By Anthony Stoeckert
Adam Ezra’s life as a musician takes him all over the country, making music and meeting his fans, but there is one story of a woman who lived in Pennington that is particularly close to his heart.
Terri and Bruce Fredericks first saw Mr. Ezra perform in New Hampshire during a ski vacation in 2008. They loved his music and bought his CD.
”Over the years, that CD got a lot of play and our love for the music grew,” Mr. Fredericks says. “Since Adam is a Boston musician, we never expected to see him again unless we headed north.”
But Mr. Ezra made a few appearances closer to home in 2013, first at World Café Live in Philadelphia, and then at the Record Collector in Bordentown. The Fredericks brought friends to the shows, and helped build Mr. Ezra’s Central Jersey fan base.
Ms. Fredericks had breast cancer, and by late 2013, her battle with the disease was nearing its end. At the time, Mr. Ezra had a gig with his band scheduled in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
”As we got closer to that date, it became clearer to me that Terri would not be doing well enough to make it,” Mr. Fredericks says. “So I got the word out to as many friends as possible to ask them to attend and maybe tell Adam that they were there to carry Terri’s spirit — one of many unknown fans.”
A friend of Mr. Fredericks contacted Adam’s agent, and asked if he could visit Terri, a fan whose illness would force her to miss the concert. Mr. Ezra replied yes, quickly and without hesitation.
”It was a day off from the tour, and I showed up at her house, and ended up spending the afternoon, playing music with her, and singing songs with her,” Mr. Ezra says. “A bunch of her friends and family were there, and we ended up all playing and singing songs together. It was a pretty powerful and moving experience.”
When Mr. Ezra arrived at the house, Ms. Fredericks was in her bed. “Terri was in excruciating pain,” Mr. Fredericks says. “Three people were working on her as she lay in pain in a hospital bed in our upstairs bedroom. I had asked about a dozen close friends and family to be there and make Adam’s visit special, but it was looking like a brief hello would be barely possible. I’ll never forget what Adam said when he showed up and I gave him the situation: ‘No hurry — I have all day.’”
Mr. Fredericks told his wife then, for the first time, that one of her favorite musicians was downstairs. She asked for Mr. Ezra to come to her room.
”We led Adam upstairs where he sweetly engaged Terri and pressed his hand to hers,” Mr. Fredericks says. “She smiled for the first time that day. Adam played a song for her and she asked for another. And another. As he played she beamed with a new expression of peace and ease. It was a complete transformation.”
After three songs, Ms. Fredericks asked to go downstairs, her husband and friends carried her down to a couch, where Mr. Ezra continued one of the most intimate concerts of his career.
”I started playing some more songs, some of her requests, and then she started singing along,” Mr. Ezra says. “And before you know it, at the end of the afternoon, she was swapping stories about how she and her husband first met. Everyone was laughing and enjoying kind of their last day with their friend.”
Mr. Ezra stayed for seven hours, playing songs and talking with Terri and Charles, and their friends.
”What he did with that visit started an incredibly love-filled transition for Terri on her path to death five days later,” Mr. Fredericks says. “Terri and I had been locked in the daily struggle and battle with cancer and Adam brought us back to how in love we were with each other in one amazing afternoon through his music and presence.”
Mr. Ezra is returning to the area as part of his “Get Folked Concert Tour,” with house concerts at a Princeton home, Jan. 21 and 22.
He has been writing and performing with his band, The Adam Ezra Group, for 15 years. The group was named the “Best Band in New England” at the 2013 New England Music Awards, and have performed with Taj Mahal, the Marshall Tucker Band, Chris Daughtry, Indigo Girls, and Robbie Krieger of the Doors, among others.
The group plays about 200 shows a year. Mr. Ezra says he loves playing with his band, but is going for a different vibe with his acoustic shows with his trusty, beat-up guitar.
”This house concert tour really gives me a chance to connect, very personally, with audiences and fans all over the country,” he says. “To be able to take requests and play the songs they want to hear, to be able to talk about some of the background behind the songs, and perform a concert in as pretty much as a relaxed setting as you can conjure up.”
Fans can expect some favorites, and some songs they likely haven’t heard.
”I’m playing songs that I love playing acoustic,” he says. “I’m playing brand-new songs that I’ve just written, and songs that I wrote many years ago that never saw the light of day.”
But even Mr. Ezra doesn’t know exactly what songs he’ll be playing during his Princeton show, and the audience is likely to influence the evening’s tunes.
”I never decide what I’m going to play until I’m sitting in a room, or standing on stage with my band,” Mr. Ezra says. “I’ve never been a set-list person. I always want a concert to feel a little bit like a conversation. If someone is asking questions about something in my life and it brings up a memory of an old song I wrote, or if I was thinking about something earlier in the day that reminded me of a song that I wrote a long time ago, then that’s what I’ll end up playing.”
Mr. Ezra also has been working with John Oates, of Hall and Oates fame.
”A few months ago, (my manager) sent John some songs I had been working on, and John said, ‘I really like this. Bring Adam down and ask him if wants to write a little bit.’”
That led to them writing and recording songs together.
”It was a thrilling experience for me, just being in a room with that guy, let alone being creative with that guy,” Mr. Ezra says, adding that he expect to do some more writing with Mr. Oates after his acoustic tour.
”I love writing songs more than anything, and to be able to write songs with that guy was a thrill.”
The tour is in support of two live albums Mr. Ezra recently released. A song inspired by his visit with Ms. Fredericks, “You Today,” appears on the album titled “Adam Ezra Live.”
”I had played a solo acoustic concert last year,” Mr. Ezra says. “We recorded it, and the recording came out so nice that we decided that we would release a double live album from that concert, just me, solo acoustic. That was released in December. So to celebrate that album, I decided it would be great to give my hardest-working band in America the month off, to rest and recoup a little bit, and to get out on the road and connect with some of the amazing fans that keep us alive every day.”
The concert in Princeton promises to be a special one, for Mr. Ezra and for Mr. Fredericks. That day in the Fredericks home not only inspired a song, but also is included a book, titled “88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life,” which was published last year, and is available on Amazon.
”I will forever be grateful to Adam Ezra for the peace and unconditional love he brought to Terri and I before she left me,” Mr. Fredericks says.
The Jan. 21 concert is sold out. Tickets for the Jan. 22 show are available at brownpapertickets.com/event/2483263. Concerts begin at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m. For information on Mr. Ezra’s music, and two live solo albums, go to adamezra.com.
By Anthony Stoeckert