Her mother named her Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, we know her simply as Adele, and now the world knows her as the recipient of the Best New Artist Grammy at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards. A product of a single-parent, working-class home in North London, Adele is the latest export from across the pond to make it big in the United States. Her debut album, 19, captured the attention of many and garnered praise from music lovers and critics alike. With a voice as rich as heavy cream and lyrics as poignant and heartfelt as words found in a love letter, Adele isn’t your typical Pop princess or R&B diva; although she counts acts like Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child amongst her influences. Clutch spoke to Adele right before this year’s Grammy Awards and she discussed her feelings about being nominated, let us know that she doesn’t like to define her music, gave some insight into her new record, cleared up any confusion about recording with fellow Brit Estelle, and made it known that she has no plans to be a one-hit wonder nor suffer a sophomore slump. We suspect that her Grammy wins for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance are her first of many Grammy Awards to come.
Clutch: Congratulations on your Grammy nominations!
Adele: Thank you very much.
Clutch: You’re welcome. When you first heard that you were nominated for four Grammy Awards, what were you thinking?
Adele: I couldn’t believe it. I locked myself in my toilet for like an hour and cried while my mum ran around the house screaming. It was very exciting; I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was told that I had a shot but it was a really long shot. Cause I only blew up after SNL, and before that it seemed like no one really knew of me. So yeah, it was a complete surprise.
Clutch: And regarding your Grammy nominations, you’ve previously been quoted as saying, “I don’t think on this record I should get one” and that you “think it should be with my second or third record.” Do you still feel that way or are you accepting that 19 is as wonderful as everyone else says that it is?
Adele: I’m slowly accepting that, but it’s a bit hard to get my head around that. I kind of still stick by what I said, but that quote was completely cut out of context. What I meant was that I hope I’m still worthy of a Grammy nomination on my third or fourth record. I didn’t mean for it to come across sounding ungrateful like how it did when it was printed. But of course, I would love to win a Grammy although I don’t need awards to feel good about myself. But, yes, I would love to have a Grammy and after I said that I kind of kicked myself a little bit. Because a lot of artists they never come close to beating their first album anyway because you have your whole life to write your first album and four months to write your second. So I stick by it a little bit, but in England they all turned against me when I said that, the media, but here everyone was saying that I was gracious and stuff. So I don’t really care what England says about that.
Clutch: Do you find that British press is not as forgiving as U.S. press when it comes to matters like that?
Adele: In England, a lot of people try to interrupt my private life and there’s a lot of tabloid stuff there. Not so much anymore, I stopped drinking and I’m in America a lot now, so there are not that many opportunities for people to kinda catch me doing things where I look like a dick head or something. Here the tabloids and gossip magazines haven’t really caught on to my personal life; they only talk about my music. So far the American press hasn’t been as vicious as the British press has been about me. But obviously I still think that American press can be, if you look at stuff they’ve said about Britney and stuff like that.
Clutch: I read somewhere that you describe your music as “Heartbroken Soul.” What exactly does that mean?
Adele: I said that in my first interview that I ever did, and it’s followed me everywhere. I just meant that it’s inspired by Soul music but I wasn’t trying to define myself as a Soul artist or anything. But I don’t really know what I meant by that, I said that 18 months ago, and it’s just followed me everywhere.
Clutch: If you were to describe your music, would you describe it differently or do you even think it needs to fit into a particular box?
Adele: I don’t think it needs to, no. I think it’s quite self-explanatory. And I think that lots of other people have different opinions on my music, which I think is really good so I’m just gonna (sic) let other people decide what kind of style they think I am. I think I’m very contemporary, but I get put into the retro box, which I don’t think is very true. I think my voice maybe has elements of it, but I think that my music side of it is really contemporary. Like I love Amy’s record, I love Duffy’s record, but I’m not too into reminiscing about the past of music. I’m more interested in taking bits of it and including it but trying to make something sounding a bit more new.
Clutch: You just mentioned your fellow British female blue-eyed Soul singers, Duffy and the infamous Amy Winehouse, and in any conversation about British Soul music, those three names come up a lot of times. Do you think that when people compare the three of you that those comparisons are fair or are journalists just being lazy?
Adele: Yeah, I think that it’s a little bit lazy, but I can see why. I don’t think we sound alike or nothing. I think it’s a shame that everywhere in the world they’re always gonna treat us like a gender or a genre, which I think is a bit pathetic. But I don’t mind, and I think they’re both amazing. I’m a huge fan of both of them and even if I wasn’t doing what I was doing, I would have still bought their albums. Here I still get compared to them a lot because I’m still brand new here, so I don’t really care. But in England we don’t really get compared to each other anymore because we all have at least one album under our belt and we’re quite established on our own. And the pieces that get written about us at home aren’t introductory pieces anymore–they’re more about what we’ve achieved. So we might get mentioned among each other but not compared to each other anymore. Whereas here it’s fine for that to still be going on because I’m still brand new, so I don’t mind.
Clutch: After the astounding success of your debut album, how are you approaching your second album?
Adele: I’m just trying to make the second record as believable as the first one. Trying to write about things that are normal rather than things that I’m doing cause what I’m doing now is the least normal thing ever. I’m trying to move on as an artist and develop my sound, get better as a guitar player and a bass player, and get to know my voice better. I’m really inspired by Alison Krauss at the moment. A lot of her ideas that she put into her music and the Raising Sand album are what I’m trying to include into my new ideas.
Clutch: Are you working with different songwriters and producers this time around?
Adele: At the moment, I’m writing the whole record on my own. I’m working with one producer. The first record was three different producers. This time I want the whole record to be produced by one person and have a lot more of a live feel. Like “Chasing Pavements” and “Tired” on the first record was me and a producer in a basement layering all the parts. But this one will be really organic and live. So I’m gonna rehearse for at least four months before I go anywhere near a studio. So, yes, I’m hoping to develop and get closer to finding my sound. Cause the first album was more just like a mashup of all the different music that I like. I hope for more of a defined sound for this record.
Clutch: Is it true that you’ll be working with fellow British Soul singer Estelle on some new music or was that just a rumor?
Adele: No, I don’t know where that came from. No, I’m not.
Clutch: OK, so that was just a rumor.
Clutch: Would you like to work with Estelle at some point?
Adele: I’d do a collaboration with her–maybe like a live collaboration. I wouldn’t do a track with her, but I’d do a live thing with her. Yeah. She’d be really fun live. She always wears amazing dresses as well.
Clutch: Speaking of style and fashion, you’re a fuller figured young lady. Did you encounter any pressure from your label to fit into a certain image when you were first coming out?
Adele: No, nothing like that. In England I’m signed to an indie label so they obviously weren’t tough and I’m on Columbia here. But no, I never have luckily.
Clutch: I don’t know if you recently heard, but an American DJ by the name of Mick Boogie did a mashup album, Adele: 1988. Have you had a chance to listen to the album?
Adele: I haven’t heard it. Apparently I approved it, but I’ve never heard it. I first found out about it when Perez [Hilton] posted it on his blog, and I tried to download it but it was a bad link and I couldn’t download it. So I haven’t heard it, no.
Clutch: Well take it from me, it sounds very good.
Adele: Oh, thank you. I like the idea of it, though, because ’88 was the year I was born, which is cool.
Clutch: Who can we find on your iPod?
Adele: On my iPod? My classic favorites like Etta James, Jill Scott, Ella Fitzgerald, Carole King, and Bruce Springsteen. New stuff I love MGMT, Duffy, Lily Allen, Santigold, Sam Sparro, and Katy Perry. I love Britney, love Whitney Houston, love Mariah, love Leona [Lewis]. Everything really.
Clutch: Your musical tastes sound very eclectic.
Adele: Yeah. I don’t really care what style it is as long as it’s a good song.
Clutch: Is the music that you grew up on as eclectic as your current tastes?
Adele: No, up until I was about 12 all I knew was the Top 10. Not in a snobby way, I just didn’t know how to find other music that wasn’t on the charts. When I was 11, Destiny’s Child went to number one with “Bills, Bills, Bills.” I fell in love with the album, and they were like my favorite group. Then it was a natural progression to get into Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation and Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans and stuff like that. And then it was my friend Alicia’s mum that got me into Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. She gave me all the 12-inches. And then Etta James I came across totally by accident because I loved her weave and her catty eyes. So not at all when I was younger, I was a complete Pop girl. I still am a Pop girl, I just love other types of music as well.
Clutch: So what do you do in your downtime when you’re away from music or is everything about music right now?
Adele: My heads always filled up with music stuff. But at home the record has been out for a year and the promotion has kinda stopped with it now. I’ve released five singles in England. So it’s two weeks at home, then two weeks in America. So when I’m at home I’m not really working. I just sit around and watch films, hang with my mates, watch TV, and get take out. Go for nice dinners, go to museums.
Clutch: So you just live a regular life.
Adele: Very regular life. I’m very boring when I’m not singing.