He’s leaving home
Adrian Bourgeois finishes his debut CD just in time to start college
Predictions are a dime a dozen. Some of us are still waiting for our flying cars or for Michael Jackson to get a sex change before becoming the country’s first woman president. Any idiot can make a prediction, right?
OK, so here’s a prediction: One day, in the not-too-distant future, Adrian Bourgeois will be an influential force in pop music, the kind of star the entertainment business used to call a “career artist,” the kind of artist whose work turns up in critics’ yearly best-of lists.
At age 19, Bourgeois already has assembled enough first-rate songs to make him a serious contender. Over the past few years, he’s recorded those songs in small batches: with his father, Brent Bourgeois, himself a former major-label artist (as part of ’80s band Bourgeois Tagg and as a solo act) and head of Christian label Word Records’ artists and repertoire department; with David Houston; and with Ralph Stover.
Bourgeois the younger has sequenced some of those songs into a self-released 10-song CD (11, if you count the hidden bonus track) he’s titled Pop/Art. “It’s a little depressing to think that in the time that it took me to record this whole thing, the Beatles recorded Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper,” he joked.
Listening to Bourgeois’ music, it’s quite apparent that he’s spent a lot of time listening to Beatles records, along with the Beach Boys and plenty of other acts whose creative high-water mark occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, long before he was born. His songs possess a remarkable melodic confidence—just when a tune has ingratiated itself into your memory, in the way the kind of pop music does that inspires one to whistle, the melody sweeps upward, turning and dancing in that unpredictable way that a flock of birds does when it moves toward the sun.
That melodic sense, Bourgeois explained, came from exposure to pop classics from age 3, which turned him into a serious student of pop. “I spent years downloading chord charts online and learning how to play these different songs and chord structures and all that kind of stuff. It’s developed my sound—I’ve tried to use that late-’60s melodic thing, the Beatles and Beach Boys kind of stuff, the way the Beatles used early Motown and R&B in their music.” He figures that after a few albums, he’ll be up to speed in a similar fashion. “Hopefully, as they sprung from old rock ’n’ roll and developed that into something new, I’ll be able to jump off their foundation and make that into something new.”
The songs on Pop/Art certainly evoke that foundation; they include such gems as mellow opener “Juniper,” which could have come off Elton John’s American debut album; the elegant “Summertime,” whose melodic sweep evokes George Gershwin writing for Pink Floyd; and one of the newer songs, “To Be (the First Man on Earth),” a stark ballad with Bourgeois backed by the Christynas, David Houston’s two-woman string section.
And then there’s “Jesus.”
Bourgeois doesn’t hide his faith. “Christianity very much has a bad name in the culture these days, as represented by George Bush or Pat Robertson; that’s what a lot of people think of as Christians,” he explained, adding, “I do want to change that impression of Christians through my day-to-day life and also through my music.”
This month, Bourgeois leaves Sacramento to begin his freshman year at UC Santa Cruz, where he will major in philosophy. He’s played a few farewell gigs, both solo and with his local band, which includes guitarist Mike Roe of the 77s, bassist Cheyenne Hill and drummer Steve Mitchell—who once played with dad Brent Bourgeois’ 1970s band, Uncle Rainbow. He has a CD-release party at HQ on October 20.
And what if Pop/Art turns into something that entices him to put his studies on hold? “I’ve always said that the music comes first,” he said. “That’s always been my dream, and that’s what I want to pursue. If it comes down to it, it’s music, then college.