In the public eye, Cisco Adler is something of an enigma.
The Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer may have been on your radar back in 2008, when his self-titled debut peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200, and spawned the top 40 hits "Corona and Lime" and "Buzzin." Adler continued to release a handful of solo albums, but to little little mainstream recognition. Since then, Adler has been mostly behind the scenes, crafting hits alongside nearly every pop star in recent memory. G-Eazy, Mike Posner, Fergie, The Internet, Tinashe, and Vic Mensa have all worked with the studio guru at some point in their lucrative careers, and Adler attributes his extensive collaborative catalog to his authenticity with each artist.
"The first session is always like a blind date, and I try to just jump in and start making music," Adler said. "But in the process, I try to understand their goals and their insecurities. Part of being an artist is turning coal to a diamond. What do they want, what do I think they need, what does the label want? It's always a dance." Adler's vulnerability as a creative is why he feels it's, once again, time to craft his own music and tell his own story. His first single in five years, entitled "Somethin' More," premiering exclusively on Popdust, is a care-free summer jam that explores why it's okay to want the better things in life. "I'm happy right now," Adler said. "I've been on this journey obsessed with my craft, and I truly believe this is a natural place for me to be as a musician." I spoke with Adler about his latest single, his new album Hippieland, and how he feels about being back in the spotlight.
Tell me about the new single!
It's a mantra based message about where I'm at.
So what is that Somethin' More that you're looking for?
It's actually about the human element of it being okay to ask for more than you have, as long as you realize you have all that you need. We all want more sunny days and stuff which is cool, that's what drives you and helps you get out of bed in the morning and go after stuff.
It sounds like you're very aware of your accomplishments and of the crazy life you've led.
I'm a blessed man in many ways, and I'm just blessed to be here making music.
I'm curious what your transition was like from a relatively quiet upbringing in Maui to the bustling music industry.
Growing up on Maui I didn't have a lot of connections to the mainland, but in retrospect, it was a huge blessing that centered me. It gave me a hunger and a desire, and I realized I had to get out and see the world. I had songs to write and had to grab every opportunity that came to me. As a teenager, I really connected to hip-hop mainly cause it was my music and not my parent's music. I was instantly in love, and from there I kinda just realized I had to explore. Since then it's been a constant search of just appeasing that hunger and just wanting to make more awesome music.
Where do you think you are in that search right now?
I'm sitting at the table, I'm eating, and to my left are empty plates of all the awesome shit that I ate, and to my right are more exotic delights. More delicacies. And I feel I'm slowly heading down that table. It's not about the destination, there's no timeline. I just wake up and I have to create.
Hippieland cover art Kaelan Barowski
What's next for you?
I feel that this is definitely an "artist" moment for me. Having that catalog and all those collaborations have kinda pushed me into this clearing, and now all I see is me, and I feel like it's time to speak my truth and have a moment where I focus on myself as an artist.
You feel this is your time.
I also feel like the music is in a good place. I'm not trying to just be out there when stuff is just going through changes. I like to learn and help other artists and take what they know and learn from it. I feel like we're at a magical moment. I feel like it's the end of the overproduced pop wave and we're heading into a more trap/punk rock movement, I feel like we're just back at a more organic, instrument-based moment, and I just kinda decided "alright, it's time to pick up my guitar."
Do you feel you've learned different lessons from each artist?
I'm definitely learning every day in the studio. Every session influences the next. As a producer and a songwriter, It's almost like acting. I'm just finding different hats to put on, then at the end of the day, I leave with a new lesson. Every day you change and grow as a human, and I find that the most successful artists are the most open to critiques, they're not fighting any of the collaborations. The ego of the young artist is definitely something we wrestle with, but it's a dance.
Who is someone you particularly connected with?
Fergie. She was just an incredible talent and a ridiculous singer. She was just hugely open. I think at the end of the day I'm not gonna work with someone a second time if we didn't have a lot of fun. It has to be fun and it has to be awesome. Also, I'm working with this kid Yung Pinch and he's absolutely brilliant. We had an instant magical trust, and obviously, with Shwayze, those were just magical sessions.
What details can you give us about Hippieland?
There's some stuff brewing. We're just putting some of the magical dust on it now. It's a special collection of music from me, I'm just really proud of this music, and I think it's my truth.
Cisco Adler will be performing at The Mercury Lounge on April 27th. Get tickets here.
Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area. Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.