By Shanee Frazier / Staff Writer
UNION, NJ — Union County native Skrizzly Adams has just released the video for his newest single, “Too Close to Fire,” a heartland rock–sounding song that speaks to the trials and tribulations of everyday people. The song was written by Adams and co-produced with Ken Lewis, who has worked with notables such as Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars and Alicia Keys, and Brent Kolatalo, who has worked with West and rap phenom Eminem; the video was directed by Patrick Tohill, who is best known for his work with American rapper NF.
“Too Close to Fire” is Adams’ first release since his November 2019 debut album, “Young Man,” and his 2018 hit single “Dance With Darkness,” which topped the Spotify charts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where it has gone gold. “Too Close to Fire” already has more than 100,000 Spotify listens to date and is Top 20 on the New Noise and All New Rock charts.
“I wrote this song about being drawn to recklessness,” Adams said in a recent statement. “It was inspired by real-life relationships, and I tried to capture the excitement and allure that all of us have felt at one point or another in our lives when going through it all.”
With more than 90 million global independent streams and 68 million global Spotify streams, Adams’ music keeps heartland rock traditions alive — with a twist of pop bombast and thick hip-hop production. Spending his childhood immersed in music, he learned multiple instruments and developed a passion for slide guitar and songwriting at a young age.
Adams, who was born Daniel Zavaro, is from Union and attended school in Westfield. A singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Adams said that heartland rock is the genre that feels like home for him. The name under which he performs is a tribute to some of his favorite bands.
“My music is Americana. Some of my favorite bands are Lynyrd Skynyrd and Grizzly Adams, so for my name I flipped it and added some different letters to Grizzly to come up with Skrizzly Adams,” he said in a recent phone interview with Union County LocalSource.
Though Adams always knew he wanted to be involved in music in some capacity, he said it wasn’t until college that he began seriously to involve himself in it and began making music out of his dorm room.
“While I was attending NYU is when I started to get serious about music, specifically music production. Production chooses you; I feel like there is a bizarre gravity in life that pulls you,” Adams said. “I knew at the age of 13 I wanted to make music, though most people know me as a singer and not a producer. I have artists that I love, but I think I am more influenced by my producer idols. Right now, those are Rick Rubin, Kanye West, Benny Blanco, Jay Joyce, Dr. Dre — they are more about quality control than style people.”
Though heavily involved in the production side of music, Adams is also a singer and songwriter.
“People always assume I always wanted to sing, but I didn’t start singing until my 20s. I stepped into it out of luck. Everyone wants to be a rockstar, but where it made sense as a tangible career move for me was when I was producing and writing for a friend and I would sing chorus on songs until we could find someone more well-known to do them, and my friend asked me to keep my vocals on the songs. We were getting 100,000 downloads in the first day, tens of thousands of people listening,” he said. “It might be naive, but I felt like that was a sign that I was doing something right. No matter what, I’ve always had a gravity towards it. I feel very lucky that I have a fan base that listens to it and I can make a living off of it.
“What I’m really passionate about as an artist is heartland rock. For me, it’s the honesty and purity of it, though not in a morality sense. It’s just very real. Heartland rock is very anti-rock, unromantic,” he continued. “There’s a reason these guys sell out stadiums. They were able to get ideas across in a very authentic way. Certain people cringe at Bruce Springsteen, and to some people he’s Jesus Christ. It’s all a matter of taste. In its prime it was a huge genre, with artists like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and Tom Petty, but now people have moved on to country and rock has gotten heavier, so I kind of do my own thing.”
In addition to his passion for heartland rock, Adams is also enthusiastic about beef jerky, which he now sells at all of his shows.
“The idea for Skrizzly Adams Beef Jerky was born when a good friend from Jersey City, who knew my music before I released it, called me one night and said he was eating beef jerky and listening to my songs. That inspired me to make jerky and sell it, so I cold-called private beef jerky companies for two years before someone bit,” he said. “The first time I sold it was when I was the opening act for Elle King, in Madison, Wisc., which is one of my most popular markets. I sell $2,000 worth of beef jerky some nights. It’s crazy, but I have sold more than $40,000 of dehydrated meat.”
Though his music is popular in the Midwest and in Europe, Adams is a Jersey boy through and through and would love to garner a fan base in his home state.
“I’m not popular in New Jersey at all; my biggest show is in Montana. It feels like New Jersey doesn’t need me, but I can’t leave the state I love. I wish it would open its ears to me a little more,” he said. “I’m an entrepreneur in the realest sense. I’m passionate about buffalo wings, meat, not here to romanticize you. I’m proud to be American; I work with what I got and I hope we keep improving.
“I would want fans to know that I always give 220 percent. I am a lifer whether I hit Hot 100 next year or not. I am a man of my word and I am going to back it up,” Adams continued. “I am not doing an experiment; this is who I am. It doesn’t matter if the third album sells; there will be a fourth one. For me it’s not over. It’s never over.”