Music | Feature | Native Oak

By Kieran Webber

I was in the fortunate position this summer to be working with many talented people, one of them being folk musician Adam Cross who goes by the moniker of Native Oak. An Irishman who found himself on Cornish shores working as an activity instructor, specifically in surfing and coasteering.

On the end of a busy Friday we both headed into Newquay, after making a stop for a pasty (end of day reduced…bargain) we made our way to Whiskers, a new trendy cafe/bar.

As we step in we are greeted by friendly smiles and a warm welcome, after grabbing our selected beverages we head upstairs, where we are greeted by a selection of pillows in all shapes and sizes and a rather inviting sofa.

With the recording equipment set up and my camera ready to go we start the interview. Adam sits there with his glowing blue eyes, golden locks of hair stroking his bushy wild beard; he listens intently waiting on ever word of my questions. A side of Adam is shown to me on this day that I had not seen before, he is serious and silent, he only speaks to answer and when he does it is rich in passion.

The logical beginning question is to find out why the name Native Oak, and with a grin on his face Adam answers: “Everyone asks me that man, for me it wasn’t about how do I come up with a name it was whether to use it or not.” He continues “As an artist I progressed and I started bringing people into my band I would want them to be recognised, rather than it being the Adam Cross show. Do you know what I mean? I didn’t write the drums or the violin or whatever it is.”

Like many singer/songwriters there is a lot of space in their music for other artists to contribute, for many it is an open space waiting to be filled. An artist such as Ben Howard has gone from him and a guitar to a whole backing band; things change sometimes for better or worse. Adam explains himself as a “Fiend for change” explaining: “what I had in mind say two or three years ago compared to now has changed and I know that will change again with other experiences I come across and the people that I am surrounded by. I’m a fiend for change I think change is healthy, things do change you know? Whether that is the way I play or my mindset.”

“As an artist I progressed and I started bringing people into my band I would want them to be recognised, rather than it being the Adam Cross show”

Adam’s music has a heavy focus around his personal experiences claiming he can’t “write fiction” describing his music as “fully about me personally 100 percent, people that are close to me, things I have observed.

He picks one song in particular ‘Princess in the Night’  an observational song about “people not knowing if they are really close or not, people who haven’t let others know they care and adore them.”

We take 5 minutes to sip our drinks and munch on our pasties. I have watched Adam eyeing it up as I take photos whilst firing questions towards him. We have both now relaxed a bit more Adam slumps into the white heavily cushioned sofa, whilst I sit back in the wingback arm chair.

A stroke of his beard and a brush of the chest to clear all crumbs and the interview process continues, I was curious to know what approach he takes when recording his music. He defines it as a “Pain in the arse” explaining: “Recording for me is I will have the song in my head ready to go, but as soon as record is pressed it will just go and won’t sound right. My songwriting is very emotive like a lot of artists.”

Adam begins to explain the recording process for his first LP “recording the first album was just like going through the process”  but he expects the second album to be “more expressive.”

“Recording for me is I will have the song in my head ready to go, but as soon as record is pressed it will just go and won’t sound right”

It appears that Adam much prefers a more DIY approach to recording his music due to the fact that he can “have one song that I made during the day and I will be happy with it but I could come home one night after the piss and I’m tired and the song could sound so different, sometimes better with more strain on my vocals and more emotion.” It is for this reason that the next album will have a simple recording process so that it “stays raw.”

Due to Adam’s take on recording I thought it necessary to question him about the recent vinyl boom in the past couple of years, but for Adam it is of minor interest as he is more concerned about “just getting my music out there whether it is on mp3, cassette or vinyl”.

He draws a lot of influence from old blues artists due to the way they “record their music, it is so raw you can hear the crackling in the mix.” You can hear this influence through Adam’s music, the grittiness that runs through his vocals is almost a homage to Howlin’ Wolf.

As the interview comes to a close, Adam pours the rest of his Ale into his glass and I begin to pack up my equipment; the background music comes to a close and the cafe/bar falls silent. We gather our belongings and leave, as we shake hands Adam, as humble and friendly as ever, thanks me for my time and cruises down the street in his relaxed demeanour.