Some artists spend a lot of time and energy plotting a course that will lead them into the musical stratosphere. But that’s not the case for Adele. Her journey began with homework.
The 20-year-old British singer/songwriter, whose full name is Adele Adkins, told Pollstar singing was just something that she’d always done “in the shower, in the car, at dinner, wherever I could.”
Her mother began to get stars in her eyes when “Pop Star,” the U.K. predecessor to “American Idol,” went on the air. Adele, however, wasn’t convinced an audition was a good idea.
“You know you get these parents and they’re like, ‘She’s the next Whitney’ and then she sings and it’s awful,” Adele explained. “So I applied to the BRIT School to try and do something more with myself than just go to school.”
The BRIT School is a state-funded arts and technology facility in London that has recently spawned a number of successful singers including Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Kate Nash. And that’s where the homework comes in.
“Part of my course at the BRIT School was recording lessons,” Adele said. “I used to record demos in order to pass my course. I didn’t know what to do with them.”
So she gave the songs to a friend, whom she says “was like Mr. MySpace U.K.”
“He put them on MySpace without me knowing. I didn’t know that MySpace was that influential at the time. Then Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys were on there and it blew up.
“My mate was like, ‘I’ve got all of these people from record companies e-mailing. What should I say?’”
The singer started fielding offers but soon found herself overwhelmed.
“When I was getting inquiries, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to believe. I didn’t know if they were genuine. So when I went to go meet the people at XL, which ended up being my record company, they pointed me in the direction of Jonathan Dickins.”
It didn’t take September Management’s Dickins long to decide he wanted to work with the emerging performer.
“We had one meeting and I’ve managed her ever since,” Dickins told Pollstar. “It was the most simple, straight-forward thing I’ve ever done in my life really.”
Adele’s U.K. team became a family affair when she was introduced to Dickins’ sister Lucy.
“I met her completely separate from Jonathan and loved her and didn’t put two and two together,” the singer explained. “I went to him and said, ‘I’ve found this agent. Her name’s Lucy Dickins.’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s my sister.’”
William Morris Agency’s Kirk Sommer was also quickly sold.
“I heard her name in a few key places and tracked down some music online,” Sommer told Pollstar. “It was love at first listen. I got in touch with Jonathan and pursued it for several months. I stayed on it and the more I listened, the more eager I was to work with her.”
Adele’s debut, 19, reveals an artist unafraid to bare her feelings in song. Sommer said none of that is calculated, a fact reinforced by her live performances.
“It’s truly genuine,” he explained. “She’s an amazing vocalist and she has a magnetic personality. She’s larger than life on stage. She comes across as real – in the true sense of the word.”
The Mercury Prize-nominated album debuted at No. 1 in the U.K., but didn’t do as well in the States initially. Then an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” the same night as a certain vice-presidential candidate changed that. The episode was viewed by more than 17 million people.
“It’s a big deal anyway, SNL, but with Sarah Palin being on, it was ridiculous,” Adele said. “I mean, I’m an Obama supporter big-time, but I thought it was hilarious that I was even on the same planet as her.
“She wanted to come and meet me before the show, but I didn’t really want to. I couldn’t escape her after when she came to say hello. And you know what? She was really nice actually. When she wasn’t talking politics, she was really nice. She was just a really normal woman. She was like ‘Oh hi, how are you?’ normal, which was really weird. Me and my makeup artist were like, ‘What the fuck?’”
Now U.S. audiences are clamoring for the singer, who has a sold-out pair of treks scheduled here with a break in between to record her sophomore album.
“They’re more full-on, American audiences – in a good way,” she said. “They kind of get into it a lot more and get really, really emotional and carried away with themselves, but I love that. Just as enthusiastic as at home, which is always nice, going that far away from home.”
Adele said she’ll also welcome the time in the studio.
“There’s less pressure,” she explained. “I put myself under so much scrutiny when I get to play live, because people pay their money that they’ve earned and give you an hour of their time.
“I always get really frightened that I’m not going to deliver to people or that people aren’t going to be impressed with the set. So I get really, really stressed out when I’m on tour. Whereas in the studio, I can just turn up at midnight a bit tipsy and start singing.
“But I do love playing live. I love getting out there and seeing the people that are supporting me and enjoying what I do. You know, there’s not a better thing than that in the world.”