The Sit Down: Adam Blackstone

About a year ago, I was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. That night, Fallon’s house band, The Roots, had another member playing with them, musician Adam Blackstone … who also happened to be wearing a suit from my Collection by Michael Strahan line. After the broadcast, Adam and I met, talked a little football—he’s from Philly and a huge Eagles fan, but we made it work—and clothes. He had recently lost about 130 pounds and his body had obviously changed so now it was time to change his wardrobe. We exchanged emails and kept in touch, and I watched as he went from The Roots to musical director for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Justin Timberlake (Blackstone produced this year’s epic Super Bowl halftime show), Diddy, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Eminem and Rihanna, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill among many others. Currently he’s an executive producer on Fox’s music competition show, The Four. He’s a Grammy nominated songwriter and a musician who plays not one but seven instruments, and he received a 2018 Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for his work on The Greatest Showman movie soundtrack. He runs his own entertainment company, BASSic Black Entertainment, LLC (BBE), along with his wonderful wife, Kaisha. And he’s one of the kindest, coolest, most grounded dudes I’ve ever met. We have a similar philosophy on life, too, as we were both raised by parents who helped us to believe in ourselves and gave us the support and guidance we needed to chase our dreams. “When, not if” was my father’s motto, and it sounds like Adam’s dad was cut from that same cloth.

His story: “When I was growing up, my mother sang in the church choir and my dad was a full-time musician. So, inevitably I was set on a path to be inspired by music and to not be afraid to chase my dreams and make music a full-time job. I’m very thankful to my parents for instilling that creativity and passion in me, because in another household music may not have been looked upon as a goal. And my parents never wavered from letting me know that I could be whatever I wanted to be.”

His mad talent: “I started as a drummer, but I switched to the bass guitar. My dad was a keyboard player, so I played a little bit of keys, as well. I played percussion. I played concert bass. And out of all those instruments, I would have to say piano is the hardest [because] you are able to go anywhere from two notes in a chord to eight or nine notes in a chord.”

His professional path: “I’m very humbled to be involved with the things I’m doing now [because] it did not start like that. I moved to Philadelphia from New Jersey in 2000, and went to University of the Arts for jazz performance. I was doing a host of odd musical jobs—playing at theaters, restaurants, clubs, jazz gigs, lots of gospel at church—and I ran into [the band] The Roots. I ended up doing a jam session with them at The Black Lily Festival. Questlove and I forged an amazing relationship and he continues to be one of my mentors today.”

His big break: “Jay-Z’s “Fade to Black” concert, in 2003, which was my first big concert. At the time, Jay Z said he was retiring, so everybody was there—I believe he met his wife [Beyoncé] at that concert (which I think is so awesome) and it was just a whole host of stars who didn’t know me and who I looked up to and was hoping to work with. Back then, I didn’t know how monumental it was. The concert was turned into a movie and it touched a lot of people. And thankfully, Jay-Z didn’t retire.”

His street cred: “At the “Fade to Black” concert, I met a guy in a pink polo shirt and he says I should come work for him. I was like, ‘Ok cool, who are you, bro?’ And he says, “My name is Kanye West.’ I was on tour with him from 2004 to 2008. [Then] this little island girl is opening act for Kanye’s show, and she says, ‘You should work with me.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what’s your name? She says, ‘Rihanna.’ I’m exaggerating the looseness of the convo but the point is each gig has been a stepping stone for [the next one].”

His success secret: “Being humble. Being a family man and staying grounded. My parents instilled those [values] in me, and when I met my wife, I knew she was with me for who I was and not for what I did. And then we had our son, Adam Jr., who’s three years old now. He inspires me every day to continue to push the limits and boundaries of music and the possibilities have been endless. Having my family there to support me has been a big part of that success.”

His style: “Urban chic. I’m a sneaker head, so I like my clothes to accent my shoes. Growing up going to church, I wore suits all the time, and I’d love to continue to wear suits as I expand into television. I feel like the Collection by Michael Strahan line is the best way for me to do that: the colors, styles, and patterns aren’t too flashy, and ready to handle everyday business. I’m also looking forward to Michael’s denim line coming out this Fall.”

His must-haves: “I have to have a clean pair of Air Jordan sneakers and a haircut. I’m also an addict for Honest Organic Peach Tea right now. And I must have the charcoal-grey Collection by Michael Strahan suit on me at all times.”

His greatest influence: “Definitely my family: my wife, my son, my mother, my father, my uncles, my aunts, my cousins … they inspire me every day to just keep pushing and to do whatever I want to do with music as the catalyst to get me there.”

His happy place: “On the soccer field with my son. We run around, and he just loves being outside. I also have a great time in the studio creating original music, putting ideas and thoughts and feelings out there for possibly the world to hear and to be impacted by, as well.”

His motto: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is no dumb question and don’t be afraid of the ‘no,’ because it may not always be ‘no.’ One YES can change your life ”

His workflow: “The best part of what I do is being able to inspire and create and bounce ideas off of other genius creators, whether it’s Justin Timberlake, Questlove, Eminem, or Tim McGraw and Faith Hill who I just finished working with. [To create], you have to have a focused group of people around you. I think when we’re all focused on the same goal, it’s really dope because we trust each other.”

His best advice: “‘No man succeeds without a good woman behind him, wife or mother; and if it’s both, he is twice blessed.’ I really believe that. My wife has been the backbone of what I do. It’s kind of mushy and sentimental but it’s the truth. I can’t help it.”

Up next: “I’m in L.A. working on Season 2 of The Four on Fox. We premiere June 7 and I’m not only Music Director but also the Executive Producer of the show. I’m looking forward to having an amazing season and changing some lives.”

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