Hailing from Detroit, Matthew James Adkins’ story is one of resilience and reinvention. Having previously battled with addiction, the emerging country artist & songwriter is now sharing his personal journey of overcoming it through his debut album, “Stoned on My Own”. A medley of folk, roots and old school country sounds accompanies the vulnerable messages delivered through each of the 9 songs. Therefore making this album perfect for fans who are seeking music with that old-school country flare and prominent, authentic storytelling.
Recently I spoke with Adkins about his path to pursuing country music and his debut album.
Kyla Pearson: For those who are unfamiliar with your music, can you tell us a bit about your path to pursuing music? What made you want to become a country artist & songwriter?
Matthew James Adkins: Well, I owe my folks for the country music influence for sure. There was always a radio playing country music growing up at my house. I was very influenced by my heroes on the radio, too many to mention but I am no doubt a George Jones Junkie!!! Growing up in the country with an unexplainable draw to melodies, I became more and more aware of my need to make country music.
Kyla Pearson: You’ve previously stated that you’ve had difficulties verbalizing your thoughts because of your dyslexia. How has music and other creative forms, helped you express yourself in other ways?
Matthew James Adkins: Yes, I have. I didn’t become aware of my condition until adulthood. Looking back, it all makes sense. I love the art of songwriting because, like poetry, there are no rules. No need for proper grammar or punctuation. I can actually write down and sing the actual way I feel, unlike talking. I do believe the melodies are what drive me in the process.
Kyla Pearson: You’ve previously struggled with substance abuse and alcoholism. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is battling addiction and wants to overcome it? How is this journey and your recovery reflected in your debut album/music?
Matthew James Adkins: Yes, I have most of my adult life. I am not sure about advice as we all are so very different, but I used Cannabis, spirituality, and the love and support of a woman. Also, I started to look at addiction as my enemy rather than my love. The journey is most definitely depicted throughout the album. Several of the songs are about or have something to do with the feelings I felt throughout my walk with addiction.
Kyla Pearson: Recently, you released your debut album, “Stoned on My Own” via Whistle Pig Records and produced by Bunky Hunt. Can you tell us a bit about each of the songs on the album and the inspiration behind them? What was the songwriting and recording process like?
Matthew James Adkins: We started during the height of the pandemic, which made things difficult. We had lots of safety precautions in place as well as doing individual tracking parts privately to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Luckily for me, I did get a chance to work with some of the great talents that participated on this record.
Stoned On my Own was written with the idea of overcoming a toxic relationship. I had the melody and hook in my head for a long while and then one day it hit me and the song was complete. This was the very first song we recorded and the most memorable. Mr. Bill Sadley kicks off the show with some fine harmonica work. Bill really brings out the Classic Country sound that I was going for with this track. We tried to capture as much live recording as we could on this one as we did on all the tracks. Drums, lead guitar, bass, piano and my rhythm guitar and lead vocals, were all recorded live together. From there Bunky called us all in individually to either add instrumentation or to clean up vocals and other parts he felt needed work. The B3 organ by the Master Jimmy Bones (Kid Rocks keyboard player) was a perfect addition to this track, as well as others on the record. Producer Bunky Hunt felt the Muscle Shoals vibe and we both felt it would be a perfect title track for this record. Tamara Finlay makes it complete with her backing vocals on a not-so-easy song to harmonize with. My favourite track on the record.
Rivers & Streams is a song I wrote about a man pining for his lover who comes in and out of the picture playing with his heart. It was so cool to see this one build intensity with the production. Andrew Sovine of Savannah Georgia (Grandson to the Late Great Red Sovine) was on lead guitar and came up with the instrumental break. The Piano work by Jimmy Bones was exceptional, and Detroit Bassist Chuck Bartels (One time Bass player for Sturgill Simpson) brought it home. This one was a blast to record!
Maybe I Wanna Cry is definitely a song about addiction. It was inspired by, but not written about a moment in my life when I was at my worst. I decided to create a key change, in the end, transitioning from Minor Chords to a more uplifting and positive melody representing overcoming trauma as well as finding closure in a loss. This was the most unique and fun track to work on in the studio. Jimmy bones on the Rhodes piano along with Award-winning Detroit Blues guitarist Brett Lucas on Lead guitar, this intro is a smash. Producer Bunky Hunt made the intro stand out with a little bit of Pink Floyd vibe. Talk about Horns!!! The Woodward Horns (Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, and Bobby Streng) made this song complete with a ride out on the Horn Train!
Comeback Jimmy was a made-up fictional character and story inspired by listening to too much, Jim Croce, lol, ie “Don’t mess around with Jim”. Bunky heard a New Orleans vibe with this one. I am so happy with the end results of this track. The oldest written song on the record, and probably the favourite among my fans, friends and family! Stuart Tucker from Hamtramck Michigan counts this one in and then slays the drums in this gritty jammer. The Horns stand out in this one big time, and Tosha Owens from Detroit Michigan came in later and put the soul into this one with some killer backing vocals.
Bittersweet was written as my testimony. This is a symbolic song about me finding myself in life and letting go of my old life. Dave Below kept us in time with some smooth percussion while Brett Lucas makes the hair on your neck stand straight up with his unbelievable slide guitar work, and leaves you breathless by the end of the song. Tosha Owens nails the harmonies in specific key spots to surprise the listener with more goosebumps.
Shadows was a poem written by my pal and songwriting partner Christopher Faulkner. Shadows went from a cool little poem about nothing into a sweet old-timey masterpiece about not letting the past get you down, (at least for me it does). Aaron Jonna lewis absolutely shreds the creole fiddle on this cajun jamboree! Aaron was unfortunately somehow left out of the credits on the album. We are all deeply sorry for this mistake and forever grateful for Aarons amazing talents and contributions on this track. Mr. Dave Faulk came in later to sprinkle in some Dobro work as well as that honky tonk Piano Work by Jimmy bones. This was a fun song to record.
The Empath is very special to me. It describes some of the feelings an Empath feels and some of the burdens they carry. I wrote this song in the dead of a sleepless night in front of the woodstove. It fell from the sky and was completed in about an hour. It was weird and mysterious. I sometimes like to think God helped me write it. Studio-wise, it was 3 at first, Myself on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Chuck Bartels on the P-Bass, and the Great Detroit Rocker Todd Glass on the drums. This was the core of the song. The harmonies on this one were done by myself. I believe I was recording them as a way to show Bunky what I was looking for from the girls singing backup, and he decided to keep it on there. This one bunky and I had a lot of fun playing around with it. The finger-snapping was a cool added touch to bring dynamics to this enigma.
The Scarlett Rose was written by my pal Christopher Faulkner and I. Brett Lucas came into the studio to redo the guitar work that just wasn’t quite cutting it for Producer Bunky Hunt, and blew us away with this original guitar masterpiece. Tosha Owens kills it with her harmonies on this one, and Todd Glass once again crushes the drum work! This song had so much drive when we were recording it, and even more, once it was complete. The bass guitar work in this is outstanding.
I Can’t Change It was a tune written and recorded by UK’s own legendary soul singer, Frankie Miller. Bunky introduced this song to me and instantly I fell in love. We felt it would be smart to throw one cover song on this album, and I’m glad we did. My friend and Detroit Bassist Jason Oberliesen Plays the Upright Bass on this rendition. Jason introduced me to Bunky Hunt and Whistle Pig Records in the summer of2020.JimmyBonesontheorgan, some sweet acoustic guitar work from Detroit’s own Pat Shanley, and Tosha bringing it home with some sultry backing vocals as well. Bunky decided to sprinkle some last-minute horns to spice this closing track up nicely. Jimmy Bones actually knows Frankie and was able to get him a copy to listen to, and for that, I am forever grateful. This track has been getting quite a bit of attention from my fans, which makes me very happy.
All in all, this recording process was fantastic!
Kyla Pearson: Melodically and stylistically, the album blends folk, roots, and old school country sounds–All while giving the acoustic guitar the center stage. What made you want to go this stylistic route for this album?
Matthew James Adkins: Well I have to give credit to my producer Bunky Hunt on this one. I pitched him about 20 songs all over the style spectrum. My main goal was to have this record show off my Classic Country roots as well as my soul to convey the heartfelt passion behind the lyrics of these songs. Bunky heard a Country Soul vibe in the songs selected, so that’s what we went with.
Kyla Pearson: You also released a music video for the title track on your album,“Stoned on My Own”.Can you tell us a bit about your creative vision behind the video? What was it like on set?
Matthew James Adkins: Sure. The song itself wasn’t actually written about a human relationship, I wrote it about the Alcohol and pills in my life. Toko Shiiki Santos with Tokoshiiki Imagery, filmed and directed the video. She was behind the storyboard ideas on this one. It was a very fast-paced exciting couple of days, dodging raindrops along the way. Had a blast filming with Toko.
Kyla Pearson: What is one venue or show you’re looking to perform at and share your new album with your fans? What live shows do you have coming up that fans can catch?
Matthew James Adkins: Well it has been a little strange starting a music career for the first time in my life with no band in a pandemic lol. I don’t have anything substantial on the books as of right now, however, I am focusing on a couple of local theatres, as well as the music festivals in 2022. I have a few connections in Nashville, Tennessee, and I hope to hit the strip and play at Tootsies Orchid Lounge.
Kyla Pearson: Lastly, what is one goal you hope to achieve with your music by the end of the year? Do you plan on releasing new music other than your recent album?
Matthew James Adkins: I really hope to get this record heard around the world. I’d also love to have one of my songs picked up by a mainstream artist as well. I would say my ultimate goal is to be a songwriter.
Listen to the Stoned on My Own EP now:
Stay up to Date With Matthew James Adkins:
James Adkins, Matthew. Interview. Conducted by Kyla Pearson, Nov. 16 2021.
Unknown. “Featured: Emerging Country Artist & Songwriter Matthew James Adkins”. Photo courtesy of Matthew James Adkins. Accessed Nov. 16 2021
Unknown. “Featured: Official cover art for Matthew James Adkins’ debut album, “Stoned on My Own” ”. Photo courtesy of Matthew James Adkins. Accessed Nov. 16 2021.