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Interviews

Interview: Adron talks “Water Music”, the best birthday present, and songs that slay

By: Jessica Nakamoto –

Adron. (Photo: Charles Mitchell)

Adron. (Photo: Charles Mitchell)

Adron is undisputedly the queen of musical multitasking. When this self-taught vocalist and nylon string guitarist isn’t blending genres like Tropicalia and soul-pop or harmonizing in three different languages, fans might find her whistling to the beat of her own drum so to speak, courtesy of a special tooth that may or may not provide her with self-proclaimed “mythical” whistling powers!

Adron’s many talents haven’t gone unnoticed and this rising star has already compiled an impressive resume including collaborations with artists such as Perfuse 73 and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier. Adron has also made waves with guest performances alongside music icon, Donald Fagan of Steely Dan, who personally requested her as an opener for three of his shows.

Amidst all this hustle and bustle Adron has nonetheless carved out time to put forward an offering that’s guaranteed to please her growing ranks of fans. With her second album, Water Music, set for release on August 17th, Adron was happy to share some laughs and fun inside scoops on new music, the best birthday present ever, and songs she believes really slay!

I really enjoy the oceanic theme that runs throughout the record. It seems to give it a really light and fun feel!

Adrienne: Yeah! That’s definitely important! There’s a lot that’s going on with the aquatic theme. For me, it encompasses a lot of different emotional tones because, on the one hand, I love being near the ocean and the feeling of freedom, expansiveness and the vitality that comes with that. But also, when I was writing these songs, there was a time where I became sort of pathologically obsessed with aquariums and the idea of owning several of them! (laughs) So I didstart acquiring aquariums! It was this very sudden and irrational obsession that took over! (laughs) And then, after I had a couple [aquariums] up and running in my house, I started to have dreams every other night where bad things would happen to my aquariums!

Oh no!

Adrienne: Yeah! Like fish would be missing, or fish would be there that weren’t supposed to be there, and they were eating everybody! Or the whole thing would topple over! So, bizarrely, this obsession became a symbol in my dream world of anxiety or something else! I have a lot of theories as to what was going on psychologically with that! (laughs)

There are songs on the record that address different emotional sides of the whole water obsession that I went through! It felt important for me to keep poking away at that theme and that idea because I feel like my heart is always going there.

Did you do a lot of song writing at aquariums themselves or near the ocean?

Adrienne: Well, living in Georgia, I’m kind of landlocked, but I had a thirty-gallon aquarium in my living room that I would stare at and write songs quite often! (laughs) A couple of the songs on the record happened that way! But, I’m always dreaming of the ocean and seizing opportunities to go there. I’m actually just about ready to move to Los Angeles! One of the main things that I’m excited about is being near the ocean!

You’re going to love it! Being from San Diego myself, I really like heading down to the beach, The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach or Scripps Aquarium in San Diego. Beautiful places!

Adrienne: I can’t wait to explore some of that!

For sure! So, just a couple days ago, you released a single off of Water Music called “Be Like the Sea” and described it as the “true nucleus” of the album. Was this song an anchor for the record right from the beginning?

Adrienne: Yeah kinda! I don’t know if that was the first song that I wrote of the whole batch that became the album, but it was near the beginning. I felt like, “oh shit! This is a pop song! It’s gonna slayyyyy!” (laughs) And once we got in the studio, I knew it was!

It definitely does!

Adrienne: Yeah! It just feels like the centerpiece of this upper-table if you will! (laughs) It kind of captures the whole spirit of the entire album for me!

Besides the ocean, were there any other lyrical themes that you wanted to focus on with this record?

Adrienne: There’s one thing that I can say but I probably shouldn’t because my Mom might read it! (laughs) There’s songs [on the album] about the ocean and there’s songs almost not about anything at all, just happiness and a vibe. But, there’s also some of me obliquely writing about love and a relationship I was in through most of that period. I was trying to look at that, write songs about the subject in new ways, and explore the nooks and crannies of relationship feelings in a way that don’t get put into song very often.

There’s a song called “Waves” that’s very personal to me. It’s about the fluctuation of being in a relationship that you’re not sure you can stay in and the guilt of that. Also, a similar thought process, but with a totally different musical vibe, is the song, “Danger Incoming”, where I’m secretly dreaming of being somewhere else when I’m with my person. So, there are little shadows here and there on the record of things that I was going through at the time and trying to express without getting too heavy or too on the nose about it.

You mentioned “Danger Incoming”. When I listened to that song I noticed your signature whistling!

Adrienne: Oh yeah! It’s pretty clear on that one! I’m kind of a champion whistler! (laughs) I’m not going to lie, I’m kind of encouraging a little mythology that my broken front tooth gives me magical whistling powers! (Jokes) It may or may not be true!

No! It’s definitely true! (laughs) Your whistling is amazing!

Adrienne: (laughs) Thank you so much! I’ve been invited to have my tooth cosmetically fixed by dentists and stuff, but I feel like I can’t! (jokes) I might lose my powers!

Oh also! While there’s whistling on that track [Danger Incoming], there’s another bonus track that’s going to come out maybe a little later, after the album release! The bonus song is actually the title track, “Water Music”! I know it’s weird of me to have the title track not be on the record, but I don’t care! (laughs) But, that has some pretty out of control whistling on it too! I try not to trot out that parlor trick too often because I don’t want it to be all everyone talks about, but it’s in there! There’s also little bird sounds! That’s me as well!

Adron - Water Music

That’s incredible! What originally inspired you to incorporate that into your songs?

Adrienne: I’ve kind of been doing it from the beginning! People ask me, “how did you learn how to whistle like that?” and honestly, I have no idea! I’m just a person who’s habitually emitting sounds like singing in the shower, doing voices in the car, and just being a goofball weirdo all the time! (laughs) So, I have quite a few funky parlor tricks that are either vocal or sound effects! But I’ve always been whistling! My aspiration is to sound like one of those beautiful Grandpas on a front porch with that rich vibrato whistle! (laughs) They’ve been doing it for decades! It’s my dream to be that good! (laughs)

I love that! So, for fans listening to the album, one thing, besides the amazing whistling, that I think will really stand out is the variety of genres you blend with your music. As someone with some classical training, what inspired to you to move from a traditional-like style to a more Tropicalia pop-soul kind of music?

Adrienne: Well, I was only classically trained on the piano, and I don’t really play piano anymore. Everything else I have no training in. I never went to music school or had lessons. I’m a self-taught guitarist and vocalist, so I don’t really consider myself classically trained. I do have super eclectic taste in music though! I’m kind of an audio file person! I got into Brazilian music in my teens and I had just been learning guitar for a couple of years when I discovered that music. It completely flipped the story for me and has everything to do with how I play the guitar now! So, at that time in my life, my mid-teens, I was completely obsessed with Tropicalia, Samba, and stuff like that. Also, The Beatles!

In my twenty’s, I started to discover a lot of soul music from the seventies and that became really important to me. I stated to pay a lot more attention to the groove and rhythm section. It also helped a lot working with some really talented musicians in Atlanta. That taught me a lot! Most of all though, playing with a genius drummer for the last seven years and having a really close working relationship with him has totally changed my ears and expanded my vocabulary! So, I’m really in love with the whole mid-seventies studio recording culture in America! Pretty much everything that Steve Gadd [drummer] ever played on in the seventies and albums like Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell. They sound crystal clear and gorgeous! (laughs) They’re ambitiously arranged but everything has a right to be there. Everything serves the song and is thoughtful and deliberate. All the sounds are just delicious and the rhythm tracks are just funky as hell! (laughs) That’s where my ears have been at for a long time.

And now, past Water Music, with the stuff that I’m writing now, I’m getting more interested in excruciatingly cornball stuff! (laughs) From late-seventies to early-eighties, like Michael McDonald or Michael Franks. I’m kind of obsessed with an elevator fusion sound! It’s pretty fricken cheesy! (laughs) So, I hope to someday grow the “cojones” to really go there! (laughs) But I’ll have to get pretty brave! But we’ll see!

(laughs) I’m sure you’ll conquer it! You mentioned a few pretty big names there, but you’ve actually had the opportunity to share a stage with some legends yourself! Donald Fagan of Steely Dan even personally asked you to open for a couple of his shows! That’s incredible!

Adrienne: Yeah! That was the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me! (laughs) It completely blew my mind! I came up on the gig opening for him in Atlanta almost on a total fluke. I got the call on the morning of my birthday! My friend from another band that was supposed to play called me and was like, “hey, do you want to open for Donald Fagan?” and I was like, is this April Fools but on my birthday?! But he said no and I started screaming! (laughs)

So that worked out! But I had almost no time to prepare. I scrambled to get my band together. We were able to play as a full band, and after the show I just kind of elbowed my way into Donald Fagan’s private chamber. He doesn’t even hang out with his backing band! (jokes) He’s such a weirdo! (laughs) A very private person I think. But, he was incredibly cordial and welcoming when I was in there and shared some really kind compliments. He invited me to accompany them for as much of the rest of the tour that they could fit me on! It ended up only being three shows but the idea was like, “yup! Come and play as much as you can with us! We like what you’re doing!” and that absolutely blew my mind! Completely exploded my brain into a million pieces!

Those next couple of shows, I just played solo. It’s like this little hipster from Atlanta who’s hardly anybody is on this fancy concert stage with chandeliers! Crazy! (laughs)

One of my proudest moments of all time was actually at the Nashville show! I have this special technique for conquering stage fright! Before I go on, I’ll just make fart noises with my hands like the classic ten-year-old thing to do! (laughs) It’s not only like a medicative breathing thing, but it’s really silly! If I’m going to be able to handle myself on stage, I have to stop tying to be dignified and cool. That’s incompatible for me! So, when I got on stage, I was in a funny kind of mood! I told the audience about my special trick and made fart noises into the microphone! They loved it! Absolutely ate it up! So, I felt pretty strong in that moment! (laughs)

(Jokes) I’m sure that was the best show of the entire tour right there!

Adrienne: Mmmhmm! Pretty much! (laughs) Probably the best show of my entire career! (jokes) It’s all downhill from here!

(Laughs) After that really amazing experience, when you write songs in the studio now, do you think about the live potential of songs even more, or do you prefer in-the-moment kind of writing?

Adrienne: I do think about presentation in a live setting now! And actually, often what that translates to, is I’m trying to write songs nowadays that work as a solo performance or as a full-band arrangement. So, I’m trying to write them [songs] in a very comprehensive way. It’s a little hard to explain, but I’m trying to write guitar parts that tell enough of a story where it’s still a really compelling performance if it’s just me by myself. But there’s also room for a band to flush it [a song] out. That’s a really interesting place for me to go and I think it’s making me a little bit more mature and more thoughtful.

It’s very unpredictable who I’m going to be able to bring in my band for any given show and I don’t ever want to have to turn down an opportunity. I want to be able to perform in any context, so, the songs themselves are becoming more flexible to that end.

I see! Earlier, you mentioned the importance of guitar pieces as well as being a self-taught guitarist. This made me think about your use of a nylon versus a steel string. What made you pick this route?

Adrienne: That was almost like how the chips fell for me! My first guitar was a hand-me-down from my brother and it happened to be nylon string. And then, when I got into Samba, that’s what the Brazilian players used! I think I gravitated towards that because I already knew that texture. I just started learning that style of playing and it all clicked together perfectly for me! And now, I hate playing on a steel string! (laughs) My fingers aren’t calloused enough for that! Nylon strings are a bit more forgiving. But, I also prefer the really fat wide neck of a nylon string guitar. I feel really claustrophobic on a steel string neck! (Jokes) So, I’m kind of a weirdo I guess!

(Jokes) You can blame that part on your brother though!

Adrienne: Yeah! (laughs) Or thank him for it!

Does he still play guitar?

Adrienne: Well, he’s left handed so that’s a fun challenge for him! He played electric guitar for a while in high school and then put it down. And then, I think he’d just gotten himself a steel string acoustic guitar just to mess around on. But, he’s more of a visual artist and a brilliant illustrator. He works for the New York Times!

How cool!

Adrienne: Yep! He’s a badass and my favorite person in the world!

Speaking about art, I noticed that with your PledgeMusic campaign, you’ve sold, and are still selling some of your original artwork! Does this additional creative outlet help inspire your music at all?

Adrienne: Oooo, nahhhh! (laughs) It’s kind of separate. I don’t really draw or do much visual art anymore. I went through a thing a couple years ago where I sort of allowed myself to let go of some things. For instance, I gave away or sold all of my paintings because I finally admitted to myself that I hated painting! (laughs) And that felt so good that I was like screw this! I’m never going to paint! I don’t like it! (laughs) Lately, I’ve drawn some stuff that I like, and I’m good at drawing, but I don’t think I’ve ever made any particularly compelling statement with visual art. I’m ok with that because the best way of expressing myself is musical and I’m ready to lean into that!

Adron

Looking a little bit further into the future, after Water Music is released, I saw you have a show scheduled for August 23 in Atlanta Georgia!

Adrienne: Correct!

Any plans for a tour to accompany the new record that you could tell me about?

Adrienne: I’m working on a tour right now for October! As soon as the album comes out and the release show [Aug 23] happens, that’s going to be the last great big push for me. Like giving birth to his project! (laughs) I’m also moving to Los Angeles sometime the first week of September, so it’s like bam! Get it out and then I’m out of town! The move is going to be totally crazy! (laughs) I’ll get settled for a little bit then come back to Atlanta to start the tour. It’s actually looking like I’ll do the tour solo, which is interesting because looking at a lot of the songs on the new record don’t really work as solo performances. But, I’ve been thinking of ways to embellish them! I’ve been playing with building some digital loops on Logicand creating drum patterns like that. They’re fun to play with! I especially like all these vintage drum machine samples that synthesizer geeks will probably know about! It has a very cute sound! (laughs) So, I’ve been playing around with stuff like that for this tour, but it’ll just be me trucking around by myself! The tour will be mostly a mid-western route and maybe New York!

Are you familiar with the artist, KT Tunstall? She does a lot of looped and recorded backing vocals when playing live! Neat stuff!

Adrienne: Oh! Through a loop petal?

Yep!

Adrienne: That’s cool! I’ve seen people work with those in really fascinating ways! I don’t have that technology, but it would be really badass to play around with that someday when I get the opportunity! The artists who do that, I’m always amazed at their coordination! (laughs) I’ll keep her [Tunstall] in mind!

Awesome! So, to finish things up, I usually end with a couple fill in the sentences. Want to give it a go?

Adrienne: Sure!

My favorite summer snack is…

Adrienne: Raw papaya and cottage cheese! It’s really good!

If I could share a stage with anyone, past or present, it would be…

Adrienne: Caetano Veloso. He’s my hero! Veloso’s theBrazilian pop-song writer of the twentieth century and started in the sixties as one of the founders of Tropicalia! He’s still touring and still sounds like a freaking angel! (laughs) He’s one of my biggest influences as far as songwriting goes after maybe after Paul McCartney!

Between a day at the pool or a day at the ocean I would pick…

Adrienne: A day at the ocean! (jokes) Duh, it’s the real thing!

(Laughs) I had a feeling you’d go for that one!

Last one! One thing from my bucket list is…

Adrienne: Besides share a stage with Caetano Veloso, touring Europe and Brazil! That’s kind of it! (laughs) If I were to do that I would feel like I’ve made it!

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