Adrian Jêan has led a tumultuous life that’s taken him from the poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia to glamorous nightclubs, to homelessness and redemption. The soulful Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter channels this past into intimate yet infectious pop-meets- R&B sounds.
Adrian offers a powerful look at his personal history through anthemic and club-ready tracks such as “Tell The World,” alongside thoughtful songs about identity and acceptance like “Story of Blue.” His yearning, yet polished, gospel-influenced vocals and catchy beats sound as if Adele and Sam Smith produced a statuesque black child with a serious story to tell.
The pain and tenacity of Adrian’s childhood is apparent throughout his songwriting. With an absent father and a mother who was more interested in drugs than raising her children, Adrian was forced to grow up very quickly. By age 15, he was living on his own and working for a drug dealer. He later struggled with the pressures of being a bisexual man in a culture that didn’t accept such differences.
“Being gay and growing up in the ghetto was almost like being in the ‘50s -- you can’t be black in the projects and gay. I was repressed for such a long time,” Adrian says, adding that he refused to conform to stereotypes of gay men or black men. “I know there are a number of people who felt the same, and I think my music relates to a lot of the LGBT community.”
In the song “Love Like You” -- which could be about coming out as much as it is surrendering to the unrealized best version of oneself-- Adrian sings “I want to walk like you, I want to talk like you, I want to love like you” and expresses this is his desire to reach a person he idolizes “but unlike any regular superstar that person is the God in me,” Adrian says. “It’s the version of me that I only hope to one day arrive in completion.”
Adrian aims to “fight a fight by singing,” demanding freedom of expression on a personal and societal level. “It’s the burning desire to be free of the forced image, the fictitious façade, and demanding respect for identity and individuals’ voices,” he says. “When I perform it’s like freeing a caged bird – I can be relieved of all the trauma I’ve had throughout my life.”
This courage of conviction was hard-won, but partially driven by an encounter with legendary ‘80s R&B singer Teena Marie, who would become Adrian’s mentor and “fairy godmother.” “After that, everything went out the door and I knew I wanted to perform. Spiritually, she planted the seed.”
Determined to sing his way out of a life of poverty, Adrian eventually moved to Los Angeles, where life became increasingly complex. Although Adrian spent every minute working as a bartender and go-go dancer, singing in cover bands and schmoozing, he led a double life.
Unbeknownst to his friends and colleagues, Adrian was homeless for 2.5 years, living in his car beneath the famed Hollywood sign and showering at the gym. Although he never told his family, Adrian’s grandmother had a sense that something was amiss and would beg him to come home to the East Coast. But Adrian never gave up; he penned songs while sleeping in the backseat, staring down at the lights of Los Angeles.
One of those songs, “See The Stars,” finds Adrian negotiating leaving home despite his grandmother’s disapproval. The song offers a simple and engaging, but never cliché, message of following your dreams: “I wish you could see the stars/even though you’re blinded where you are ....It can be a lonely fight but it’s worth the ride.”
After several successful years singing Top 40 covers and standards across the country, Adrian decided to focus on his own music, writing and arranging dozens of songs. Adrian recently performed during a two month residency series at the inaugural US multimedia exhibition The Velvet Underground Experience in New York City. Having just rocked the stage at South By Southwest on March 13th at Maggie Mae’s, Adrian will perform in Los Angeles on May 9th in Hollywood, CA.