For the better part of a decade, Adam Hendley’s ever-evolving outfit, Urban Soul has been a staple on the Tallahassee music scene but when the group releases new music in the coming year, it will be under the Testifiers banner. I caught up with Adam to talk about his early musical years in Jones County, the unifying elements of George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, and what to expect when the Testifiers land at JBA on Saturday, January 25th.
AI- What kind of experience is Adam Hendley and the Testifiers?
AH- The main thing that we’re bringing to the picture is preserving the best out of the ’60s, ’70s, and 80s, focusing a lot on funk music– a lot of James Brown, a lot of Sly and the Family Stone, a lot of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic… A lot of that kind of vibe mixed with a lot of church elements. Like a lot of stuff I learned out of both classical aspects of the church and gospel aspects of church.
And you’re from Jones County?
With Jones County, I went to high school there, I learned how to play there. I learned how to just function in a band. That’s kind of where I got my beginning. I started listening as a kid to Justin Timberlake ’cause I thought that sounded good on the radio. ‘Cause that’s what was popular when I was a kid, and my mom always came in and said, “You need to check Earth, Wind & Fire. You need to check out Stevie Wonder. If you like that, you would like this.” And then being in Jones County led me to a lot of old ’60s, ’70s, ’80s rock music. So, you know, I fell in love with Led Zeppelin and the Beatles in Jones County through a couple of my friends, including [JBA proprietor] Brandon [Lawler] as well. We used to play together in a five or six-piece group where we had two drummers and did a lot of Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead and stuff like that.
Did you march? Did you play in the high school band?
Yeah, I actually played saxophone my first two years and then kind of gave that up and went into drums my junior year and started marching in the band that year– bass drum and snare drum. Learned a lot of rudiments that way. We had a great drum tech at Jones County, who’s up in Atlanta now, named Marcus Hawkins who sat me down knowin’ I was a drum set player– and he was too– and just taught me my rudiments and taught me how to apply it to the drum kit and kinda gave me a really early headstart when I was 16 and 17, him and a bunch of other people I could name out of Jones County. That was a big part of it.
Previously, The Testifiers were known as Urban Soul, is that correct? What necessitated the shift in identity?
Urban Soul kind of came out in its own in about 2012 when me and a bunch of my buddies from college would get together and play house parties– not even for money just for free. We just knew the same music and listened to the same tunes and a bunch of us in that first initial group sang. And so we would always trade-off tunes and everything. We actually started the band ’cause we started getting horn players that were sitting in with us consistently. Basically, the people that were sort of stickin’ around Tallahassee at that time, that were part of that initial lineup turned into what was Urban Soul for the past seven or eight years. That was like a straight line up for a little while with just a couple of fill-ins here and there that we would work with. It was like an Otis Redding-type thing. This was even before I was on drums. I was just singing for the band at the time. But we had this like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett kind of vibe going on mixed with some like modern things that we were checking out as well. Some like Justin Timberlake and some CeeLo Green and some D’Angelo and stuff like that. And kinda trying to put a modern vibe on the southern soul thing that we were doing.
Over time, you know, Tallahassee’s a college town, so people tend to go there for school and then leave and go off and do greater things as most of these band members have done. Over the past seven years, about every year or so the lineup would change– people would leave, not be able to make a gig, and then this old member that was in town for this time would play this gig again… And it just turned into this fifty to a hundred person collective that was just sort of based out of Tallahassee. Now anytime that we’re doing a gig, we pretty much just have a group of people that we call on– with me being the consistent factor. The Testifiers has really become less of a band and more of a big collective with these like Illuminati-esque meetings, like, “I’ll play on your record and you play on this record and then you play on my gig, and I’ll play on yours,” and it just became this huge thing. The Testifiers came from George Clinton, who’s in Tallahassee, being a very big part of our growth and our influence and what we love about not only the music we love but what Tallahassee has to offer too. Parliament Funkadelic is just a big staple around here. “Testify”, the old George Clinton and the Parliament song, became this big anthem. Danny Bedrosian, his keyboard player, Lige Curry, his bass player, would come in and sit in with us and our friends at gigs and they would always sit in on “Testify” ’cause that was just sort of the one that everybody in town knows. That’s where the band name comes from and that’s what it evolved into.
Do you have recorded music available? Have you made any records up to this point or are you planning to?
Yes, we do. Urban Soul came out with our EP back in 2015, 2016– and that’s actually available on the website, adamandthetestifiers.com. You can go on there and just give us your email, and we’ll send you that record for free because we’ve kind of already made our profit off of that. We’re giving our way our previous Urban Soul EP for free. And then we’re also in the process of recording our official Testifiers record, Chapter Book, right now. That’ll be out and we’re looking at like 2021, but we’re gonna be releasing singles and preview EPs throughout the year for that.
Tell me about the lineup coming to town Saturday night down at JBA. You gonna have a horn section compliment and all that good stuff?
We’ll be bringing in a four-piece band for this tour, where we’re going to be having my buddy, who’s actually an original Urban Soul member from day one, Kalen Mercer, who’s a fantastic saxophone player as well as a fantastic keyboard player. He’s gonna be pullin’ double duty for us on this tour. We also have a Neal Goree who plays for a couple other groups in town. He’s a guitar player who’s been with us for a little while now, and Kendrick Jacobs on bass who’s actually also a Macon native. He went to Howard High School and went down to Valdosta State University to get his undergrad degree and then came to FSU for his graduate degree. I found out he was from Macon and linked up with him. We knew all the same people, immediately hit it off and then he’s been with the band all year so far. It’s been a really good time. And that’ll be the group that we’re bringing into JBA this weekend.