Adelitas Way Singer Rick DeJesus on His ‘Sick’ Guns N’ Roses Experience + More
The past month has been an eventful one for Las Vegas rockers Adelitas Way. Shortly after kicking off their co-headlining tour with Art of Dying, they received a call inviting them to open a few shows for Guns N’ Roses. Who could possibly say no to that? The band took a small diversion from their own tour to play three shows with Guns N’ Roses, calling it a dream come true.
The band’s latest album, ‘Home School Valedictorian’ was released in June and has already spawned two hits with the singles ‘Sick’ and most recently ‘The Collapse.’ A large step in the right direction, Adelitas Way continue to evolve into one of rock’s most uprising forces.
Now back on their own co-headlining tour, we caught up with frontman Rick DeJesus to talk about the band’s grassroots approach to getting where they are today, the personal meaning behind their latest album title ‘Home School Valedictorian,’ and their pre-show rituals before hitting the stage to give one of the most infectious, energetic, live sets out there.
So let’s start with the big news; you opened a few shows for Guns N’ Roses, what was your response when you got that phone call?
It was crazy; it’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and everyone in the band, as well. You get a call like that and you drop everything you’re doing, I didn’t care if I had a 120 degree fever, I was playing those shows. That was the case last night, I was so sick I could barely get out of bed but when we got out onstage, and you’re on tour with Guns N’ Roses, you turn it on and deal with it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was crazy.
How did the shows go? Did you tailor your set much or what was the approach?
They’re an iconic band so the crowd immediately starts off with their arms crossed waiting to judge you. Who can really play before Guns N’ Roses; no one, but all we did was go out there, put on our show and we have one of the better live shows in rock ‘n’ roll, and we won them over. They were resisting us for a minute but we got them, so it felt great. The shows have been amazing. The Guns N’ Roses crew told us some horror stories about bands opening the shows and luckily we weren’t one of them. We were a success story as far as winning the crowd over and having a good time.
So, did you stick around to watch Guns N’ Roses each night?
Of course. It’s funny, I wasn’t feeling well but I had to watch the show because it’s Guns N’ Roses so I went out there thinking I’d watch a couple of songs and then go lay down, I got out there, Axl Rose hit every note, he sounded amazing and he drew me in, and I ended up watching the entire set. Axl’s killing it.
Now that ‘Home School Valedictorian’ has been out for a bit and you can separate yourself from the writing and recording process, do you feel like you wrote the album that you set out to write?
Of course, I feel like we’ve taken a big step forward with this record and I feel like the results are showing. We had a No. 1 song ['Sick'] off of the album, we’re about to have another top 10 hit with ‘The Collapse,’ we’re starting to headline shows and people are coming out, You can see things changing. It’s just a matter of the record we made, we released a really strong record and people are responding to that. We’ve got to just keep going, the way the music industry is nowadays its really tough out there but for us we’re thriving and when things are tough we just barrel through it.
It seems like that from the very beginning, you took a grassroots approach to things, focusing your energy on your fans and the people that were really supporting your music and it seems to be paying off now.
That’s the only approach that works anymore. You can have these flash in the pan songs, one song that just goes and you sell 500,000 records, but then it’s all downhill from there if you do it that way. I love the fact that we’ve toured non-stop, we’ve shook every hand, we’ve met fans, we’ve signed autographs. We have a relationship with our fans, we keep them updated on our Twitter, on our Facebook, we keep them very involved in what we’re doing and I think that’s the future of music. Your fans are very important and that’s where it’s at, and that’s why were able to go into random cities at this point in our career and play in front of a lot of people because we’ve done it that way. We’re building our career.
In comparing the writing and recording process this time around to your debut release, you’ve said that there was no pressure. How did you avoid that sophomoric release pressure?
Well, luckily the first two songs we turned in were ‘Alive’ and ‘Sick.’ I just didn’t let it get to me. I never stopped writing, I was always coming up with ideas. I remember we turned in ‘Alive’ and it was the first demo we turned in and the label told us great job and to keep it up, and there was really no pressure. We got together, wrote the album, turned it in, and everyone seemed to like it. It was just a natural process. We did it in Malibu, Calif., where it was sunny and beautiful, we’d get to swim, and it was like making a dream album.
And feeling so comfortable and confident has to impact the outcome of the music in a positive way?
Yeah, that stress is never good. When you’re stressed to write a song, you’re forcing it. It has to happen naturally.
In reading about your past, your upbringing is described as being a little rough; how did you eventually make that connection to music?
Music I think is always an escape for everybody. When you’re having a rough day, you put your headphones on and it gives you a feeling. That’s what I think some people forget, sometimes I feel music is under-appreciated.
In my life, I was definitely going through some hard times, and music was my escape. It’s the reason actually that I’m still here and have a purpose. When it gets to the point where you’re watching all your friends get arrested for doing drugs or shot, or going to jail, that wasn’t for me, I knew there was a better path for me and that was music.
When did you actually start singing?
I didn’t start singing until I was a little bit older. I think when things started going really bad, I started trying to find myself, and I found that I naturally just express myself through singing and writing songs. I never thought I’d get to where I was today.
The latest single, ‘The Collapse' was influenced by your past? What can you tell us about it?
‘The Collapse’ is a song that I wrote just to get some of that...I’m like a Tasmanian Devil, I have too much energy inside of me, and it was a song that I wrote to get some of that energy out of me. If you’ve ever seen our live show, you’ll know what I mean.
A few weeks back you participated in the first ever 48 Hours Festival in your hometown of Vegas – how was that experience for you?
I want it to be an annual event, I think its great playing in front of a Vegas crowd and just playing at home. There’s nothing like that, I got to roll out of bed, go down the hill, and play a show. It’s definitely something I’d want to do every year.
How has it been transitioning from a support role on the GN'R tour back to your own co-headlining trek with Art of Dying?
It’s been great, you get to see your diehard fans, and so far every show has been great so I’m happy. When I go to a place like Lubbock, Texas, a place we haven’t been much, a place that we don’t go to a lot and I see 300 people there when we pull in, how do you describe that? That means 300 people on a Tuesday night could not wait for us to come back and they came out to the show to support us, it really makes me happy.
People could interpret the album title ‘Home School Valedictorian’ a few different ways but I know it has a pretty specific meaning to the band right?
Honestly, the album title is a personal thing to the band. We were in a band with someone I felt really didn’t appreciate us and kind of felt like he didn’t need us. That person, is a home school valedictorian. They never went to high school, their parents were their teacher, and that’s what I think the problem was. This kid has his parents in his ear non-stop telling him that he’s better than us and that he’s the best and he didn’t treat anyone with respect. Everyone knows a person that things they’re better than or above others so Home School Valedictorian is just that.
We’ve heard your songs all over sporting events, movies, TV shows, wrestling matches; how important do you think these new ways of getting your music out there are to bands?
Regardless of getting the music out there to people, I’m a diehard sports fan so when somebody tells me that they heard one of our songs at a sporting event, I turn into a 10 year old kid, I get so excited. But yeah, any way to get music fans to realize who you are, you have to give it a shots. Sports have been great to us; they’ve really taken us in so I’ll take it. Any avenue of promotion for people to learn who we are is amazing to me. Our team has done a great job of getting our songs out to the right outlets.
Speaking of sports, wasn’t there a point in your life where you were heading down the path of playing pro baseball?
Yes, I was a very good baseball player I started playing when I was 5 years old and played until I was 20.
So what pulled you away from that?
It was a mixture of things, I went to college and after playing for 16 years, I went to a great school, scouts were looking, they told me I’d get drafted and things were going well but I felt like it wasn’t my path, it wasn’t what I was supposed to do. Something didn’t feel right; it just wasn’t it and music I felt was.
Do you have any pre-show rituals that you go through as a band before you hit the stage?
Oh yeah, I’ve got a million. I do the same things every night. There’s just a lot of stretching and warming up. Sometimes I like to eat a bag of potato chips before we play, it sounds weird but I’ll eat a bag of Baked Lay's, drink a Diet Coke, and stretch. We do a ritual right before we go onstage where we all put our hands in and do our thing. We have a ton, if you watch us backstage you’ll see us playing X-box and doing the same kind of things before we play every night.
You tour a lot, so what do you miss most from home while you’re out on the road?
My dogs! I have four. I have three little wiener dogs and a Chihuahua. But yeah, I miss my dogs, I miss my family, I miss my city, I miss Las Vegas – I miss where I live. Las Vegas is such a beautiful place so I miss it when I leave.
I just want to tell everybody to be ready for next year; it’s going to be a big year. I think we’ll be dropping ‘Alive’ to radio and I think it’s going to be a game changer. I just want to thank the fans and thank you! We wouldn’t be here without you guys.