You may recognise Michael Adamo as the photogenic husband of Insta mama and Entrepreneur Courtney Adamo, but it turns out this hands-on father of five is something of a modern-day Renaissance man. In celebration of Father’s Day, we deep-dive into Michael’s life as an Animator and Producer, his love of surfing and cooking, and how the travel bug took them on a gap year around the world to their ‘pocket of paradise’ in Byron Bay.
Father to five children, you also grew up in a family of seven! Was a larger family always on the cards for you?
Haha, good question! The truthful answer is no – at least, not by my reckoning. Having to babysit my little brothers and change diapers as a surly teen, put me off wanting a big family for a long time. Had you asked me at 30, I would have said I’m destined for two kids, but won’t make any firm decisions until I’m 40. I really have to credit Courtney, with her yearning to become a young mum and have a big brood, for rekindling my parenting desires and setting us on the very happy path toward a big family.
Raised in Nevada, you studied science for four years with a plan to enrol in medical school. What was the fork in the road that lead you to make the career switch to film and animation?
There were two epiphany moments that led me to animation. The first came during my senior year of university, sitting in an advanced biology course. I looked at my notebook, which had more doodles in it than notes, then around the classroom at my fellow science students – all super keen to get to medical school – and realised I just did not share their desire. I was good at science though, and unwilling to abandon four years of study, so I went looking for a mix of art and science. That led me to a summer course at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where I studied architecture. For six weeks we did the work that young architecture students do, but again realised that I lacked the passion for it my peers possessed.
However, I was invited out to an animation festival around this time and was bowled over by the unbridled creativity of the short films I saw. I told my advisor at Harvard as much and he said to me, ‘Why don’t you do that then?’
‘What, make cartoons?’ It had never occurred to me that people do that for a living. So I had to tell my proud parents, ‘You know that science degree and this summer in Cambridge, well, I’m not really into either. I want to make cartoons.’ Thankfully, I was accepted to New York University’s film school a year later, which made it feel that much more legitimate to them.
You’re the Executive Producer of Passion Pictures in Australia, can you tell us about any projects you’re currently working on?
Well, I’m not really allowed to talk about work we have in production, but a project I’m proud of from earlier this year was a short film called Joy & Heron, made for JD.com, a Chinese retailer. They wanted to tell a story about their brand mascot, a dog named Joy, so we put together a super-talented team and spent six months creating a heart-warming story. You can see it on the Passion Pictures website here.
You met your wife Courtney, the brains and beauty of @courtneyadamo and @babyccinokids, in LA where she was starting her career as journalist. Together you made the move to London where four of your five children were born. Flash forward to 2015, and your family sold up, packed up and ventured abroad for a gap year. It sounds idyllic and very bold!. What made you decide to travel for a year and was a relocation to Australia always the end game?
After 12 years in busy London, we were at a point where we started considering life in other places. Would we be happier living in the countryside? Would life be easier if we lived closer to family? How could we spend more time with our kids? Rather than making one big decision, and settling into a new city or new way of life, we thought we should sample a bit of it all – see what the world has to offer and go from there.
With our eldest, Easton, turning 10 and our youngest, Marlow, turning three, it felt like the right time for an adventure. The kids were at a point where time with their family was more important to them than time with their friends or social activities. We knew that would change in the coming years.
Of course some decisions were tough. We had to take our children out of a wonderful school and sell the house we had recently renovated. And I had to leave behind a career I’d spent more than 20 years building. It wasn’t easy to make these choices but I’m so happy we did!
A surprise note to Michael from wife Courtney @courtneyadamo
Image | Amelia Fullarton
As a working parent of five, you’ve no doubt had a lot of practise in trying to create balance between parenting, career and self-care. Can you share any advice for other fathers on how to juggle it all?
Well, it’s never an easy balancing act and everyone’s circumstances are different, but in addition to meeting the basics (food, clothing, shelter), I believe what our kids need most from parents is time. I was brought up to be ambitious and career-focussed – to succeed professionally was the ultimate goal – but that’s not where my head is now. At this point in my life, I am very happy to compromise pay, promotions and professional achievement for more time with my kids. In an ideal world, I’d be paid to be a full time parent, but no one has offered me that position yet.
Your website with Courtney Somewhere Slower, a travel journal of your ventures to date, lists an array of amazing destinations. When time permits, where’s next on the list?
The funny thing about being an avid traveller is that your list only gets longer with each passing year. I think we’d like to explore more of Asia, now that we live in this corner of the world. Places like Vietnam and Cambodia are interesting to us. And for sure we want to return to places we love like Sri Lanka.
Out of all places you’ve journeyed, which is the one that you yearn to return to most?
I think a piece of all of our hearts resides in Positano. We’ve been there so often and have come to know so many wonderful people there that we feel a connection to it like no other place. Really, the only downside to living in this part of the world now is the 20-something hours of travelling required to get back to Italy. We chose to forego a visit this year as travelling that far with a one-year-old is just too hard. We can’t wait to return next year!
Do any of the children get involved with ‘Where to next?’ discussions and have they caught the travel bug?
For sure. They are all avid travellers and have made their own emotional connections to the places we’ve been. There would be no shortage of suggestions if we put the question out to our dinner table.
What do you miss most about London, and what do you most appreciate about life in Byron Bay?
Obviously we miss our friends. We also miss the buzz that world capitals like London have as they continually reinvent themselves and are invigorated by newcomers from all over the world. I miss the ease of travel to Europe and the rest of the world that is possible from London.
In Byron, I appreciate the clean air, sea and beaches. I love the natural beauty of this place and all of the outdoor adventure its climate enables. I love the community here, the focus on families and doing things locally and better. Really, I find Byron to be a little pocket of paradise with an unparalleled quality of life.
We hear you are the chef at home, you must have some great recipes up your sleeve with so many mouths to feed. What’s always a crowd pleaser in the Adamo home, and what approach do you take to teaching the children good food habits?
I really enjoy cooking and getting the kids involved in it. Quin is an especially keen assistant and has made entire meals with only my instruction – no hands-on help. We always start with fresh ingredients, often bought at the Bangalow Farmer’s Market, so our kids get the connection between how food is grown, seasonal changes and what’s required to prepare a meal. Sometimes when I make a new dish, I like to do a ‘guess the ingredients’ quiz at the table to see if they can pick out all the flavours.
We are big fans of Italian food and Asian food, especially curries. We eat vegetarian at home, with an occasional seafood dinner, so we make lots of pasta recipes involving zucchini or pumpkin or eggplant. Our favourites come from The River Cafe in London or from friends in Positano. And for curries, we like to cook Sri Lankan food, having picked up an affinity for their cuisine while visiting, but we also love The Church Farm General Store curry pastes, and make a dish once a week with them.
We have to ask, is there a good cop/bad cop in your house?
Hmm, I’d say the good cop and bad cop change from day to day, situation by situation, but in general I am considered a ‘softie’ while Courtney is considered to be more strict. I like to think we balance each other out.
Today’s parents are navigating their way through an era of social media which they weren’t exposed to growing up. What’s your viewpoint on parenting in the digital age?
In our parenting, social media has had a mostly positive impact, keeping us connected to our families far away and introducing us to new people and places while travelling. Of course, we’ve experienced the negative side of it too, and like a lot of things in life – drinking, driving, voting, etc – I think it’s beneficial for kids to reach a certain age or maturity, and to have perspective, before using social media. I also don’t see a lot of benefit from kids spending time on screens. Thankfully our kids show little interest in devices, but when the older ones do I tell them childhood goes really quickly and they will have the rest of their lives to spend on a device should they choose. Now, go outside and play!
What has fatherhood taught you, and what are the moments that make you the most proud?
Fatherhood has given me a greater appreciation of time – how quickly it goes and how I should make the most of now. It has given me an appreciation of family and how important bringing up kids is to our societies and our future. And it has made me grateful for the incredibly fortunate life I have.
Image | Bridget Wood Photography
What do you admire most about each of your children & Courtney?
I could speak for days on this one but let me try to choose one quality about each of them. Obviously they are much more multi-faceted than this:
Easton: His ease with people and sociability
Quin: His sensitivity
Ivy: Her carefree approach to everything
Marlow: Her fearlessness
Wilkie: His cute little smile
Courtney: Her unwavering love for me and all my quirks. I still feel like I’m getting away with something.
We love to know what other people are up to in their daily life as a source of inspiration for ourselves. Can you humour us and answer the first thing that comes to mind for each of the below?
Currently I am:
Cooking: Spaghetti with Ginger & Tomato from The River Café Pasta & Ravioli cookbook
Drinking: Too much coffee (actually, I think that’s an impossibility)
Dreaming: About waves
Discussing: Every minute detail of our home renovation, from light switches to wall paint
Planning: What to grow in our new garden
Listening to: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, audiobook
Reading: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez.