In the midst of an email correspondence to schedule our interview, Adam Chaffins has to pinch himself. “Oh brother,” he says. “I never thought I’d see Kid Rock, Guy Fieri and Cindy Crawford all under the same tent. But last night was confirmed to me as real.”
When you consider Chaffins’ own circumstances, though, that eclectic crowd isn’t too strange. He is, after all, a professional double bass player with a college degree in jazz performance and years as a performing bluegrass musician — who also happens to be touring as a musician with Wheeler Walker Jr., the crass alter-ego of comedian Ben Hoffman, whose debut album premiered on a porn site.
So all things considered, Guy Fieri and Cindy Crawford isn’t the strangest pairing. And in a way, it’s those offhand experiences that helped mold and shape what is ultimately Chaffins’ first ever solo album, Some Things Won’t Last.
Changing It Up
“I never wanted to be a jazz musician, or a bluegrass musician, or a country musician,” Chaffins tells Wide Open Country. “I always just wanted to be as good as everyone I love.”
Chaffins is talking about the dichotomy between his past and his present. A past that includes work as an in-demand bassist and a 2013 SESAC award for a co-write with The Infamous Stringdusters. It also includes session work with sought-after producers like Buddy Miller and Dave Brainard and years performing in bluegrass bands, including as vocalist and bassist for Rounder Records’ short-lived but still loved “newgrass” band The Deadly Gentlemen.
“We weren’t really a bluegrass band in the traditional sense,” Chaffins says. “Things went south with that deal, and when we decided to disband, I joined a band called Town Mountain. It was really nice to play truly traditional music with its own unique sound.”
If you’re already ahead of me, though, you’re probably seeing where the title of his solo record Some Things Won’t Last comes from. But to quote Chaffins on album opener, “Hey, no big deal — hope the rest of your life is a thrill.”
“I like changing it up,” says Chaffins, who moved to Nashville in 2010 to pursue music. “I like the idea of a constant progression; moving forward and creating a new palate of sound that might not have been there before.”
When Chaffins decided to fully embrace his own solo project, he still approached it in a collaborative way. “Even though [Some Things Won’t Last] is a solo record, the people involved on it felt like working in a band,” he says.
Longtime friend and fellow musician Ethan Ballinger (Lee Ann Womack, Aubrie Sellers, Andrew Combs) worked heavily with Chaffins on the project as producer, along with Grammy award-winning engineer Brandon Bell of Southern Ground studios (the 100-year-old recording studio first started by the legendary Fred Foster and renovated by Zac Brown).
Over the course of two years, they tracked what eventually became Some Things Won’t Last. “I was super fortunate Southern Ground opened their doors to me, to let me be creative and do all the things they offer there,” Chaffins says. “I think this record is a great showcase of what that studio is capable of.”
Though this is Chaffins’ first solo record, it’s not his first try at it. “This is the second attempt at a record,” he says. “I started a whole process before this one, recording songs in a different format. But it just wasn’t coming out the way I thought it would.”
So Chaffins and company took their time crafting a sound they felt truly connected all of Chaffins’ past experiences. “I’d been in bands for so long playing different kinds of music,” he says. “And for some reason I feel like that’s frowned upon and I don’t understand why. We are multi-genre listeners. The idea of being a multi-genre artist doesn’t feel foreign to me in 2018.”
Some Things Won’t Last
So that’s the goal on debut release Some Things Won’t Last. To weave the thread that connects all of Chaffins’ past to his present — and use it to tie together the diverse crowds Chaffins has seen throughout his career.
Playing with Wheeler Walker Jr. has been a pretty good test, too. Because Chaffins has actually opened the shows with his solo material before joining the band to play Walker’s set. Oftentimes Chaffins has nothing more than a bass in hand, crooning his melodic, moody mix of Americana and alternative country.
“I’ve always wanted to play something a diverse audience would want to come together and listen to,” Chaffins says. “Now more than ever. It’s not necessarily the content. I just want people to come together and feel something.”
That’s probably why the 9-song record features everything from fuzz-toned, drum-driven rockers to ballads laced with symphonic swells, not to mention a gorgeous cover of Keith Whitley’s “I’m Over You.” Being from East Kentucky, Chaffins grew up listening to country music (“It was everywhere,” he says), and Whitley’s expressive vocal captured Chaffins at a young age. “I just have such a love for Keith Whitley and everything he does,” Chaffins says.
It’s a fitting tribute, especially considering the theme of the record. “It’s this reflection phase of this period of life — where you get to the end of things you’ve invested in that you thought were going to development into something else, but insead they’ve led you to where you are now,” Chaffins says. “I just wanted this record to pertain to me in particular, from the first phase of my life into young adulthood.”
Chaffins pauses for a second.
“It’s my statement that some things won’t last,” he says. “And maybe that’s ok.”
Pre-order the new album Some Things Won’t Last here.