Mike Adams is happy and sad at the same time

Joel Oliphint
Mike Adams

On the song “Happy & Sad” from Kacey Musgraves’ 2018 album, Golden Hour, the country singer attempts to describe what it’s like to be a bundle of opposite but inseparable emotions. “Is there a word for the way that I’m feeling tonight? Happy and sad at the same time,” Musgraves sings.

“She summed up what I was trying to do with this new record with that one line,” said Bloomington, Indiana songwriter Mike Adams, who recently released his fourth solo album, There is No Feeling Better (Joyful Noise), under the moniker Mike Adams at his Honest Weight. “I'm trying to figure out a way to be content with good and bad feelings being in me at the same time. I don't feel a need to feel good all the time, but I don’t want to panic when I feel bad. I just want to be able to feel a lot of different feelings and recognize that they’re all inside me at once.”

Adams has struggled with depressive episodes since age 17, but they weren’t particularly serious until a couple of years ago, a time period that coincided with some of the songs on There is No Feeling Better, Adams’ follow-up to 2016 standout Casino Drone. “I got on some mental health drugs for the first time and saw a professional, and that whole process ended up being really, really heavy,” he said. “Coming out of it, I feel better than I've felt in a really long time, but [album track ‘Do You One Better’] is about struggling with that in the most extreme way. It’s that notion of looking around and making a checklist of the things I had to be thankful for and be happy about in my life, which were all these good things, but still feeling awful or numb inside.”

In “Do You One Better,” an upbeat, jangle-pop gem with layered harmonies and orchestral flourishes, Adams sings about “going out of my head.” In the chorus, he hatches a plan for what to do if the music in heaven sucks: “Even if it gets so we hate that sound/If heaven isn’t great we can waltz right out.”

“It’s a reminder to myself that even if I'm in something that seems like it ought to be good, if I don't feel like I'm there because I want to be, I'm free to do what I think is best,” he said. “I need to feel free, I think, in order to feel good.”

Unlike Adams’ previous solo albums, which he made mostly on his own, the Brian Wilson-evoking singer and multi-instrumentalist decided to involve his live band more in the creation process for There is No Feeling Better, recording the core tracks together in the same room with two drummers, two nylon-string guitars and bass.

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“I played less on this album than anything I've made prior. … The guys that I play with are really, really great, and it felt like a dumb thing for me to let that live band version of what we'd been doing go away without documenting it in some way,” said Adams, who will bring his full band to Spacebar on Wednesday, Sept. 25. “But no one played on the record what they play live. Our guitar player played drums, our bass player played guitar, I played bass. It was like, ‘OK, we're good at playing together and moving together as a unit, so let's try to do that in a way that feels challenging.’ And it felt really great.”

While album tracks like “Do You One Better” and “Wonderful to Love” find Adams looking inward, much of the record interrogates an external world that Adams has found increasingly confusing. On lead-off track “Pressing Mesh,” he confesses that he “can’t decide, half the time, who’re the good and bad guys.”

“That song is just challenging my notions of what policing is [and] what we want from it,” he said. “My brother is a policeman, actually, and I'm close to him, though he and I are not alike. … I’m trying to think about policing as what I philosophically want it to be versus the fact that it's my brother's day-to-day existence, and how to reconcile those things.”

“I wrote a lot of these songs from 2016 to '19, so I don't want to at all say it's a political record, but it's me thinking about a lot of political stuff as the country is changing and going through difficult things,” Adams continued. “I felt challenged by the world around me in a way that I hadn't prior to that. There are also lines on the record where I'm recognizing that I'm seeing this stuff now in a way that I can't ignore, and maybe I've been able to ignore it for a long time, and that's partly why it's gotten so bad, because I have been in a position where I can ignore things that some people have to live with every day.”


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Mike Adams at His Honest Weight