It takes more than just raw talent to claw your way to the top of the rock ‘n’ roll game. Adelitas Way frontman Rick DeJesus knows that all too well. Over the past decade he has poured his blood, sweat and tears in the band. The Las Vegas-based hard rock outfit formed in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2009 that they went mainstream with their debut on Virgin Record. Their anthemic song “Invincible” made its way into numerous television spots, including the “CSI Miami” finale, serving as the theme song for the weekly WWE Superstars show, in the THQ video game “Raw vs Smackdown” and as the theme song for college football on the Fox Sports Network. “Invincible” has also been featured on ESPN Monday night football and The ALCS on Fox.
The band’s sophomore effort, “Home School Valedictorian,” arrived in summer ‘11 spawning four Top 5 singles including two #1 hits at Rock Radio. The record was the band’s highest selling album to date, selling more than 150,000 copies and close to 1 million singles. At the end of 2012, Adelitas Way began writing their third album, the first featuring Andrew Cushing and Robert Zakaryan with writing credits. In July 2013, they entered the studio with Grammy Award-winning producer Nick Raskulinecz to record. The album “Stuck” was released July 29, and had a Top 10 single with “Dog on a Leash” (#6) at active rock.
DeJesus will be the first to tell you the band’s journey to the top has been far from easy. However, his laser focus and dedication his craft have kept the band on course for long-term success. In 2016, Adelitas Way has plans to once again capture the imagination of fans and rise to the top with a brand new album, “Getaway.” Currently, DeJesus and company are traveling the land on The Bad Reputation Tour, featuring special guests Failure Anthem, Through The Fire and Eye On Attraction.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Rick DeJesus to discuss his unrelenting drive, the inspiration for their latest single “Bad Reputation,” the creation of Adelitas Way’s upcoming album, “Getaway,” and more.
Music played a pivotal role in your life. What keeps you inspired and driven when it comes to your career?
My family plays a huge role in it. I have little girls and they motivate me to want to do something great for them and their future with my life. I want to show them that they can do anything they put their mind to. The fans also keep me driven. Adelitas Way has great fans. You want to make sure you are giving them everything you have to become everything they think you can be. I am also motivated for myself. The band motivates me. I have been playing with the guys for a long time and I want to see everyone do well. I also look at my legacy. I don’t feel I have made my absolute masterpiece or my best work yet and I think I still have more to give.
Adelitas Way has a new album on the horizon, “Getaway.” What goals or aspirations did you have going into the project and what does this album mean to the band at this stage in your career?
I think after our move on from Virgin, when we decided to release the album independently, I think a lot of people tried to throw dirt on us a little too soon. We just saw a vision for a new way to do things in today’s climate. I had a vision for what this band could accomplish. Coming back out and becoming almost like a buzz band again, like we were new, was very important to me. To come out and make a statement that the way I am trying things is a great way to do things was really important for me. I think coming out and making noise and showing everyone that we are very much relevant in this game. Not only showing we are relevant but that we are one of the top rock acts in the game was very important for us. I think we are accomplishing that!
Building on that statement, what makes you one of the top acts in the game?
I think statistics prove some of it, outside of the fact that our live show has so much buzz on it and people love the records we make. People tell me that our records have changed their lives and I think that is very important. When you break it down statistically, we are one of the only rock bands who is still selling out small clubs. We are very much relevant in each scene and market. Obviously, there are places where everyone could grow and become better in but, for the most part, our hunger and desire shows we are one of the top bands. The buzz around our live show and some of the albums we have made shows that. I think the buzz around the cities where we come shows that. When you come to a city and the show sells out the day before you get there or you are playing a market that you played with our big bands shows that. We just played Phoenix with a couple of great bands: The Pretty Reckless and RED. We just showed up and headlined Phoenix the other night and we sold it out by ourselves and it was the same exact kind of show it was when we played with those other bands. It just shows that you are making progress and you are still one of the players In the game.
“Bad Reputation” is one of our first tastes of music from the upcoming album. What inspired this song?
The song is very much about myself. I wrote a song about how I feel and how this business keeps using me. This business is very safe now. It is like people are out to give rules to the rockstar nonstop. My whole career I have heard rules about what I can’t do, what I shouldn’t do and what I won’t do. At the end of the day, I have just been myself. I have always been me and that has got me in a lot of trouble in this game but I speak my mind when I feel it needs to be spoken. I am a character, man! I have always been a bit of a rebellious character or I wouldn’t have chosen this as a profession. People want to know what a real rockstar is. I see them every day and I am one. I’ve seen some of the best guys out there do this and I have shared the stage with them. For 10 years I have traveled across the world playing music. I am who I am and “Bad Reputation” is an homage to that. I mean, so what that I liked to say what I want to say, smoke a joint here or there or have a drink every now and then. It’s nothing too crazy but I figured the world should know I am who I am and that I am not hiding anything.
I have to say, I really appreciate your candidness. After hearing years of people going the line, it is certainly refreshing.
Yeah, of course. What fun is that?
What can we expect from the rest of the songs on the upcoming record?
I think with every record you try to achieve a balance. We may have lost that balance with the last album or two, where we maybe tried too many new things. For us, the first goal is always to write great songs. The second goal is to balance the sound that got us here with something that is new and fresh. We try a little bit of both! This record is going to have some different sounding stuff on it that we wrote together, we loved and went down to a jam room and played. The record will also have stuff that reminds them of classic Adelitas Way.
What did you take away from the experience of making this new album? Were there any challenges you encountered?
I just really wanted to have fun on this album. We have been working with Johnny K, an A-List producer, who has created some of the biggest records in the past 20 years. He really pushed us as a band and pushed me in particular. He beat me up because he sees something in me that is great. He said, “If you want to be great, we have to make sure we hit every angle on this.” He really beat me up on the lyrics and my approach to singing. I think what we got out of it was some of the best work I have ever done.
Has the songwriting process for Adelitas Way evolved through the years?
I think it has not evolved. The one thing I have found out is what works. I have tried it every way! When I write with the band, sometimes the band writes half the album or more with me. On the EP, there is only one song that I wrote myself or with someone else besides the band. On the “Stuck” album, I think there are a couple of co-writes as well. I have changed my approach in the sense of where I am getting in a room with no material and I am letting the band inspire me at times. Those songs always come out a little different as if you were in a jam band or a garage band. I am inspired by bands like that and I am a very punk influenced guy. I am also influenced by some early ‘90s rock. That is what I like about jamming with the guys. Sometimes, when I write songs by myself, I come up with the lyrics and the melodies first. Those songs tend to end up being our hit songs.
As you mentioned, Adelitas Way is known for its amazing live performances. Is it a difficult process to incorporate that energy into a studio album?
It is nearly impossible and we have tried! We have tried to capture it by recording as live as possible and it doesn’t pack the energy of watching us. I think seeing us perform live is seeing our passion, how much we are putting into it and how much the crowd is interacting and feeding us their energy and emotion. It is something very tough to capture on a record.
Which songs from “Getaway” resonate with you the most at this point in time?
I love “Bad Reputation.” There is also a song that will be on the Best Buy exclusive release called “Low.” I love that song and I think it is going to be a big one for us. Probably my favorite song on the record, emotionally, is a song called “The Good Die Young.” I wrote it about where I am from. I am from Philadelphia, a neighborhood where I had a tough upbringing. I wanted to pay homage to some of the people I lost there and my friends who are no longer with us.
What is the biggest challenge for a band like Adelitas Way at this point in your career?
The biggest challenge is making everyone happy. For me, once you have so much success, everyone wants input in every move you make. At the end of the day, I have to follow my gut and keep doing what I have been doing since day one. I have done a good job of taking this band to some great places. Pleasing everyone is the biggest challenge but sometimes you have to do what is best for the big picture of things. Through that process, feelings get hurt that you don’t mean to hurt. Adelitas Way is what feeds my family and feeds me inside and sometimes I have to do what is best for the band, the brand name and everything involving it.
What are your short and long term goals for the band?
We are accomplishing a lot of my long term goals. One of those goals was to headline shows throughout the United States and to keep people coming out to see us. Short term goals are to show everyone that we are back and will be right back up in the top 10 or top five of the rock chart and to be out on the biggest tours and festivals being offered. Like I said, I think people threw dirt on me a little early and now they have to look me in the eye again when we are on top!
You are out on the “Bad Reputation” tour as we speak. What can we expect from these dates?
We are going to give the fans everything they want! We are going to play oldies, we are going to play our hits and some new songs. We aren’t going to play anything off the record but we are going to play some of our newer material from the last couple of releases. We are definitely going to give people some of the older songs they ask for off of our self-titled record and from “Home School Valedictorian.” We are going to play “Bad Reputation” for the first time and be the best we have ever been. It is a goal of mine to make sure we are putting on the best live show we have ever done and that we continue to grow. I am ready to take that leap into the House of Blues and theaters and up our show constantly.
You are outspoken, as you have said. Are there misconceptions about yourself in spite of it all?
Yeah. I think me telling the truth about where the music business is right now is something people don’t like to hear. Me telling the truth about the state of some major radio markets and telling the truth about things that can help to protect artists from making the same mistakes I have made in the future has rubbed some people the wrong way. I think me telling the truth about some bands we have toured with and how they have treated us and other bands like absolute shit may have painted me in a bad light but I am just being honest. People don’t like to hear the truth. I have been on tour with plenty of bands that I have nothing but great things to say about and I have a very short list of bands I have said bad things about. People have to realize that sometimes the truth hurts. I am always going to speak my mind and there’s nothing that I am going to change about myself.
Making a living in music isn’t the easiest thing to do in 2016. What still excites you about it?
I love seeing the world, man. I love seeing new places each day. I love seeing the joy on my daughter’s face when she hears one of my new songs. I love being in the studio with my friends, drinking wine and having a great time recording. I love so many things about this business. Whether it is becoming a label head one day where I would be showing people how they can do it in a new way, producing, writing songs or being in a band, I want to be around this business for the rest of my life and give my kids an opportunity to see how great this business is.
Looking back on your career, I am sure you have a sense of how far you have come. What is the biggest lesson we can take away from your journey?
You have to believe in yourself. If I am talking to a young band, they can’t just expect a self-recorded demo made in their bedroom to take them somewhere. If you aren’t investing time and money into yourself, who is going to? Obviously, having a team of people you can trust is necessary. With that being said, you have to invest in yourself first. Your recordings have to sound great, your songs have to sound great and you really have to work on your craft. If you think you can walk in and tell someone you are the best at something but not really be the best, you are mistaken. It really takes hard work and quality to make people believe In what you are capable of.
Thanks for your time today, Rick! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and Adelitas Way.
Thank you, Jason! I also want to take a moment to thank the fans and to tell everyone that we are very excited to hit the road and bring them a new album. Thank you all so much! I really appreciate it!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.