40 Days of Forecastle: An Interview With Adia Victoria
Forecastle artist Adia Victoria is no stranger to Louisville, having made several appearances in the city including a spot at WFPK Winter Wednesday last year. Here is an edited transcript of her in-studio session from November.
Beyond the Bloodhounds is a good record! We are big fans of it, and I would say you’re new to us and sort of new to everyone, there was no demo/EP or anything before this that I know of.
There was a small EP that I self-released last January called The Sea of Sand EP, and it just had a few initial mixes of three of the songs from the album. That was my first foray into the music world, so I am brand new to it and with most people I meet.
And this ended up on a major, right? You’re on Atlantic Records. Was it that EP that helped you get to that point?
Yeah, I think what happened more with the EP was the live show. I’ve been touring now for two years straight and one of their A&R execs came up to our show in Washington, DC. She saw us play and literally three weeks later I had the first draft of a contract offer.
That amazing! I’m sure you’re aware of how rare that happens with a brand new artist who’s just getting started out there. You know, people fight for that, and just to have that moment says so much, 1) about the strength of your songs and 2) what people have been saying when they see you live, because those reviews aren’t too bad.
I definitely feel very blessed. It’s been a crazy year, and my life has changed quite a bit. I think I’m still trying to piece it all together, and it’s definitely hard to get a perspective on it when you live in a van. Everything just took off at warp speed, and I’m fortunate enough to work with an incredible team of people who really believe in my vision as an artist.
How has that been for you since you took off so quickly? And for what it sounds like, unexpectedly. Has the transition been easy to this “life on the road” thing?
I’d say it’s more curious than easy or hard. It’s just a completely different lifestyle. I guess everyone has an idea of what it’ll be like until you actually do it. I think the coolest part is this hyper-familiarity that I have with my music now and my musicians that I work with. We’re so in sync with each other. I don’t think it would’ve happened any other way other than playing a show most every sing night. This album has taken me places I never thought that I would ever reach. I just got back from Reykjavik last week, and that’s insane to me! But I try to adjust. I finally get a few months to collect and kind of digest everything that’s happened to me in the last two years or so. I’m gonna go home and start working on the second album.
Well, I’m sure you got plenty to write about (laughs)
I got lots to talk about, lots of sound guys! (laughs)
That’s one of the things, because your album has a mood on it and a feeling, but a lot of it comes back to those lyrics. I read that you got your start more as a poet than a songwriter, is that right? Where did that knack come from? How did you pick up the talent of poetry?
I think it was something that I was born with. I’ve always been an avid reader. My grandmother put that into me as a child. She took me to the library, and I would spend all my free time there. I was rather shy as a kid. I didn’t really talk much. I was always involved in this inner world of my own making, and books were a huge part of that. So I guess it was a natural progression to go from reading words and stories to wanting to create your own story. That’s where I felt empowered as a little girl: Writing my life through these characters. Poetry was a part of that as well.
Did you find any kid of a challenge to put that in song form? Like, now you have a chorus and a hook — it just seems like with poetry you get more of a freeform than what would essentially be a pop song.
I guess with music I knew what I wanted to listen to. I knew what I thought sounded good, so that was my guide for music. When I began to play the guitar at 21, I was listening to a lot of blues, so that was my guideline for what I wanted to sound like and what I wanted these stories to be like. Then I also had Fiona Apple and Portishead. I like the mood of their music. That’s what I wanted to instill in mine, is the heavy moodiness.
Adia, you were talking about new music and everything, already getting writing on the next record, but, there’s was a new track that came out a few weeks ago called Backwards Blues, now that was for the 30 Days, 30 Songs that Dave Eggers was a part of. How did you get involved with that?
My label sent me and e-mail saying, “This is the project. Would you be interested?” At fist I was like, “Yuck! No! I don’t wanna sit and think about Trump and write a song. God no, I might turn orange!” (laughs) . But then I thought about it and just what I was feeling that it was inevitable, and there’s no getting away from him during the campaign. I woke up in the middle of the night. It was like 3:30, and I just felt compelled to write this song. “What am I feeling now? What have you seen? What’s going on?” I just recounted what it felt like driving around the country right now on tour, going through places like Iowa and Missouri and every single place I went was Trump Country. It was just a sea of Trump signs, and that’s kind of when I started thinking, “I think this might happen. I really think that he’s speaking to these people.” Then the song just came out of me.
When you’re out there like that and knowing that your crowd might be different politically-minded than you in these places and everything. It’s not like a lot of these songs on here or overtly political, but, there are plenty of it that speaks to certain sides, does that ever register to you when you’re singing that out there, and how it’s connecting?
Yeah. I’m always aware of who my audience is, but I really can’t allow that to shape what I do and what songs I do. We just got back from a festival in Dallas, and I gave a shout out to the people protesting on the streets right now and Black Lives Matter, and we lost half the people watching our show.
They just walked out?
Yeah, it was an outdoor festival and they shouted some things at me and just walked away. I was thinking, “Well, don’t forget to pick up one of my albums at the merch table.” (laughs) So yeah, it definitely runs over my mind, and I feel differently when I’m performing these songs like at home in the South than I do somewhere far away, because these songs are mostly about the south and my experiences growing up in the south. Sometimes it can feel like you’re telling someone or revealing a deep family secret when I’m performing in the South with people that have like experiences and know what you’re talking about.
And you talked about these lyrics kind of being your story. In a sense your diary, it’s an open book. This is what your diary says basically. Is putting it out there like that vulnerable?
It is vulnerable and foolhardy (laughs). Like a mentioned, I was so quiet as a kid and so inside of my own head where I think it may have isolated me. Thinking, “Maybe there’s no one else like me. Maybe I’m some sort of freak that feels this way.” But it wasn’t until I went out onto the road and started playing these songs for a predominately white crowd that I realized a lot of people feel this way. Which led me to believe that the human experience is very specific. We have all these things created by society that tell us how different we are and how disconnected we are, but inherently I feel that human being are very much connected to each other.