In Conversation with Adam Dooley

In the Meet Our Musicians series, Jellynote introduces you to the Creators behind the sheet music on our platform. Discover their musical style and get to know them!

“I never expected my online endeavours to get a lot of attention”, he says modestly, “I was expecting it to more or less be something I could do to share my passion with people…”

In our brief but engaging discussion, there are a few notable things about Adam Dooley that stand out: his kind personality, for starters, and also the funny way he ends each sentence with “you know”. Adam does not strike me as a typical jazz musician. He doesn’t wear shades or corduroy trousers. His hair is sensibly cut, his beard well-trimmed and he wears glasses that remind me of my uncle. In his suburban home, he does not strike me as your average musician at all. This, as I would later discover, is because he is not an average musician. Far from it.

Check out Adam’s brilliant arrangement of Johnny Cash’s These Are My People.

Adam Dooley became a Creator on Jellynote the sheet music platform, in the autumn of last year, writing primarily piano-vocal arrangements for pop songs. Though it would be foolish to try to categorise his music tastes as such. He also enjoys jazz, folk, country, rock, even transcribing pieces that have, as he describes it, a “Caribbean flavour”. Here is a piano voice arrangement of Toby Marlow’s Heart of Stone.

That said, his foundation in music transcription has allowed him to get an insight into the layout and structure of music. As such, he has reached the conclusion that, regardless of the style of music, “it’s all the same language”.

Check out our article on how to transcribe music in 15 easy steps

“It’s all connected,” he tells me, “there’s this twine in there, connecting all of it together at the same time, I guess”.

He is, therefore, reluctant to allow himself to be boxed into one particular genre.

“There’s a lot there I can express,” he says with a hint of pride. As he speaks, I get the impression he could talk for hours about this subject, though I don’t let him, instead enquiring about his musical background.

His experiences with music began very early on, his grandparents, who performed themselves, serving as his primary source of inspiration.

“They played old-timey music and that sort of thing. There’s a lot of happy memories of watching them play when I was a child. I wanted to emulate what they were doing.”

He, and his brothers, then, were given piano lessons. This served him well, until he met the love of his life…his guitar.

“Guitar was what really caught on in my teenage years. I used to get together with friends and jammed, playing a lot of the 70s and 80s classic songs that I guess a lot of young guitar players like myself wanted to play.”

Looking for some inspiration? Check out our guitar sheet music collection on Jellynote.

He begins rattling off a list, that include: Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Molly Hatchet… I question whether he’s having a stroke, before realising these are, apparently, the names of bands he liked to listen to as a teenager. I make a silent note to expand my music collection beyond Stevie Nicks and Stephen Sondheim.

A look of nostalgia registers on his face as he describes his musical pubescence:

“It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about music in that process too. It was a wonderful time. Things really took off from there.”

Adam Dooley, recalling how he got started as a professional musician

While the passion faded for his band mates, Adam stuck with it. Though it hasn’t always been his primary focus…

Another of Adam’s great transcriptions is his arrangement of Ruthann Friedman’s Windy.

Adam’s life took a different turn when he started college. His original plan was not to become a musician at all. He studied engineering at Virginia Polytechnic and, after graduating, took a government job for a few years. While music was still a part of his life, it took a backseat role. Though, his CD collection certainly expanded during those seven years!

What made him return to music? A midlife crisis? A life-changing event that showed him the importance of following one’s passion? Not quite.

“I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore,” he simply states.

And so, he decided to pursue music again. He got involved in more groups, played more, studied more, ear-training, transcription…a bit of everything!

In a sea of Mumford and Sons wannabees and Journey tribute bands, Adam Dooley sticks out as an authentic musician, not trying to copy anyone else’s style or even achieve fame from his music. Far from his teenage self, his relationship with music has matured, but not mellowed. He is happy playing his instruments and sharing his passion with other people. However, when greater opportunities presented themselves Adam usually stepped back.

“I don’t know if it was fear or if I had good reason, but I was always kind of tentative about taking that extra step towards trying to pursue something much bigger than a local gigging schedule. I thought for a long time that it could be easy to lose what’s really important…”

Check out his sheet music for Johnny Hallyday’s Que je t’aime.

For him, the only thing that truly matters is the music. He can be found playing at bars and maybe the odd wedding or two, and he doesn’t let a desire for fame and fortune replace what’s truly important to him.

Adam Dooley on stage
Adam Dooley playing live. See the look of intense concentration!

“Even though I feel I don’t need to be “famous” I still want to make a positive impact on people’s lives through what I contribute musically.  And I am progressively overcoming my own fears and uncertainties so I can take the steps to impact as many people’s lives as possible through music”, he tells me.

He holds the same attitude towards composition as well.

“Even if performing my compositions for an audience doesn’t transpire, it’s definitely a good learning experience. I’m still glad I’m doing it”, he explains.

His motto? Do what you love to do and let things happen as they may.  And share it with others along the way. 

“That’s what true happiness is”, he says profoundly.  

Speed round!

If you could have a dinner party with three musicians, dead or alive, who would they be?

Let’s see…

I would love to pick Pat Metheny’s brain, definitely for sure. He was the one that bridged rock over to jazz for me. He would definitely be one.

Wes Montgomery would have been a pretty cool cat to talk to. He’s just a master of the jazz guitar. Every video I ever saw, he was always smiling, just the happiest guy on the planet. I would love to have dinner with someone like that. That would be great, I could just talk to him for days.

Number 3 is tricky…I would probably go with one of the great piano players that I always loved – Bill Evans. I really took to his playing for some reason. He just had a marvellous touch. He wasn’t overly busy with how he played; he knew exactly what to do.

Looks like a jam session would definitely be in the works!

What song do you listen to when you’re happy?

St Thomas by Sonny Rollins!

And when you’re sad?

Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk.

What is your favourite “music memory”?

It was definitely when I was playing a New Year’s Eve gig. Right before my wife and I got married, it was midnight and I was playing Au Lang Syne with the band. My wife came up and gave me this great big kiss and I kissed her whilst we played!

Visit Adam’s Creator page and play his favourite songs!

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About author
William Ridd is a writer based in London. After a messy divorce from the clarinet, William decided that playing music wasn’t for him, but he continues to appreciate it and likes writing about it.
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