It’s funny when people tell Adem Dalipi that because he’s only 16 he doesn’t know what love is. At that young age, the Belvidere-raised teen has a surprising grasp on the emotional intricacies in human interaction.
“I’ve been through relationships,” Dalipi said. “I’ve been through breakups. Some of them I still talk to, and some of them ended badly.” But all those past experiences have fueled the songwriting of the youthful artist.
“I’m bad at keeping my emotions in,” he said. “I tend to write them down as a way of expressing them, processing them.”
Two years ago, he sat down to pen the lyrics to what eventually became “Didn’t Wanna Love You,” the poppy summer groove out today.
“It was a response to something that happened. Saying ‘I wish I didn’t love you and put all that time into that relationship,’” he explained. “It’s about how much you need to focus on that and how it takes away from outside things you can do. You can be devoting that to spending time with family or hanging out with your homies. Or you could be practicing more. And then all of a sudden you get cheated on.”
“I was feeling really bad, and thought I can’t keep myself down,” Dalipi said. “So I sat down and wrote that song. It’s a big part of clearing my mind.”
Dalipi, who has also been performing with the South Suburban blues band The Instinct for the last few years, taps into his musical influences for the catchy “Didn’t Wanna Love You,” which starts off channeling ’80s pop but progresses to a smoky blues vibe in the chorus.
“I love all genres of music,” he said. “I have a huge blues influence, and I wanted to take that and put it into my own original stuff, too.”
The young artist, who has been playing guitar since the age of 9 before also picking up bass, keys and some drums, has musical chops that have earned him opportunities on big stages, starting with a solo performance at Byron Fest in 2016, gigs at Chicago Blues Fest in 2016 and 2017, and an invitation to audition for “American Idol.” He’s grown by listening to a wide variety of performers but especially loves studying his heroes, most notably John Mayer.
“I like to dive deep into their influences and backstories,” he said. “Mayer really developed over the years from an acoustic singer-songwriter to having blues influences and also touching on that vintage ’80s vibe. Seeing that has widened my eyes to opening myself to all these genres.”
Pretty insightful for someone who has been intensely focused on writing his own songs since he was 11.
“I know not everything’s going to be great,” he said. “Sometimes you get something you really like, and sometimes you know you gotta keep writing.”
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You can see Adem when he performs at the Rockford City Market (Friday, July 26, at 6 p.m.), Bite Nite Rockford (Saturday, July 27, at 4 p.m.) and the Homegrown Arts & Music Festival (Sunday, July 28, at 6 p.m.).