True artists are constantly evolving, and often times, in unexpected ways. Singer-songwriter Chuck Adams first made waves penning songs for industry titans like Ludacris while signed to Jay-Z’s prestigious Roc Nation. Since then, it’s only been onwards and upwards for the excitingly unpredictable talent. These days, he’s seeking artistic gratification more than anything else.

“People repeat the things you say, and I don’t want to talk about bottles and models all day. I don’t want to be 80-years-old singing about that on stage,” he explains when addressing the lyrical shift he’s pursued. “I’m a fan of music. I don’t want to be stuck in one spot. I like country songs and R&B songs and rap songs, so let’s pull them together a little bit.” Adams is close with his family, and calls his father a mentor, Adams adds, “I want to sing stuff that my parents are proud of; that they can listen to and that I can bring home.” Speaking of home, Adams relocated to Nashville, Tennessee in 2014. He didn’t know a soul there before arriving, and was welcomed with preconceived notions. “I was being brought into sessions where people wanted me to be the edge. I was the “urban writer” in the room. I didn’t want to do that,” he explains. “I guess I’m fairly stubborn.”

Adams explores the racial tension in Nashville (and elsewhere) in his latest video, “Take Me As I Am.” An uplifting anthem about acceptance and the invalidity of prejudice, the song’s video shows Adams behind bars as a previous cellmate and young black man are judged carefully in the free world based on their appearance. Viewers are left with a feeling of injustice and contempt, two things people like those within the video face daily in the South.

It goes without saying that the town was a whole new world for Adams, who was born in Philadelphia and raised in Connecticut, where his mother worked as a school teacher and as an unpaid choir director for a church choir. And, in a strange turn of fate—again, nothing about Adams’ life feels particularly predictable—he began producing his own music while modeling in New York.

“It wasn’t for me, man. It was too…vain, you know? I’m usually with my shirt off, so I don’t mind that, but as a model, they take advantage of you. They have you posing in all these crazy ways, and I just wasn’t having that.” Still, the people he met helped land him some time in a studio, a step up from the music he was trying to make at home. “Before that, I was just kind of doing stuff with a karaoke machine and recording things over instrumentals.” It didn’t take long before Adams realized that this is what he wanted to spend his life doing, even if fame and fortune was far from promised. In fact, it was being relatively broke that helped Adams craft his sound; he didn’t have the coin to pay for producers or recording studios, and thus had no one to teach him anything but himself.

Money remains fairly unimportant for Adams, even to this day. “I’ve been young with a couple hundred thousand dollars in my bank account, and you feel like you have the world at that time. So I’ve felt that before and then I felt having negative $1,000 in my account. And from all those, I’ve been most at peace with a roof over my head, being able to go get my coffee when I want, being able to eat what I want. These are the things I value, I’ve noticed.” It might sound like a cliché, but it’s really just Adams living his newfound truth. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I’m broker than I’ve ever been.”

Whether it’s his goal or not, a successful career in music seems inevitable to someone with the talent, versatility, and drive that Adams has. A few years older than when he started, the artist feels more comfortable than ever. “When you’re younger, you’re nervous. But now, for me, it’s all excitement,” he confides about performing the new music. “The anxiety of the whole things hit you, but then you get on stage, sing the first note, and it all disappears.” Contrarily, it’s a safe bet that Adams won’t be disappearing anytime soon.