do it myself”. The more covers I did, the better I got. I think what really helped me the most was that I was always trying to make my covers sonically different from the original. That helped me learn the ins and outs of producing a track and it forced me to find my own workarounds for certain things that I didn’t know how to do yet.
Back then, I was 100% a loner. These days I’m definitely much more open to collaboration. It’s funny: the more “clout” you get, the more people want to work with you, and that’s when doors really start to open. But I still have the problem of people not responding to me when I reach out though. So you know, when all else fails, I often still run back to my bedroom to create.
People often say Los Angeles is the place to be when you want to make it in the music industry. Do you believe in that?
Yes and no. It depends on where you’re at in your career and what type of person you are. If you’re the type who already has connections (or you know someone who can hook you up with connections), you have money to travel, and you are able to make big moves without leaving your home, then I’d say stay where you are and just fly out to LA when necessary.
If that’s not you though, then a move to Los Angeles is probably a good thing to think about. If you don’t have connections and you’re ready to grind your ass off to get them, then you probably should be in LA.
What are the main advantages of living in Los Angeles, as an artist?
Well, that’s where the entertainment industry is based, so I’d say there’s no better place for music types in the US than LA (unless you’re doing country music, then Nashville welcomes you). Since most music industry people are based in LA, it’s really the place to be if you want to make connections and build your network. You can perfect your craft anywhere you are, but once you’ve done that, you really need a strong network of people to help get your music to the right ears. That’s where LA becomes a valuable resource. On top of that, there’s a studio around every corner in Hollywood so you’re bound to run into someone who you can link with. Unless you’re a literal hermit, it’s almost impossible not to make at least a few great connections there.
Could you tell us about your latest projects?
I just had a big K-pop solo release with TAEMIN from the group SHINee! He did 3 amazing videos for it that I highly recommend, if only for the fact that TAEMIN’s singing and dancing skills are mind-blowing. The song is called “MOVE”. I produced, and wrote it with Curtis Richardson and Angelique Cinelu. It’s very dark-electro-grunge-pop.
I have a couple tracks with DJ Mattway that I’m a featured vocalist on: one is called “Closure”, and there’s another with Mattway and Luca Testa coming soon called “Nothing Without You” (both of them I co-wrote with Curtis Richardson). We shot a really cool video for that one in Zurich recently, so I’m super excited for that to come out. I also have a Riddim I’m singing on that was produced by Tony Kelly [of Sean Paul fame] called “Risk It All” that is coming out on Tony’s project.
We already talked about “Maybe It’s Me”, which just came out.
In addition to all that, I’m gearing up to start releasing some of my own material in the next couple months. I’m looking to release the first single, “Fit the Mold” in the coming weeks. It’s part of a small “reimagined” EP project called TAKE TWO that I’m doing, where I’m taking a handful of my old songs from the beginning of my career and completely revamping them into “2018 ADN versions”. TAKE TWO is somewhat of a lead-up to a ton of exciting new singles that I plan to roll out starting in early 2018.
What defines you?
I think many things define me: Art and my music, for one. I don’t know where I’d be without art. I’m generally not very good at expressing my emotions, so my art, and especially my music, is my only real outlet. I think the people I’m close to also help define me. My family and friends mean the world to me, and I’d be nothing without their love and support through the years.
Lastly, I try not to be defined by my hardships and the negativity in my life, but I will admit that those trials have helped shape me and my outlook on life. They make you stronger. It’s been a long, tough road for me to get to this point, but I feel like I’m only just getting started.
What message do you want to deliver to the world?
I just want people to know that it is possible to live the life you always dreamed of. But it’s not easy, it takes a LOT of hard work and even more sacrifice. I’ve tried so many times in my life to go in with a concrete plan, but life never sticks to the plan. Do whatever it takes to make your dream a reality and ignore the naysayers.
Don’t waste your time looking at other peoples’ stories and wondering why yours isn’t unfolding like theirs. The truth is, some roads are rockier than others. Some of us were dealt an unfair hand and some of our chips were not stacked up equally. But I learned that when things get rough, if I take a step back and try to take life one step at a time, it makes the trek just a little bit easier.
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