By Liam Prost
CALGARY – When we lose a treasured artist, we have to contend with their body of work, both a heavy reminder of the loss we have suffered, and a testament and reminder of a life lived, and the struggles and joys therein. Earlier this year, Calgary lost a local musician, producer, yogi, and friend in Adam Van Wielingen. Van Wielingen was well-loved by his friends and the community alike, and he left behind a newly minted album, The Mountain, a layered and friendly release.
As part of a private memorial service at the National Music Centre, Van Wielingen’s friends and collaborators formed to perform the album for friends and loved ones. Now, they are performing to the public. The band includes Mike Röckin (Rosalind), Susan Van Wielingen (Adam’s mother), Prashant Michael John, Cort Bulloch, Jesse Aaron Shire (Rosalind, I Am The Mountain), Benjamin Longman, Sanghavasini, Garett Roberts, Barb Olorenshaw, Eily Aurora, and Evan Freeman. BeatRoute spoke with Evan Freeman, who put together the show.
BR: What was your relationship with Adam? How did you meet him?
EF: Adam and I met at a house party and immediately picked up instruments and started jamming. Pretty soon he had everyone around us singing and clapping along.
We kept in touch after that, even while I was in Mexico and he was in LA. We mainly swapped song ideas and production tips (he was studying recording engineering and production in LA).
Since 2015, back in Calgary, we worked together on songwriting, arranging, performing and recording in various projects. Just before he passed we were collaborating on his solo album The Mountain. It was really cool to see his process, developing the songs for the record.
At the time he was also establishing his studio (AVW Studios) and working with a bunch of local and international artists like Ben Lee, Appleonia, Mike Ryan, Paul Gettis, Nadav, Prashant Michael John, George Byrne, Cort Bulloch and Geshala Pema.
BR: Describe Adam in a few words.
EF: Working with Adam was really fun! He was a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer. He also had a deep technical understanding of recording technology, but that never got in the way of pure creativity in the studio.
He was a kind and gentle soul. A natural leader, he brought together a huge community. In particular he connected with independent musicians, yoga studios, kirtan groups, arts organizations and local charities (Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, United Way). The depth and breadth of his impact in Calgary was pretty amazing. Anyone who met Adam, even briefly, drew lasting inspiration from his creativity and spiritual depth.
BR: What speaks to you about Adam’s music?
EF: Mainly Adam’s courage to express his spirituality in direct language. In his recent recordings, especially on The Mountain, he was able to look unflinchingly at his own inner turmoil, his pain and isolation, and still arrive at universal messages of love and devotion. His lyrics remind me of Cat Stevens and Sufjan Stevens: songwriters who bravely reveal their inner life and vulnerability.
Musically, I have always been impressed by Adam’s ability with vocal harmonies. If you listen carefully to The Mountain you can hear layers and layers of Adam’s voice, forming massive choral hooks similar to Bon Iver or even The Beach Boys. Maybe it was unconscious, but I can definitely hear a 1960’s LA influence!
BR: How did the tribute project come about?
EF: In January 2017, Adam passed away suddenly in his sleep. He had just finished mastering The Mountain, his debut full-length album under the name Adam Van Wielingen (he previously released two solo EPs, and several LPs with different projects). His family and friends were obviously shocked and heartbroken. We were saddened that The Mountain wouldn’t get a proper release, so we decided to promote and distribute the record.
Adam had planned his album release concert for May 12 at the National Music Centre. We decided to re-purpose the event to celebrate Adam’s life and music. A huge collective of musicians devoted their time and talent to perform songs from The Mountain at the memorial. It was a moving and uplifting performance!
BR: What made you decide to play it publicly?
EF: After May 12, we regrouped and talked about the impact and legacy of Adam’s music. There was an overwhelming positive response to the performance, and a lasting desire to continue playing Adam’s songs. We also agreed that May 12 was more of a memorial ceremony than a typical album release concert.
So we decided to book Festival Hall for a proper CD release on Thursday August 24. This public concert will pay tribute to Adam’s songs, with all proceeds going to the AVW Stage at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (calgarydropin.ca/service-volunteer/art-beat-stage).
The goal is to expand the audience for The Mountain, while offering another opportunity for Adam’s community to band together and enjoy his music. By adding fantastic guest acts Rosalind and Danielle Knibbe to the bill, we’re purposely placing Adam’s body of work in context – as an important contribution to the Canadian Folk and Roots music scene.
Evan Freeman performs songs from Adam Van Wielingen’s The Mountain at Festival Hall this Thursday, August 24th (Calgary) alongside Rosalind and Daniel Knibbe.
Adam Van WielingeN, Daniel Knibbe, Evan Freeman, Festival Hall, Rosalind, The Mountain