Friends celebrate songs and spirit of artist Adam Van Wielingen with posthumous album release

Far too often we talk the art before the artist. Or rather we put the work before the individual.

While that’s sometimes necessary, in the case of Adam Van Wielingen it helps to understand who he was as a man in order to fully appreciate what he left us with.

Earlier this year, the Calgary musician passed away in his sleep unexpectedly at the age of 34, with family, friends and the arts community reeling at the loss.

But, more importantly, wanting to make sure his memory endured — both as the man and the artist.

“He was a wonderful connector,” says songwriter and collaborator Evan Freeman.

“He was a gentle, kind person. He had a way of bringing out the best in people creatively and personally … He had this real enabling, positive presence.”

Freeman had been acquaintances with Van Wielingen for a number of years, including when the latter was working in a recording studio down in L.A.

He returned home to Calgary, Freeman says, at something of “a personal low point.”

Gradually, he began working with other local artists and coming out of that funk, his studio becoming something of “a production hub.”

Van Wielingen also began working on his own music, with he and Freeman hanging out more, going for walks, just chatting about songwriting, eventually working together — Freeman supplying the drums — on what was to be Van Wielingen’s full-length debut, The Mountain.

The record was actually completed and had even been mastered, with May 12 set as the release date.

And then his tragic death.

But rather than see the completed record lost with the passing of its creator, his friends set about making certain it saw the light of day.

“When it was finished I thought, ‘This is an awesome album.’ But without him there to drive it, it could so easily get lost … it could just fall away into obscurity,” says Freeman.

“I felt like it deserved to get out there, it’s an album that really stands on its own merit. The added poignancy of it being his final artistic statement, his artistic legacy before he passed, it’s a pretty big deal.”

He continues. “I just wanted to see it get out there, get out into the world, hopefully connect with the right people, and find an audience, find some listeners.”

So those in the community decided to honour him by releasing the album during a celebration of his life for friends and family on May 12 at Studio Bell, where six tracks from The Mountain — a lush recording of honest, earnest and spiritually uplifting soft pop — were performed by a “rotating cast of about 15 friends.”

It was, Freeman says, “a faithful representation of the album and a fitting tribute.”

“It was incredibly emotional,” he says. “Music is so tied into emotion and memory and playing the songs — I mainly played drums during the concert — and I was just thinking about what an amazing experience it was to work with him to record the album, I was taken back to the sessions …

“A lot of memories, a lot of stuff came flooding back.”

So much so, that those who had spent three months rehearsing Van Wielingen’s music set about planning a more public release for The Mountain, wanting to share his art with a greater audience than those who already knew him, appreciated his gifts.

“It would be a bit of a loss to lose that momentum of getting this big group together for that joyful performance and then just having that one performance and that’s it,” Freeman explains.

That release is set for Thursday, Aug. 24 at Festival Hall. Proceeds from the event — as well as all album sales from all of the usual digital outlets —will go towards the AVW Stage at the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, which was a cause near and dear to Van Wielingen.

Freeman hopes that those who knew him will continue to spread the word beyond the release, perhaps incorporating some of the songs into their own sets, helping others discover his music, his gifts that were taken far too soon, far before they had given us a greater glimpse of who the man and artist really was.

“One of the biggest losses and the biggest source of sadness for me,” Freeman says, “was what could have been with Adam.”

Adam VW The Mountain CD Release takes place Thursday, Aug 24 at Festival Hall. For tickets please click here

Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at