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adoptahighway searches for honesty on 'Coaxing A Ghost Into The Room'

adoptahighway | Photo credit: David Szymanski

Barry Paul Clark, a.k.a. adoptahighway, has been a mainstay in Milwaukee’s electronic scene for years. I have been lucky enough to work with him on many projects, including reinterpreting J Dilla and Marvin Gaye. In the Marvin Gaye show, I connected him to Chris Porterfield of another Milwaukee 20 of 2020 group, Field Report, and because of that connection Barry is now a member of the band. He is definitely one of the most dynamic and versatile artists in the city, and that versatility can be heard on his latest release, "Coaxing A Ghost Into The Room.”

On previous albums, adoptahighway used computer software for the production. On this album, he used real instruments to create something more personal. He also approached the process of making this album from a different perspective. “Coaxing A Ghost Into The Room” is not only a beautiful album but at its core it has been therapy for adoptahigway. And the fact that he shared this with his audience is one of the reasons why this project resonated with me, especially in this mentally emotional and exhausting year.

Listen to our interview below.
adoptahighway interview

Tarik Moody: As a musician, how has 2020 been treating you?

adoptahighway: Well, it's obviously been quite a shift in how I go about my day to day, because, you know, before all this hit, performing music was kind of my full-time thing, whether it was with freelance stuff with different orchestras or chamber ensembles or hired out gigs with the bands that I play in and record with. So all that came to a halt and I've had to try to find ways to stay motivated and stay productive and try to figure out how to hit the ground running when this is all over and not necessarily have to build our way back to where we were, but hopefully take off from where we left off.

Tarik Moody: So talk about this project, “Coaxing A Ghost Into The Room.” It seems like a very personal kind of project. It sounds almost like therapy.

adoptahighway: Yeah, that's correct. Therapy was part of what went into starting this music. My adoptahighway project is a solo thing that I've been releasing music for 10 years at this point. It's been a long time since I released another adoptahighway album. It's been a little over five years and I've just kind of had a little bit of a separation from how I was seeing this project and how I was approaching this project. And just kind of overall in general, I was becoming separated from why I wanted to make music and what I was making music for. I'm really, really fortunate to have been busy making a living making music with the different bands and projects and stuff, but I just felt like I was getting really kind of separated from that.

And there were just some things going on, both in my professional and my personal life that caused me to reach out to a therapist. I had been working with him for about a year, a lot of 2019 and then into 2020, and just trying to reset through cognitive behavior therapy, how I was approaching creative process and being able to see something all the way through. Because some of my biggest challenges, and I know I'm not alone in this, but it's just getting started on something. And one of the bigger obstacles was trying to define something or give it a meaning before it even existed, which I think a lot of creative people run into. It doesn't matter really what the discipline is; we always want something to have this real depth and this like perfect expression. But I think that even though that's a good goal to have, if you're starting from that point it can be a real hindrance to what is created. And so I just was working with this therapist and kind of readjusting through cognitive behavior therapy how I was approaching making music and then just life in general. 

Tarik Moody: How did you approach this album compared to your previous works? What was the process like to create the first song? What did you go through?

adoptahighway: This is the first adoptahighway record that I used all live instruments. I didn't use any software instruments or things like that. I was recording into software obviously, but it's all synthesizers, hardware, live instruments. So there was that approach to it and kind of like I was speaking to a moment ago, I sort of developed this mantra of just like, “let's see,” and like, just get started, start making something. And then when you see it start to take shape, you can decide what direction you want to take it in. And I've found through that process that I'm actually becoming more excited once I start to create something, because the excitement is starting to lie in, “Oh, what direction is it going to go?” It's almost like when you get it out of yourself, it can start to take on its own sort of form and its own sort of life.

Tarik Moody: Did you feel like this process actually helped with what you're going through? 

adoptahighway: Yeah, it absolutely did. Because you know, once it was finished, I could look back and see how I got to that point. And it did it was just, it was something that I personally felt proud of just because I was able to finish it. And I've talked to talk about this with other artists and musician friends of mine, about how every time we create something new, we're like getting closer to a truth that we're all chasing, you know? And that's why you can sort of look back on your previous work and, you know, maybe not necessarily like it anymore or necessarily think that it represents who you are today, but it still exists. It has its own life. And every time, at least personally, every time I release music as adoptahighway, I'm feeling like I'm getting closer to a real truth in the expression. Even though I always strive for an honesty, it just feels like with this release in particular, I kind got through something that makes me feel like I've gotten closer to a real truth.

HYFIN Program Director | Radio Milwaukee