Singer Adrian Marcel on Preparing for The Bobby DeBarge Story Role, Living and Learning the Industry, and Going Independent
Oakland native Adrian Marcel is a trifecta of talent that’s taking over the music scene right now.
The platinum-selling R&B singer hit the Billboard charts in 2014, with his buzzworthy anthem, “2AM” featuring Sage the Gemini. To date, the single has sold over 1 million copies, and the official video for the track currently holds over 69 million views on YouTube.
Drawing inspiration from fellow Californian, the late Nipsey Hussle, in 2017, Marcel released his debut album, G.M.F.U. (Got Me F**d Up). The critically acclaimed project was followed by interviews with Charlamagne Tha God and The Breakfast Club as well as a feature on VIBE.
Now coming off the recent success of TV One’s The Bobby DeBarge Story, where he portrayed Bobby’s brother, James DeBarge, and his latest album, 98th, Marcel continues to strive… in the booth and even at the center of one’s lens.
We caught up with Adrian Marcel to talk about his music, his launch into acting and being a part of this summer’s groundbreaking excursion, The Millennium Tour.
Parlé Mag: You have such a unique sound that resonates with audiences everywhere. How did you get your start in music?
Adrian Marcel: If I go all the way back to my childhood, I was always moving, dancing, and jumping when music came on. My mother started me with piano lessons then vocal lessons. I ended up going to a charter school in the heart of Oakland where I figured out entertainment and how to be in front of an audience. That’s where home was for me. It catapulted me into taking music seriously and really put myself out there.
Parlé Mag: And putting yourself out there paid off, obviously.
Adrian Marcel: It did! I met Raphel Saddiq, due to my management at the time, which forged a mentorship. I signed my deal in 2013. I’ve since gone independent and started my own label, but it was different phases and different times that got me to where I am today.
Parlé Mag: I love that you’re an independent artist, and you made that switch fairly early on in your career. What made you want to be independent versus staying with a major label and being mainstream?
Adrian Marcel: A lot of artists don’t get to see the business side of the industry at times. I was very blessed to be able to witness it first-hand, to hear and see all the little things that happened. I have always been very clear in who I am and what I stand for. During that time, when I was with the label, I wasn’t able to give my creative control. I gave up so much of myself, my confidence and my artistry, just being “the artist” while at that label.
Parlé Mag: How did you break away from that?
Adrian Marcel: I took a step back. There wasn’t any beef, any bounty over my head, so we were able to walk away from each other peacefully. I took some time, about two years, to reflect on what went wrong. I learned the industry inside out. I learned about masters, copyrighting, publishing, music administration, production, monetizing my music. There are so many ways to make money beyond being on TV and the radio. So, for me, being independent was the best choice. I made it once, I knew I could make it again. I believe in myself so much more now.
Parlé Mag: Who are some of your musical influences or people you draw inspiration from when you’re in your creative process? Anyone you look forward to collaborating with?
Adrian Marcel: One of the people I really appreciated and have been motivated by was the late Nipsey Hussle. I have been following Nipsey since 2007, and I have been a huge fan. His voice was so dope. He has always been uplifting and motivating; that inspired me early on. I feel like, for a while, I did lose that… in myself, but I came back to it once I parted ways with the label and became independent. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to speak these words to him or work with him, but I heard that he’d heard my music, and he liked it. That means a lot to me. Maxwell is another talent I appreciate. He has such an amazing stage presence. And, of course, the old-school artists, too, because I consider myself a vocalist. And I inspire myself. And the people around me. I find inspiration right next to me. The people I’m around, they inspire me the most. They are my stars. I know that they are honorable people.
Parlé Mag: With all this incredible inspiration, how would you describe your style?
Adrian Marcel: Very soulful. A lot of pain in it–although I’m not quite sure where that comes from. I’ve always heard that I pull that emotion out of people.
Parlé Mag: You do! You’re like the male Adele. [laughs]
Adrian Marcel: [laughs] It’s weird. I have not been through anything traumatic. Just regular love and regular heartbreak. But there’s still that ratchet side, that little rasp from my street side. I tell people all the time, I am a great guy, but I still am trifling! Someone told me a long time ago that I had a swindlers voice.
Parlé Mag: Stoooop!
Adrian Marcel: No, for real! They told me that, and I’m thinking the only thing I’ve ever swindled was girls’ phone numbers. [laughs] But, if I had to choose one word, I would say, universal. My voice can blend over any kind of track. As long as I can relate to what I’m singing, and can feel it, my voice matches. It’s a true blessing from God.
Parlé Mag: What has been your biggest achievement?
Adrian Marcel: For myself? Starting my label. I started it in my senior year of high school. I worked very closely with The Hawkins family, as vocal coaches. They are pioneers of gospel music. Lynette Hawkins said something to me in a session one day, which was… she was trying to “bring out my third voice.” It’s that point where you’re not fully in your head voice, but you’re not fully in your chest voice either; you’re right in between. Ever since she told me that, I was blown away. And that’s the name of my company; Third Voice Music Group. The tours and platinum-streaming records matter to me, but I think the biggest achievement has been my label because so much went behind making my dream a reality. It’s been so much more rewarding than I ever can think of. I am still the same person I was before I came into this industry; I have the same team around me. I haven’t been tainted; I am still operating out of kindness and love. Oh, and my first acting role in the DeBarge movie for TV One [was also one of my biggest achievements].
Parlé Mag: Speaking of the DeBarge movie, how did that come about? What was the experience like? Was that your first movie role?
Adrian Marcel: Yes! Well, the first that made it to TV. I’ve done some lead roles before with my cinematographer, for my single, “Slow Burn.” I met the casting director for this DeBarge movie, and she had thrown me a few bones before but nothing ever came of the auditions. I was cast for one part, and then everything went in a different direction. Different directors, team members, etcetera. The regular dram of doing a biopic. A year later, they contacted me again and asked me to audition for a lead role. I had no idea how to hone in on his pain. But my dad and I worked on it for a few hours. Then, my mom, who’s an actress, kept saying, “I’m not feeling it! You’re not giving me enough!” They actually got my blooper tape because my mom started crying and missed her cue!
Parlé Mag: How do you feel about acting now?
Adrian Marcel: Oh, man, acting is great! With this being my first role and knocking it out of the park?! I definitely have to explore this further. It lit a light under me, and I love it. I can truly say that I am multi-talented, which is a huge blessing.
Parlé Mag: Multi-talented is a great blessing. The average millionaire has seven streams of income, so why not do it all?
Adrian Marcel: Yes! Why not? I am determined to go out there and get it all.
Parlé Mag: Let’s jump back to the music for a minute. You were on The Millenium Tour. Tell me about that.
Adrian Marcel: I was. I did two dates, one in L.A. and one in the Bay. Shout out to Bobby Valentino. He called me up and said he needed me to come out and do my thing. It was actually pretty cool because I had been on tour with Pleasure P in Australia and New Zealand. Just having the opportunity to be a part of a tour that I considered to be pretty historical and pay homage to our teenage years, it was a stamp for me to keep doing what I’m doing.
Parlé Mag: Can we expect a tour of your own?
Adrian Marcel: Absolutely! I’m mapping it out. I’m not gonna get you too excited yet, but I do have some ideas, and I’m going to bring it full force. It’s my name and my company so I want to be sure that all the bases are loaded. We will be touring, kicking off in Australia. We’re hitting wherever they want us at. We are bringing 98th [my album] to every block, every city, every state, every country that I can. 98th stands for confidence, faith, and belief in yourself. I want to give that vibe and energy to everyone.
Parlé Mag: Okay, my passport is ready! Aside from the tour, what’s next? Let us in on what you have cooking in the months to come.
Adrian Marcel: 98th is just the beginning; it was just the introduction. I have another album that will be out later this year. Expect more music, more videos. There’s so much in store, keeping following me to see it all unfold. We are not done!
Be sure to catch up with Adrian Marcel on social media!
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