Daniel Zavaro – better recognized as Skrizzly Adams – isn’t a known commodity yet. That’s about to change. The singer/songwriter/producer has been steadily building a following in weird pockets all around the world since he released his first EP, Stains. In 2015, his single “Tipping Point” won the Grand Prize in the International Songwriting Competition. Previous winners of the competition include Bastille, Vance Joy, Passenger, and Gotye. Since then, he’s released mostly singles and one other EP called Atlantic City. In 2019, he’s released his most successful singles to date; “Talkin’ About”, “Because It’s Wrong”, and “Young Man.” All of this is leading up to an album release coming up for Skrizz and a major boost in what’s already become an impressive following.
“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” began Adams when talking about how he got into music. “I’ve always gravitated to playing music. I don’t do it to be cool or part of a scene. I do it because it’s just something that I’ve always done. When I was 19, I chose to pursue music professionally. I wanted to be a producer. I was heavily influenced Rick Rubin at the time… I wanted to be the best producer in the world. I saw a little bit of success in . I was doing a lot of engineering but at a certain point I started creating my own stuff. I have a lot of passion for Americana music, classic rock, alt country, stuff like that. I started mixing that with trap music and a lot of urban elements. I wasn’t a singer at the time, but I started to sing over the songs and writing my own lyrics. From there, that’s how the Skrizzly project was started; taking Americana music and flipping it – making a signature sound. The first EP I released, it totally flopped. It took me a long time to build an audience. I’ve been doing this Skrizzly thing for five years and just recently I’ve been seeing some success.”
The first Skrizzly Adams EP was Zavaro finding his sound with the project. His vocal was different with that EP than it’s been with his recent singles. His mix featured his vocal less prominent than it is now and the hip hop elements that are still prevalent were basically dominant with those songs back then. You can tell that over the past five years Zavaro has really found his footing with how he creates his own music and what he does as Skrizzly Adams. That doesn’t mean that when that first EP didn’t connect with an audience, that it wasn’t a disappointment for the producer.
“I put in so much time and effort into the project. It took five years to make. I funded it. The style of the music was unheard of at the time. It totally did bomb. There was no avenue for it. It wasn’t alternative rock, it wasn’t country, it wasn’t hip hop, it was its own thing. It wasn’t received by the gatekeepers of music positively; I don’t think they even listened to it. It was disappointing. Sales were terrible. Streams were terrible. There was a moment where I thought about quitting music altogether."
"It’s amazing how life can take a radical turn. When I thought about giving up, Atlantic Records president Craig Kallman out of nowhere showed incredible interest in the project. Then, there was a huge buzz in the industry, and I landed a major label deal. It was kind of a saving grace. Fast forward two years and I ended up being shelved at the label. We never released any music. It was a total disaster, but it helped me in the long run. I was on the verge of quitting and then they verified what I was doing was fantastic. Eventually, I asked off the label and I was mature enough at that point to believe in myself to try and do things on my own and now things are going well. There’s been a lot of ups and downs for me in the music industry, but sometimes you’ve got to learn that the most important thing is believing in yourself.”
The Atlantic Records deal validated what Skrizzly was doing but it wasn’t the reason why it’s been a successful venture.
“A couple of things went right,” said Zavaro asked about the turning point for the project. “I had nothing going on and nobody had heard the music. It wasn’t on any playlists or any blogs or anything. I opened for Elle King when she had “Ex’s and Oh’s” and that was a top 10 record. I was playing acoustic for 1500 people a night. I gave it everything I had. I sat at the merch table all night and met everybody. Then, I went to Denny’s afterward and hung out with everybody. I went from 0 monthly listeners to having 25,000 listeners to 50,000 monthly listers. Word of mouth really took off. The five songs I had out were good enough for things to start to happen. I went out on tour with Lissie and that helped too. Then I put out “Tipping Point” and it won the competition and that created a grassroots following. I’ve done a lot of D.I.Y. stuff. I did a house party tour. I was very good about being real with my fans and they’ve helped me out and have really spread the word.”
Talking to Skrizzly Adams it’s very clear that as far as independent musicians go, he’s not just business savvy, he’s business savvy advanced. He’s able to track and predict his growth and not just find opportunities to push his music; he can capitalize on those opportunities too. As far as independent musicians go, Skrizzly Adams is one of the best D.I.Y artists we’ve ever seen.
“It’s a good time to be involved in music. You shouldn’t be putting your name on a dotted line until you’re ready to go the distance and sacrifice a little bit. It’s an exciting time in music. Anybody who says it’s there’s not money to be made in music is wrong. Streaming is the biggest boom since the CD era, but you’ve got to own your masters. If you don’t, you’re losing 80% of what you’re making.”
When you listen to a Skrizzly Adams track, you’d expect Zavaro to have a very deep speaking voice, but that’s not the case. He talks more like a computer programmer than the man who’s putting together these very gruff, working-man style songs. When asked about his voice, that’s something that Zavaro had bizarrely thought about too.
“I think that all the time, but nobody has ever asked me. I don’t know. I have the loudest singing voice. I think it’s the stupidest thing to say, but it’s loud. Any producer who works with me is stunned. I have no idea. I have a lot of bizarre qualities that work well when recording. It’s freakishly loud. How I talk, I have no idea, but I listen to a lot of Van Morrison and to me, my singing comes from Van Morrison, Bob Seager, Mic Jagger – all those kinds of guys. I’m kind of a loose cannon vocally but I have a lot of control at the same time. I’m proud to say that anyone who comes to a show will hear me sing better live than I do on a recording. I practice every day, I don’t know how I developed it, but I did. On the other side of that, my voice is also very limiting. I consider myself a one trick pony. If I was to go out and do karaoke, if it’s not Bob Seger, it’s going to be bad. I stick to my strengths.”
Skrizzly Adams has released two EPs and several singles but he hasn’t conquered that debut LP yet. That’s going to be his next release. Zavaro’s hard at work on the project and he talked a bit about when people are going to be able to hear it. He gave us an inside scoop on how he’s going to release his new music afterwards too.
“We’ve got one more song we have to finish and then it’s done. I’m saying it will come out in July. If I’m not a man of my word, I deserve the backlash. I’m excited about it. The album is the final chapter for the fans, but the first chapter for the world. It’s a compilation but it’s a very cohesive record of all my best stuff. There’s going to be very little new music, but it’s the first body of work for the rest of the world. It’s going to be called Young Man. I want people to understand the message and get what I’m going for.”
“I’m dropping the album and then I’m going to immediately drop new music that’s not on the album too. A lot of artists drop the album, and then they tour and don’t release anything for years. I’m doing a different model. I’m dropping the album and then I’m immediately releasing new music. I’m going to drop the album in July and then you can expect a lot of singles afterwards that aren’t on the album. The best way to promote an old project is new music. I’m going to be working hard releasing new music from July to December and then I’ll pick it back up in 2020.”
What’s interesting with Skrizzly Adams is who his music appeals to. This stuff doesn’t necessarily appeal to music bloggers like a lot of other independent music does. Skrizzly’s music appeals to the working class. It’s gritty and its lyrical content appeals to people who sweat when they work. Skrizzly is based out of New Jersey and his music has a big Springsteen vibe, just more of a modern spin on it. Adams’ music appeals to rural audiences who work in factories and farms and the working-class people of New Jersey, not really teenagers who see three concerts a week in the city. We talked with Zavaro about him getting to be a part of a very storied New Jersey set of artists that are defined just as much as where they live as how they sing.
“I’ve never thought about it, but to be a part of it is incredible. I love that tradition. I was raised in it and I am that. I worship Springsteen and I feel like I live that life more than he does. I haven’t been well off my whole life or anything and that guy has millions of dollars. It’s funny, because I’m not popular in New Jersey at all. I’m ten times more popular in Montana and Wisconsin than I am here. I think I serve this role as this Jersey kid figure to people looking on the outside. On the inside, I haven’t won over my state yet. I have a lot of proving left to do.”
One last thought on Skrizzly Adams. We chatted about how weird everything about it was. He’s a hip-hop producer making Americana-infused alternative rock. He’s from Jersey but his music is bigger in rural areas than in his own state.
“Everything about this makes no sense, I’m a unicorn. Nothing adds up, but it seems to be working. I think people need to get to know me. Then, they realize that there’s a level of authenticity to it. We’re definitely pioneering something.”-aa