10 Questions! with Scott Adams

by Brazil Club - Let The Music Take You There on 07/04/2012 - 03:30 pm

10 Questions with Scott Adams

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Scott Adams has been featured in Rio de Janeiro's Sunday Magazine for O Globo newspaper. Read it here.

Read Scott's biography here

Contact Scott here.

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March, 1987. Rio de Janeiro’s legendary excitement level is revved up higher than usual as it prepares to play host to yet another international sporting event; the opening round of the FIA Formula One World Championship and the Grand Prix of Brazil. That’s what drew Chicago’s Scott Adams to Rio, but it wasn’t the sound of a Ferrari racing at speed that resonated with the first-time traveler. That belonged to the discovery of his love of Brazilian music.

Five years later, Scott Adams began broadcasting “music from the land of Samba and sun” to what would become the largest national audience for Brazilian music in the U.S. That first journey to Brazil transformed him from a Billboard-reporting club DJ into a music impresario – spreading the word about all things Brazil through his syndicated radio show The Sounds of Brazil!, webcasts, a record label, music promotion, Internet publishing and more.

But when Chicago’s WNUA switched formats in May 2009, The Sounds of Brazil! was left without an affiliate in Adams’ hometown. That changed eight months later when the show returned to local airwaves with Chicago’s Smooth 87.7 FM, and then two years later with Chicago's 90.9 FM WDCB. We sat down with Adams to discuss the show and a life in Brazilian music.  


10Q: How would you describe your first trip to Rio?

It was in the spring of ‘87 with three friends for The Brazilian Grand Prix. None of us had ever really been out of the country, and I hadn’t done much thinking of Brazilian music – just what I knew through my love of Jazz music: Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Jobim, Brasil ’66, Airto and Flora Purim, and Deodato – so it was something that was really fresh for me. And I was between jobs and finishing up a career as a club DJ. Those initial moments for any first time visitor to Brazil can be magical, and ours was no exception. We landed in Rio and it was unlike anything I could have imagined – even with the help of some pretty good travel guides.

There’s no way to properly prepare for the sensory experience of Rio. For me, music seemed to literally fill the air. Our first night found us walking up the narrow staircase of Ipanema’s Jazzmania top catch a Brazilian jazz group. Turns out that it was the legendary Cama de Gato; I’ll never forget how it felt to have their music washing over me.

So in spite of the energy of Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet getting ready to battle for a Grand Prix championship, it was Brazil’s music that opened me to the warmth of the people and a wonderful, unique culture.  

10Q: How did you come to embrace Brazilian music and culture?

Well, several of my new Carioca friends took me shopping one day, and I ended up coming back to Chicago with two suitcases filled with record albums. I left most of my clothes back in Rio – to make room for the music. I remember walking up to the plane promising myself that I’d be back. Then, I read everything about Brazilian history and society that I could get my hands on, and bought every album and CD I could find.

Two years later I returned alone, with a beginner’s knowledge of Portuguese and a three-week, three city itinerary, and with writing assignments for two major magazines. I covered the official end to Brazil’s dictatorship with its first free Presidential election in 30 years, and also spent two days with singer Caetano Veloso for one of his first published US interviews. I wasn’t even an experienced writer… just jumped right in.  

10Q: How did you launch The Sounds of Brazil!?

I’ve always been very musical: very tuned in with music, so when I returned after that first trip I started making compilation tapes of the Brazilian sounds I was discovering and passing them around to friends who loved it.

By 1989, I was making dozens of copies, being asked for tapes from people I didn’t even know and I thought, “Well, if my own tapes are making this kind of impression, there’s got to be a radio show in this.” Being on the air in Chicago was an awesome thought. WNUA was in its second year on the air, and I asked myself what a smooth jazz station would sound like if it were instantly transported to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

So I used that idea as my guiding light. I chose the format because Brazilian music has always been associated with jazz in the U.S. since the ‘The Girl from Ipanema’, and I chose commercial radio because it just made sense if I wanted to attract the biggest possible number of listeners. Although smooth jazz as a format has undergone challenges in recent years, it has been a tremendous catalyst for people not familiar with any form of jazz to come into contact and really identify with jazzy, instrumental music – and The Sounds of Brazil!

Getting Brazilian music onto commercial radio in the ‘Second City’ wasn’t easy, and I owe a tremendous debut of gratitude to WNUA’s Program Director Lee Hansen for giving me the opportunity. Thanks, Lee! I’m very proud to say that The Sounds of Brazil! has been rated the most popular radio program for Chicago adults more than 20 times since it debuted in 1992, and we’ve picked up right where we left off with Chicago’s Smooth 87.7 as longtime fans re-discover the show. 

10Q: You launched ConnectBrazil.com in 1997 and began webcasting when it was in its early years. How did the Web and technology alter your approach to music?

Well, the Internet was still in its infancy back then, and we quickly became the No. 1 Brazilian music site in the U.S. and today remain one of the top sites for Brazilian music and culture in English worldwide. We began selling CDs because people wanted them, and it allowed me to share my experience and insight into the music with others.

I’ve always viewed technology as a conduit for expanding the presence of the music. We webcast The Sounds of Brazil! and two other channels on Live365.com and they are all top-rated; in the top 4 percent of Live365’s 7,000+ stations. I also worked with Yahoo.com when they first started Yahoo Radio and today I’m working with other highly respected international webcast networks to create Brazilian music programming for them as well.  

10Q: Singer Elis Regina had a major impact on Brazilian music. How did you get involved chronicling her life? 

When you consider that Elis is still considered by many as Brazil’s all-time greatest singer, its surprising to learn that comparatively little has been written of her life, which was tremendously dramatic.

One of her few real biographies is called ‘Furacão Elis’ (Hurricane Elis), by Regina Echeverria and first published in Brazil in 1985. It was a tremendous story and a Canadian named Robert St. Louis gained permission to translate the book into English. He did this with no experience in translation, and over four years worked closely with the author to insure accuracy. Then, he posted it on a Yahoo newsgroup service and it sat there for years. I came across it and was amazed someone would take this nearly 300-page book, translate it into English, and just let it sit in a dusty corner on the Internet. I read it, archived it just as a resource and moved on.

Then, on a whim several years later, I went back to read it again, only to find that the newsgroup had been deleted and the manuscript was gone. So I contacted St. Louis about giving it a permanent home at Connectbrazil.com and making it freely available, and he agreed.

Blogging gave us the perfect vehicle for resurrecting this book because it provides an interaction between reader and book – connecting and sharing thoughts. We unveiled the blog on Elis’s birthday in March 2010. It’s an incredible resource full of videos, famous recordings, complete discography, annotations, footnotes … everything. It would be a terrible loss for Brazil and the rest of the world to not remember Elis Regina. (www.celebratingelisregina.blogspot.com)   

10Q: Why do Bossa Nova, Samba, and other uniquely Brazilian sounds connect with listeners?

The wonderful thing about Brazilian music is that Brazil is one of a handful of countries that creates music that is very familiar to the American ear. Brazil also has a variety and depth of style that is nearly unmatched in the world. I’ve always said Brazilian music is the world’s real ‘soul music’. It doesn’t need explanation.

When you listen to a beautiful Brazilian song, it jumps right past the explanation stage and hits you full on emotionally. Brazilian music is elemental: You can’t escape the sensuality of a Bossa Nova song or unbridled energy of a Samba – it goes straight through you.

It amazes me there are so many Brazilian radio shows that talk about what a song is saying when the music really needs no clarification.

Then again, not understanding the lyrics to The Kingsmen’s ‘Louie, Louie’ has never bothered me, either!  

10Q: Does it surprise you that so many people love Brazilian music?

No, not at all.  

10Q: What is Brazil Club?

Well, the idea for Brazil Club grew out of my desire for a better sense of Brazilian American community here in my own home town, so I started asking people to tell me what they wanted Brazil Club to look like. The response was overwhelming, and wide ranging: everything from music, clubs and concerts to specialty shops, churches, sporting events, restaurants and even access to national brands. So that gave us a place to start.

Then I began to get requests from people from across the country, too. And because Brazilian music and culture has such a great following here in the US and worldwide, it seemed that good way to go would be to give everyone a place where we could do more that post updates on our Facebook pages.

Brazil Club is all about getting people involved, and having a lot of fun along the way.  

10Q: But Facebook is so popular…

Sure, and our Brazil Club Fan Page keeps growing, but the social media environment can be an end to itself and the percentage of movement from social media to real life is really not as effective as it could be.

So Brazil Club’s idea is go from passive to participatory, and we use many different resources - including Facebook - to do that.  

10Q: Looking back, how much did that first trip alter your life?

We’ve all heard about how a single moment in time can be ‘life-defining’ for some people. Mine came during that first trip to Brazil, when I took an early-evening stroll on Copacabana beach. I stood there and let my Brazilian experience wash over me, and it changed my life. I still get choked up about it. Words can never do justice to something like this, can never impart the overwhelming honesty of the moment. I’m thankful every single day.


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