As a kid growing up in Harmony, Adam Kozar’s school bus route would carry him by the empty shell that once housed The Strand Theater.
From his seat on the bus, Kozar would gaze out the window at the building and wonder what it would be like to play in the theater when it was vibrant and filled with people.
“I’ve been dreaming about that theater my whole life,” he said.
So it’s little wonder that when it came time for Kozar to decide where he wanted to celebrate the release of his debut CD, Sickness Inside, he eschewed Pittsburgh hotspots in favor of making his boyhood dream come true.
“I’m not a city guy,” he said. “I’d like my album release to be in my hometown.”
On Saturday, Kozar, 28, will take the stage at the revived and refurbished Strand Theater Initiative, which opened in 2009. Sickness Inside, is the first by a Harmony resident to receive national distribution, he said.
Produced at Summit Studios in Cranberry, If Looks Could, the initial single off the CD, is being sent to more than 450 radio station worldwide via Oasis Promotions. Locally, it already has received approval to be played on 105.9 The X's Edge of the X program, Kozar said.
And that’s just the beginning.
On June 26, the album’s official release date, Sickness Inside will become available to purchase digitally at iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby and other sites. Fans also may buy the CD at more than 2,500 stores across the nation.
Not bad for a small-town boy who describes himself the polar opposite of a downtown hipster—and proud of it.
“I’ve been working since I was 12, and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.
Although he grew up in family that appreciated music, Kozar—who was heavily influenced in his youth by his older brothers’ music choices—said he didn’t pick up a guitar until after his 18th birthday. At 20, he started to write his own lyrics and, despite shyness at singing in front of others, began to book shows.
“People didn’t tell me to shut up, so I kept going,” he said.
By 2010, he had what he called a nice collection of original tunes. Each lyric found on Sickness Inside is inspired by real life events in Kozar’s life—which means there’s plenty of heartbreak.
If Looks Could brings to life the devastating blow a girl can deal out with just her eyes (Sample lyric: “If looks could kill, I’d already be dead). The title Sickness Inside is a reference to Kozar’s struggles in love.
“How much paper do you have?” he answered when asked if there was a particular relationship gone bad that inspired his songs.
But Kozar doesn’t mind baring his sole for an audience. He believes his authenticity and confessional-style lyrics are part what draws people to his music.
“I've had friends hear them and be like, ‘Why didn’t you tell us this was going on in your life,’” he said with a laugh.
He describes his sound as influenced by The Cure, The Misfits and Goo Goo Dolls. There are 17 songs on the album and they vary in style from faster-paced rock to more melodic acoustic songs. On a few songs, Kozar—who has never taken a music lesson—even plays piano.
“I’m self-taught,” he said. “I’ve never taken a lesson, I don’t know how to read music.”
He chose If Looks Could as the first single off the CD after polling close to 50 of his friends. The up-tempo, harder-charging If Looks Could was the clear choice over the softer White Dress, he said.
"I thought that was going to be the winner,” he said. “Then If Look Could literally got the most votes by double.”
His show Saturday at The Strand will be the biggest venue he has played yet, he said. He added he’ll have CDs, T-Shirts, posters and other merchandise for sale at the show. He also plans to raffle off an acoustic guitar and gift certificates at the event, with all proceeds benefitting the local food bank.
“I’m holding out hope Harmony and Zelienople will represent for me,” he said.
If You’re Going:
Adam Kozar takes the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday at in Zelienople. The opening act is Jon Fisher. The ticket cost is $5 in advance and $7 at the door. The box office opens one hour before show time. For more information, visit The Strand’s website by clicking here. To listen to Kozar sing an acoustic version of If Looks Could, click on the video in this article.