By MITCH TALLEY
Adrian Stover has come a long way from the days when as a 9-year-old, he stuffed a guitar given to him by his dad under the bed.
“I just looked at the strings and thought this looks like a strange-looking instrument,” the 24-year-old Ellijay musician says now, reflecting on the gift. “Back then, I thought to myself, I don’t know if this is going to be worth my time. I think gaming or playing outside with my friends would be better. So I never really touched it.”
For the next couple of years, the instrument – which his musically talented father Rene, himself a guitarist in the Chet Atkins style, had purchased from Dwight Sanford’s Pawn Shop in Ellijay – gathered dust under the bed, gone but ultimately not forgotten.
The guitar resurfaced again when Adrian was 11 and he had discovered inspiration listening to the music of ‘90s bands like Alice in Chains. His mother Edwina had a Rolling Stones encyclopedia that young Adrian read from cover to cover three times, and that’s when he knew music would be the path he wanted to take with his life.
“So yeah, then I got really interested and just decided to learn how to play guitar,” he explains. “I pulled it out from under the bed. Dwight Sanford himself actually taught me how to do some basic stuff like tune my guitar, how to check the intonation, and all that other stuff. So I just kind of went with it.”
He had some classic rock records he listened to, including the first song he learned to play, Deep Purple’s classic hit “Smoke on the Water,” and “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris.
By the time he was 13, Adrian had joined The Flow, his first three-piece band that included his uncle, Paul Stover, and his lifelong friend, Gabe Myers, whom he had known from age 8 months. “Believe it or not, I actually started playing on the drums for them,” he says. “We didn’t have a drummer, so I just took over playing. I didn’t really know how to do it at all, but it just came naturally, like within two weeks.”
No weekends off since he was 13
The group’s first show was at Murphy’s Chevelle in North Carolina, and that started a streak of unbroken performances for Adrian, who says he still hasn’t had a single weekend off from playing music ever since that night. “I’ve had at least one show, if not three, every single weekend since I was 13,” he says. “It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been fun.”
Some might be bothered by Stover’s path to his career as he says he dropped out of school at age 13, just to pursue music. “Some people would be like, man, I bet he’s dumb as rocks,” he says.
That’s certainly not the case, though. He has learned on his own, in the process becoming “a little bit of a history buff” and studying enough math “to know what I was doing.”
“Studying it on my own,” he says, “just seemed a lot better because then I was freed up for music. I could do anything I wanted to musically without having to be confined to a workspace such as school for eight hours a day.”
Street smarts and common sense, he says, “have taken me a long way.”
Indeed, his career took him to 36 of the 50 states between the ages of 14 and 17. “I was busking on the street corner on Bourbon Street in New Orleans for two years, just kind of living on the street,” he says. “I slept in the trunk of a Dodge Charger several times and in Walmart parking lots.”
The street life proved to be a “frightening” experience for the teenager. “You quickly grow to learn that people are not always your friend,” he admits. “I went out there very naïve thinking that people were going to be my friend, and I got robbed a couple of times and somebody came at me one time with a switchblade – I just kept running for a long time until I didn’t think they were behind me anymore.”
He’s also spent time playing music in Houston, Austin and Dallas in Texas, Virginia Beach in Virginia, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and more. “I was always playing little hole-in-the-wall places growing up, like biker bars and whatnot. We played a lot of ZZ Top back then, and that would always win over the bikers and they always threw cash in our buckets.”
Fate steps in
After playing in several bands through the years, while Stover was playing a show last year at Cartecay River Brewing in Ellijay, fate stepped in to form the band he now says “will take us to stardom, if we ever get there.”
“I had just quit playing for the night,” Adrian recalls, “and Chris Cloud – who also goes by the name CC Loud – showed up at my show with my old drummer that I had kind of parted ways with.”
“Chris was like, ‘That was pretty cool, I didn’t get to catch your music.’ So he asked me if I would go out and play one or two more, just so he could hear what I sounded like. I got up there and played a couple more songs, and he was like, ‘Oh, dude, that was awesome.’ ”
Then Adrian says just like in a scene from a movie, Chris proclaimed, “I’m gonna be your guitar player.”
Stover had already fired four bass players and three guitar players, “so I was very hesitant on him doing anything with me at all.”
“No, I’m gonna be your guitar player,” Chris insisted. “I’m gonna show you what I’ve got. I’ve got pretty good chops, man.”
An impromptu session ensued in a little tool shed at the drummer’s house, and by 4 o’clock in the morning, Chris had earned himself a job. “He jammed out stuff for hours, and I could have sat and watched him play forever,” Adrian says. “I told him, yeah, you’re my guitarist.”
Fate soon intervened again one night when Adrian and Chris were walking past Emily’s and heard some drumming. “They had told us we were too loud to play there, so we were wondering if maybe they had changed their rules. We went in and saw a guy playing drums, except you couldn’t see his drum set because he had a pillowcase over the snare and his whole bedding cover was over the bass drum and nothing was ringing out. He was just playing so quietly, just to have a little backbeat. I noticed immediately that he had really, really good control of everything.”
Thus, drummer Preston Powell of Minnesota was added to the mix, and the Adrian Stover Project – described as a post-grunge, alternative rock group – was born.
New music on the way
The group wasted no time releasing their first album, “Bittersweet,” a few months later, and a follow-up album called “Death of a Troubled Bachelor” should be arriving shortly this fall. Then, after a show at Mad Life in Woodstock on Sept. 21, the band will begin slamming out a third, double album with 24 tracks to be called “Digital Bleach.”
Stover, who writes the lyrics for all the group’s songs, says it’s a creative process that doesn’t usually take very long.
“Most of our songs have been written in the duration of the song,” he says. “Some of the best songs we’ve had have been written just a few minutes past however long that song is – so anywhere from five to 20 minutes, I’d say.”
Whenever he hears a good guitar riff, he says “my mind is bursting at the seams with creativity of what I want to write and what I want to say, what I want people to know. It just flows right out there, you know.”
Occasionally, he says, one line of a song will pop into his mind while he’s driving somewhere. “And then, bam, sometimes I’ll even stop on the way to a show. I’ll call and tell the guys, ‘Hey, I’m gonna be late for a minute – I’ve got a flat,’ and I’ll actually be sitting on the side of the road writing a song,”
He finds inspiration in real-life situations. “Nothing’s more relatable than life itself,” he says, “because we all go through struggles. I know some people older than me would be like, ‘Wow, what the hell does he know – he’s just 24?’ But I feel like I’ve just experienced enough so far to be able to say some of these things, you know, because I don’t speak about anything or write about anything that I haven’t experienced. I want the songs to ring out as being from somebody that spoke from true-life events I’ve dealt with, stuff that other people maybe have dealt with because we’re all running the same race.”
Stover runs at a pace that might be too fast for some, but he believes that hard work is always the answer.
While some people have encouraged him to try out for “The Voice” or “American Idol,” Stover prefers to advance his career the old-fashioned way.
“I want to rise from the dirt to something,” he says. “I don’t want anybody to think that I had a silver spoon in my mouth because that’s not how it is. I want to be known for who I really am, and I’m prepared to do whatever it takes, work as hard as I have to, to get to where I need to be.”