Adeem The Artist: Their Country Revelry

Madison Miles Photography 2
Adeem The Artist (Photo by Madison Miles Photography)

Kyle Bingham was born a seventh-generation North Carolinian in a town called Locust, conceived at a Texaco gas station where his mom worked a graveyard shift, with all the prospects of a thousand hillbilly stereotypes.

Adeem the Artist is not one of them.

Of their self-described “march to self-actualization,” Adeem says, “I’m trying to be the most fully realized version of myself as I can be before I croak.”

Adeem the Artist, Adeem Maria, Kyle Bingham – they’re all parts of the same whole – a non-binary spouse, parent, singer, songwriter and musician who embodies the country touchstone of “three chords and the truth,” even if – especially if – their truth might be a little uncomfortable.

Their lyrics are observational and sometimes dark, but leavened with an irresistible humor that can still deliver a gut punch. They’ve lived enough of an unconventional life to sing those words with authority.

Adeem began writing as means of working out the conflicts between their inner life and the outside world; Southern religious mores and a desire to express themself authentically – as a teenager, that included long bleached hair, questioning their sexuality, and being possessed of a voracious appetite for reading. Country music provided an expressive conduit for all of it.

Adeem is unconcerned if they fit the mold of contemporary country music. They are too busy breaking it.

A deft, empathetic songwriter and joyous performer, Adeem’s two latest album releases – Cast Iron Pansexual (2021) and White Trash Revelry (the latter released by Thirty Tigers in December) – have won praise from critics and fellow artists alike.

They were invited to perform during AmericanaFest 2022, followed by a 2023 Americana Music Association nomination for Best Emerging Artist. And then Adeem received an invitation to perform at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry on June 28.

They almost didn’t accept it. And they don’t mind telling you why.

“They reached out to my manager and invited us to play a few songs for their staff and take a tour,” Adeem tells Pollstar. “I was reluctant. You know, they had Morgan Wallen playing there last year, and that caused a big uproar. It felt like a finicky thing. I didn’t want to deal with any tokenizing. I didn’t want to be the one where someone can say, ‘Look, we’re woke now. We’re doing woke artists.’ I didn’t want any of that.”

The team at the Opry allayed Adeem’s concerns with the help of a harmonica.

“We met with them. We went over there, played some songs,” Adeem explains. “I really adored the team. I liked the people that we got to meet with. I liked the questions. It seemed like they were really engaged in the craft of songwriting and really, sincerely enamored by the music outside of any political tokenization or anything like that. We got the Opry tour and got to go in the green rooms – it was a little slice of magic. They gave my kid a harmonica and that was nice. It was a special day and I was like, ‘Well, I have no idea why they did that.’”

Adeem is managed by Kyle Crownover, a fellow musician and country tour manager, who most recently TMed for Tyler Childers. He also takes a comedic turn as Satan in Adeem’s video for “Going To Hell” from White Trash Revelry.

“We didn’t take it as a hard to fathom thing, because it happened so fast,” Crownover says, laughing, of the Opry booking. In a serious turn, he adds, “The Opry was on our bucket list.” So were the Americana Awards.

“[Adeem] somehow landed tickets to the Americana Awards,” Crownover says. “They were kind of in the folk scene and really didn’t know where they could land commercially. They saw this group of – I mean this nicely, but – weirdos; people writing great songs, and great storytelling. John Prine’s a huge influence for them. So that world opened to them six years ago and they’re like, ‘I want to be a part of that.’ And now they’ve got the nomination and the Opry. We didn’t anticipate that happening. But they’re so thankful it did.”

White Trash Revelry is Adeem’s first full-length for Thirty Tigers. They’ve been recording, self-releasing and self-booking shows for the last decade. Cast Iron Pansexual, released in 2021 on Bandcamp with its revelatory songs exploring the complications of growing up queer and Christian in the South, and with titles like “I Never Came Out,” “Honeysuckle Hipbilly Homo-Erotica” and “Reclaim My Name” began earning considerable notice. There was one song in particular – “I Wish You Would’ve Been A Cowboy” – that stood out.

A response to Toby Keith’s “I Wish I Were A Cowboy,” Adeem took aim at what they considered to be the jingoistic, boot-in-your-ass, persona of Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” released after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Another response to a mainstream country hit, “My America,” appears on White Trash Revelry in a take on Aaron Lewis’ “Am I The Only One?”

After some 10 years of toiling in the backwaters of the music business, Cast Iron Pansexual changed Adeem’s career trajectory.

“The amount of money people paid me changed, but it was also the fact that now people were trying to book me,” they say. “As an independent artist, it’s meant sending out thousands of emails to book dozens of shows and then getting paid very, very poorly to play too many hours in front of people who are not there to hear music.”

They wouldn’t be sending out emails and self-booking much longer.

“In 2021, BJ Barham of American Aquarium heard that song about Toby Keith and was like, ‘You want to do some shows together?’ And it was the first time I got to go on a more elevated tour. Up to that point, everything had been shows for people here and there who were bigger. But when I would tour, it was mostly solo, under the guise of headlining. It was just me playing coffee shops for nobody, out of town. I began to play in these theaters and music rooms and clubs with American Aquarium. All the bits that I had kind of cobbled together over years of playing Margarita Monday at Señor Taco and getting ignored by people trying to have dinner were paying off.”

Since most of Adeem’s touring career has been self-booked, there’s not a lot of tour history reporting in Pollstar Boxoffice to quantify their growth as a touring artist. But with the breakout of Cast Iron Pansexual and White Trash Revelry, Adeem’s signing to Thirty Tigers, where he works with David Macias, and teaming with his first agent, Alex Fang of New Frontier Touring, their calendar has included dates with Jason Isbell, Josh Ritter, Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Mountain Goats, and others. A tour with Hiss Golden Messenger, a booking on the popular Cayamo cruise and a possible fall headlining outing are on tap.

And as Pollstar was going to press, it was announced that Adeem The Artist was chosen by Jason Isbell to open the latter’s Oct. 21 show during his annual Ryman Auditorium residency.

“For pretty much the past seven months, we’ve gone out with William Elliott Whitmore and Rust Belt, Ray Wiley Hubbard in Texas, Willi Carlisle in the Midwest, Mountain Goats mostly in the South. It’s basically putting them in a scenario where they are in markets and in areas with like-minded headliners and such to where they can best thrive,” Fang says.

Adeem is ready, come what may, and those years of being heckled “by drunks staggering in from Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk” as an opener at the Ryman and the Margarita Monday gigs instilled in them an understanding of how to grab attention and keep it. Everything in Adeem’s unconventional life prepared them for this moment.

“I was so used to scrambling for attention anywhere I could get it,” Adeem says. “That made me a much more attentive and intentional performer. I’ve become pretty good at knowing how to ask for what I want to win. I go to other people’s shows and read articles and engage with them and really care. And the more that I gave a shit about other people and what they were doing, the more they would just naturally start paying attention to what I was doing.”