Q & A with ADELINE, Disco Singer Gone Funky

By Allisen Hae Ji Lichtenstein

Q: What is your writing process? Where does most of your writing take place?
A: The inspiration can come from anything—it’s really random sometimes. It usually comes from words. So if I hear a word that strikes me, or if I hear two words put together unexpectedly, I just generally write it down. And I have a long list of random notes on my phone that I always have access to when it’s time to write lyrics. So I just have a bank of subjects that I want to talk about.

The most challenging thing for when it comes to writing a song is finding what that song’s about. I’ll generally work on the melody first once the skeleton of the music is in. For the melody it’s a bit more introspective, I like to be in my own studio and home and it’s generally later in the evening when it’s a little darker at night and quieter, and the melody just kind of flows out. From the melody, very often, some words or sound come out. And I try to make sure that everything sounds good. So very often I try not compromise how the song or how the vowels sound in terms of lyrics. I’m a very intuitive writer, so I try to trust what comes out naturally and not try to fix too many things.

Q: Is there a backstory to your latest song “Emerald”?
A: For that one, it’s part of a body of several songs. Since this is a new project, and it’s me as a solo artist kind of for the first time, I’m writing from the approach that people are going to see me. What do I want them to know about me, and how do I want to be heard?

I think it has to do with our situation, the time and place and year, and what’s going on politically, socially, and the position of women. You know, everybody thinks their time is a special time, but I do think these last two years are a very special time in a good and bad way.

So basically for this song, I wanted to be a song that is very sultry and soft and sexy, but I didn’t want to write just a conventional love song. I wanted to have a deeper meaning behind it like love is not a deep enough subject [laughs]. Basically, the song is about loving someone for who they are not what they have. And it’s kinda of an anti-materialist chant. I just kinda still hear a lot of women who want to find a man who has money who can support them, and I think a big part of gender equality and equal pay is to let women know that they can push themselves to seek their own professional careers and professional success. And that comes with finding a partner too and how we approach love. And it’s basically about how you can’t buy my heart with gold, which is basically what the song says. So emerald is like an anti-title because I don’t need emeralds. Because the purity of the love itself is a jewel. And that’s all I need.

Q: What has helped you find your sound and style as a solo artist? Is this a departure from Escort?
A: With the years, and through performing with Escort, and everything that I learned, the challenge for me was to create a sound that was applicable to the way I perform on stage. And I learned so much working with Escort and performing with so many people, and I basically put all of my influences in the blender and my music is kind of a smoothie—a mix of all the things that define me as an artist and inspire me and things that I listen to.

So my new sound is a bit of a departure from Escort, especially “Emerald” in particular because it’s a lot slower, and a lot less in the disco world. I still have some disco sound, but for my own sound, it’s definitely more on the funk side. The way I like to describe my music is it’s all of the different versions of the different faces of funk music—a little bit slow, a little sultry. I want everything to feel funky, and it’s hard to explain what funk is and what funky is but because I’m a bass player it’s kind of where I live, and it’s just kind of that thing that no matter what the tempo you still make a face when you hear it (laughs) that’s how I describe it.

Q: How are some of your major influences on your solo project? 
A: I actually surprised myself with the influences on my solo project. With, for instance, Outkast, they’re one of my favorite hip-hop groups. A lot of my friends told me that “Emerald” sounds a little bit like an Outkast track, and it’s true. Outkast, for me, is one of the funkiest hip-hop groups. I’m highly influenced by Curtis Mayfield. And Chaka Khan and Prince are my dream godparents. I also tried to listen to some more modern stuff because I feel like we’re in a good time for music when there’s really a lot of good stuff out there that came out. I love Daniel Caesar. I love love Anderson .Paak.

I’ve been listening to Little Dragon for a long time too. I’ve been inspired by Little Dragon as a producer myself because they take so much freedom with their production, and they just kind of showed me a different way of approaching a beat or a drum pattern to still make it super groovy.

Q: What can we expect from you in the future? 
A: There are more singles coming. Maybe possibly an album by the end of this year. There’s another video that will be coming out in a few weeks. And we’re playing Afropunk in August. I’m really excited about this solo stuff. The goal is to start taking it on the road next year. I’d love to collaborate with some great artists like Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals.

You see experience Adeline's live performance at Elsewhere on July 24th @ Elsewhere's rooftop for free. RSVP here. She will also be performing at Afropunk August 25th.