Interview: Adam Doleac on His Athletic Past, Journey to Music City, and Writing Inspiration

Photo by Ed Rode

With a sound similar to that of John Mayer and the romanticism of Brett Eldredge, Adam Doleac has quickly become one of country music’s favorite new artists.  His debut EP Adam Doleac, was named a Highway Find Artist on SiriusXM’s The Highway and helped earn him a spot on their “Highway Finds Tour” last fall alongside High Valley, Ashley McBryde and Brown & Gray. He’s been added to “Pandora’s 2018 Artists to Watch” as well as being named by Rolling Stone Country as a “New Country Artist You Need to Know.” The lead single off of his debut EP “Whiskey’s Fine,” released in June of 2017, debuted on the iTunes Top Country Albums charts at number 6 and quickly reached 1 million steams on Spotify.

We recently spoke to him about his journey to Music City and his career so far. The Hattiesburg, Mississippi, native comes from a close-knit, supportive family, which made his decision not to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps in the family’s electrical business a difficult one: “It was hard to pass up an opportunity like that, but I’ve always just had this thing in me that I’m not really happy unless I’m chasing after something that is bigger than myself, and that’s hard to achieve. I think that started with baseball and just with sports in general. Walking into the College World Series with a crowd of 30,000 people screaming your name is a feeling you don’t easily forget. It’s kind of the feeling I’m now chasing after with music. You know, I got there in baseball and now I’m trying to do it in music, and it’s my motivation every day to kind of chase after that thing. I think that my parents and my family know that about me and they’ve been very supportive of what I’m doing, and I’m very thankful for that.”

Doleac is a natural athlete who played high school baseball, basketball and golf. He earned a college golf scholarship as a junior in high school and thought he knew which direction he was headed. However, during his senior year he joined his school baseball team, and excelled so much that he earned a full-ride scholarship to The University of Southern Mississippi, where he even competed in the College World Series. He’s always been a music lover – some may be surprised to learn that he’s a closet Justin Bieber fan – and played drums throughout his life until picking up the guitar in college. In fact, he’s never had a formal music lesson. During college he’d been writing with his roommate and they released an EP, and it was during a show in his hometown when he realized that music was the path he wanted to follow.

After deciding to move to Nashville in 2012, he signed with Sony/ATV and has spent the last few years focusing on his unique sound and his passion for writing while playing upwards of 200 shows a year on the road. He enjoys writing with other songwriters in Nashville, and frequently co-writes: “Even if I have half a song finished I’ll call one of my buddies and say ‘what do you think about this,’ and we will end up finishing it together. 95 percent of the time I’ll start with an idea, I’m an idea guy, I’m a lyric person. I like to start with an idea rather than a guitar lick.” Having co-written every song on his debut EP, the strength and authenticity of his songwriting shines through. He’s also had some early success with his writing, earning cuts like Darius Rucker’s “Don’t” and Kane Brown’s “Pull It Off.”

While on the Highway Finds Tour he was able to hone his acoustic skills. “I got to play acoustic sets the whole tour and I’ve always been a little bit partial to playing acoustic, especially in rooms like that where there are 300-500 people and you can make it as loud or as quiet as you want it and I like being able to control that,” he says. Doleac also notes that having people that you love being around and that you love working with is a must-have while on tour.

Photo by Ed Rode

Nashville can be a tough town, and Doleac admits that he’s had to re-adjust his plan to align with the reality of climbing the ladder towards success in the industry. “It’s not easy, there’s always days where you want to quit,” he says. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is one day at a time. For me, my tendency was to get to Nashville and say, ok, in two years I’m gonna have a record deal, in three years I’ll be on the radio, in four years I’ll be playing there. You set these goals for yourself, and in a city like Nashville rarely have I seen anything that I thought was going to happen happen. So I think that part frustrated me for a long time and it’s kind of like life. A lot of times that’s not how it’s gonna work, so that was something for me to learn. You need to take it one day at a time, you can’t try to get 30,000 today, you’ve got to be happy for the 30 you get today. You’ve got to keep building it one day at a time. Ever since I learned that and the patience required and realizing just how fortunate you are that you get to do music at all, that really helped me to stay focus rather than focus on 5 years in advance.” He doesn’t take anything for granted and remains grounded even with the early success he’s experienced.

Doleac is also a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic. “It’s one of those things that inspires me, that’s what I like to write about,” he says. “The best way I can describe me is, I’ve never had lessons playing guitar or lessons singing so my main source of motivation is real and genuine. I tell people I don’t know how to sing it if I don’t mean it. I try to write about things that matter to me and always say something that’s important.” He continues, “Every song can’t be exactly a life experience, but I find that you can always take one emotion that you can pick up from everyday life and really put that in a song. People may hear it a different way themselves, but as long as there’s something real, a real element, I think they always turn out better.” Doleac believes in making one fan at a time and loves playing live shows which allows him to meet as many people as possible.

“She Was Right,” an unreleased song written by Doleac, perhaps best describes his writing philosophy. “That song is the best example I can give of having a real emotion in a song. I wrote it an hour after getting turned down by a record label for the first time. So the story behind that song is not actually about a girl – it’s about that feeling of someone telling you no. I came into Nashville with a little different sound and a different voice and I took that feeling of being turned down but still being in love with one thing and not wanting to do something new.”

His future plans are to continue writing, and he’ll be headed to the studio to cut another EP or full length album. Be sure to follow Adam on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and his website.  Adam Doleac is available for download here.