“There is nothing that can bring people together more effectively than music,” says Adam Ezra, who will be performing with his group at the Payomet Performing Arts Center on Friday, Aug. 13. “I’ve always felt that a band on stage, when it’s done right, is like a metaphor for the connectiveness of the community. I wanted to experience that concept from day one.”
Ezra, a folk musician who also performs as a solo artist, created Adam Ezra Group in the early 2000s as a way of maximizing that synergy. The group — which consists of fiddler Corinna Smith, drummer Alex Martin, and bassist Poche Ponce — is an eclectic collective, drawing on elements of roots rock, country, and folk.
But Adam Ezra Group’s grassroots nature goes beyond genre. Its fan base has been organically grown — show by show, mouth to mouth — without the benefit of a major record label or mainstream radio.
“When I started, I couldn’t get hired in a music club for anything, so I would just book shows at bars — any bar we could,” Ezra explains. “We played for five hours, often in danger of outnumbering the audience we were playing for. That was how we scraped by through many years.
“Each time we would play, I would connect with people,” continues Ezra. “Somebody would say, ‘Hey, we’re putting together a little benefit and we’re trying to raise money for an orphanage in Uganda,’ or ‘My neighbor needs a handicap accessible ramp built and we’re trying to raise some money. You want to come out and play?’ At a certain point, our community started coming from those kinds of activities.”
In time, those impromptu benefit performances gave way to a more organized effort. “We started a nonprofit organization called RallySound,” says Ezra. “Its mission is to empower communities.” Each year, the organization hosts Ramble, a free festival dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans in New England.
The band keenly felt the effects of the pandemic. On March 13, 2020, as the curtain came down across the country, Ezra faced the future with uncertainty. “I was home on a Friday night, and I felt scared and isolated,” Ezra says. “I decided to livestream, just from my phone. Not so much to perform a concert as to try to feel connected — to feel a little less scared.”
The livestreams, known as the Gathering Series, became daily, reaching over 22 million people around the world. They continued through July 25 of this year, when the group reached its goal of 500 consecutive livestreams.
Although he won’t continue the daily livestreams, Ezra says he’s not abandoning the Gathering Series completely.
The series has changed the way the band releases its music. Lately, it has been issuing one song at a time, more or less monthly. “I’ve gotten used to really giving it all out to the fans in real time —whatever is on my mind, whatever I’m experiencing,” says Ezra. “We wanted the music that we’re releasing now to be inspired by that concept.
“We call it the Album Project, but it’s really the opposite of an album,” continues Ezra. “I love the journey that an album can take you on, and there was something a little sad about walking away from that with this music, but there was also something else that happened. It freed us from having to put each song in context. We got to go into the studio and arrange and create one hundred percent for the song.”
The results so far have been a diverse collection. Recent additions include “Switching to Whiskey,” a classic country tale of drowning one’s sorrows; “Devil’s Kiss,” a rocker with a Springsteen touch that speaks of the Covid scourge; and “Alive,” a contemporary folk cut that addresses, Ezra says, “some of the hard days we’ve all experienced the last year and a half of isolation — the loneliness and the attempt to find the resolve to get through this scary chapter.”
As satisfying as the band’s streaming and studio experiences have been, Ezra says that nothing beats the emotional connection of performing his songs in front of a live audience.
“It reminds me that I’m not alone in things that I feel,” Ezra says. “I’m reminded of that every single night that I get to be on stage and share my music with others.”
Synergy Through Song
The event: Adam Ezra Group in concert
The time: Friday, August 13 at 7 p.m.
The place: Payomet Performing Arts Center, 29 Old Dewline Road, Truro
The cost: $38 at payomet.org