An Interview With Adeline
Adeline is the former singer of celebrated Brooklyn disco band Escort, who released her self-titled debut in late 2018. The album represents an evolution in her sound, incorporating elements of disco, soul, r&b, and house music in an exciting musical melange that feels both classic and very au courant. Cell Vision co-founder Mattie Safer sat for a conversation with Adeline at her Brooklyn home.
Photography by Ilya Knight
Creative Direction and Styling by Claudia Lake
CELL VISION: First of all, We've been listening to your record a lot. We really love it.
ADELINE: Thank you so much.
CELL VISION: Did you have an idea of what you wanted to accomplish when you started making it?
ADELINE: Yeah, but actually the main idea for me, and that’s why I finally accomplished it this time, the way I did, my mantra, and what I was mostly focused on was to let the music come out without self judgement, and just kind of really be able to achieve creating fearlessly, which is so hard, and just making the music for myself, and just makes something that feels right to me, and not for other people, because that’s what I did for so long, and that’s what I finally understood about making music this time.
CELL VISION: So you didn’t go into it having in mind ‘I want to make this kind of record, or I want to make this kind of statement?
ADELINE: Well, there was a lot, and now, looking back on it, it becomes more and more clear what I was trying to do and what I had in mind. There was just a lot I needed to express musically, and personally, politically a little bit as well. And that’s why it sort of was the perfect timing for this record to come to life.
CELL VISION: Is that a place where, making a record on your own versus making a record in the context of a group… did that play into that?
ADELINE: Yeah, it was totally different. I was flirting with the idea of doing something solo for a long time, mainly because a lot of my friends were encouraging me to do it, but I was very dedicated to my band, and I just want to do something that's 100%. And then it just became the right time for me to do something solo, and yes, it was a completely different process. I’m actually not involved in ALL of the musical process in Escort, I mean I was for the last record a lot more, but this was really just my way of doing it.
CELL VISION: This was you getting your chance of “this is how I would do it, if I got to make all the decisions…”
ADELINE: Yeah. And I DID make all the decisions, which is great and scary at the same time, there’s good and bad.
CELL VISION: But you are still doing Escort?
ADELINE: No, it’s actually official now, I am no longer in the band. They got one of the girls who was singing backups, Nikki, who is amazing, to take the lead. But I wrote most of the new album, I just will not be promoting it.
CELL VISION: How does that feel?
ADELINE: It feels great. It just feels good to make a really important and frightening decision and be able to live through it and be ok with it. It’s just a big moment in life in general, just leaving something. It’s never easy, but I firmly believe that you have to leave something to get something else, and I just felt like I had to do that in order to focus on my solo career.
CELL VISION: Yeah. So when you started writing this record, were you writing it by yourself?
ADELINE: Some of the songs I wrote 6 years ago. For years I was just looking for the right people to collaborate with, and besides Escort I had never found anyone that I could really make music with, so a few years ago I was like “I’m just gonna do it myself.” So I just started teaching myself, learning from other people, the same way that I got started with bass pretty much. And I just started getting better and better. So I have songs that are done from that time, but for the majority of the album it’s a collaborative effort between myself and [Midnight Magic co-founder/producer] Morgan Wiley, and we just did it all, just the two of us. He is the easiest person to work with. I’ve never gotten along with someone so well making music. Musically we’re very compatible because he brings the harmony, and keyboard sounds, and I bring the bass lines and the vocal melodies
CELL VISION: When did you start playing bass?
ADELINE: After I moved to New York. It was a fortunate accident, one of those serendipitous moments that change your life. I was in a band before Escort, myself and two really talented guys who both rapped, sang and played instruments. We had a show that was incorporating a larger band, so I hired a drummer and a bass player, and the bass player cancelled at the last minute, the day of the rehearsal and the guys were like “Hey Adeline, you play guitar, why don’t you just play bass?” And that’s how I started playing bass.
CELL VISION: What is your approach to writing lyrics?
ADELINE: I definitely start with the melody first, and it just depends on where I am in the world that day, you know, and what is going on… For the album in particular, it was right after the elections, politically there was a lot going on, and I had never really written from a political standpoint. Something that I love to do is to write about songs that are a little bit deeper or more complex than a love song, but hiding it behind a love song, because it’s a lot more approachable and I don’t want to force my opinions on people. Music’s supposed to feel good and it’s very hard to do it so well, you know, I’m not James Brown or Marvin Gaye, I can’t write a song like “What’s Going On” I’m leaving that to the geniuses! (laughs). So for the album, I was definitely angry with the world and, you know, being a black woman immigrant in the United States I just couldn’t help but talk about that mainly.
CELL VISION: Who are your musical heroes?
ADELINE: Well actually, my musical heroes now are different from when I was growing up.
CELL VISION: Ok, so tell us both.
ADELINE: Oh yes I will, gladly, and I think it all has to do with the evolution of an artist. It’s a good thing to just go through different phases and try different genres. My first hero, when I was little, was Mariah Carey, cuz I was little when “Hero” came out, and she kind of looked like me, and she sang high pitched, and I loved all the divas. Mariah! Celine Dion... and Whitney Houston were just like…
CELL VISION: Just to interject, I like how you get those whistle tones, but you just kind of put them in the distance, as a texture, not as a show off thing…
ADELINE: Yeah, because I grew out of the Mariah thing so much, um, but it’s still there you know? You take from every artist. So yes, there were the divas growing up, and then, as I grew a little around my teenage years I got into a neo-soul phase and loved Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, and D’Angelo, and that was my thing and I had a heavy ‘90s R&B phase, I loved SWV and I was a HUGE Toni Braxton fan. And then as I started developing more of a knowledge and I started doing my homework and studying, I just completely fell into a ‘60s Motown soul music, and um… Everything changed for me when I dug into Prince and Chaka Khan. My musical heroes are Prince and Chaka Khan. Discovering Chaka and Aretha Franklin, I felt like they taught me so much vocally, where I grew out of the teenage Mariah years, and it just felt like such an awakening moment for me to just sing along to these records, it just felt so natural. It taught me to embrace myself, because I have a really high voice and high pitch and I was always afraid it would be too annoying and just seeing how Chaka would go for it so fearlessly, it really opened up a whole world for me and helped me accept my voice.
CELL VISION: You recently finished a residency in Brooklyn, played in Japan, and played at Red Rocks. How were those experiences for you?
ADELINE: I think that May 2019 will remain in my memory as an important pivotal month in my solo career. Getting to play Tokyo and Red Rocks was a dream come true. Being able to play such magical cities and venues is a confirmation that I’m on the right path. But the most important thing that I got from this whole experience is how much you my band evolved from it. After 4 shows in Brooklyn, 6 shows in Tokyo, LA, Red Rocks... we have gotten really tight. I feel like I have reached a vision that I had in the terms of how I wanted my band to sound. There is no secret, the only way for a band to get better is to play, and we did just that for a month. We are ready to hit any stage anywhere any time with confidence. As a musician that is something very important to me and that in itself is a dream come true.
CELL VISION: What can you tell us about your new single “When I’m Alone”?
ADELINE: “When I’m Alone” is my homage to disco. It’s a tribute to my heroes of the era, Sylvester, Linda Clifford, Chic, and Candy Staton. Morgan and I wrote the song in 3 hrs. After the many years we spent respectively in disco bands, it’s as if the song had been sleeping in us for years and was ready rise
CELL VISION: What is next for you?
ADELINE:A New York show at Industry City on Aug 9th. New music out by the end of the year for sure.
CELL VISION: Where are you from, by the way?
ADELINE: I’m from Paris.
CELL VISION: And how long have you been living in New York for?
ADELINE: 14 years.
CELL VISION: What made you move here?
ADELINE: Music. Goals. Yeah...
CELL VISION: Anything in particular or just like a dream of what New York was?
ADELINE: It wasn’t really New York in particular that I was dreaming about, but I know that I was looking for myself as an artist, I was looking for my sound, I wanted to get better, I was looking for myself as an artist really I knew that here I could just express myself freely and I wanted to go where people were like gonna kick my ass. So I got my ass kicked and then I got better. And then I found myself.
CELL VISION: Had you been to NY before you moved here?
ADELINE:: No. No, never.
CELL VISION: That’s brave.
ADELINE: Yeah, immigrant stuff. That’s what we do, we have dreams and... (shouts) Don’t kick us out! (laughter) Yeah, um, don’t hate immigrants. I’m gonna get really angry now, but yeah, it’s great to be able to go somewhere and find yourself, because we don’t all feel like we belong to where we came from. We don’t, and that’s the truth, and that’s just how the world is. We’re not attached to a place necessarily, and it’s amazing, the possibility of choosing where you wanna live and who you wanna be around, and what language you want to speak, This is my third language I’m speaking to you right now, but I learned it out of choice, I love speaking English, I love languages, it’s just... I’m out here repping for immigrants right now, which is not the point of this interview but--
CELL VISION: The point of this interview is whatever you want it to be.
ADELINE: (Laughs) Yeah, but its... [pauses] It worked. If I had not come here... I can’t even imagine what I would be like if I hadn’t come to NY.
Adeline has a brand new single out now on Razor-N-Tape called "When I'm Alone". Listen to it below and find tour dates on her website, adelineofficial.com