“I didn’t know how long it took to take a picture,” says 24-year-old singer/songwriter MadelineAdams of her recent first official photo shoot.
That's just as well: Adams has plenty on her plate these days, from booking her own shows in promotion of White Flag (her third LP, out March 10 via Orange Twin) to her side-job bartending in her hometown of Athens, Ga. The new album weaves together Adams' haunting voice with recent classic country influences and lyrics that rarely quaver in resignation, employing a full band culled from her friends in Athens' vibrant scene. Paste
snagged a few minutes on the phone with her to discuss the new music, what it was like being 15 years old in a Southern music mecca,
and the parallels between songwriting and sex.
Paste: How’s the reception [of the new album] been thus far?
Adams: The reception has been really positive. The first thing I did
was go on tour. I think I was in Lafayette, La., on the official
release date, and all of our shows were really great. People were
really supportive. And so I hear from Orange Twin that everything is
just real positive.
Paste: What’s the meaning of the album’s title, White Flag?
I think that I was just sort of done with being sad about quite a few
things, and it was just sort of a peace symbol for me in giving up
feeling sorry for myself.
Paste: That’s something a lot of people could probably learn from. So was it about letting go of things from your past?
Adams: Yeah, most definitely. Yeah, working out a lot of guilt.
Paste: What was the recording process for this album like?
Well, it took about a year. Boy, what year is it now? 2009? [Laughs] I
guess it was Summer of 2007 to 2008. But it was totally different. For
my past recordings, I usually sit down with a producer, and I play my
song, and then the producer and I accompany them on various
instruments. But this time, I recorded it mostly with a full band, so
the recording process was completely different. And it was fun. I would
say it’s more fun than I ever had recording.
Paste: How did you get to know the people supporting you in your backing band? Have you known them a long time?
I had been playing—with an exception to Claire and Page Campbell [of Hope For Agoldensummer], Matt Stoessel [of Lake City and The Ginger Envelope] and [Elephant Six's] John Fernandes and some friends who just came into the
studio for a day or two—I had been playing with the White Flag band for
about two years.
Paste: What does your touring
schedule in support of the album look like? I didn’t notice many dates
posted on your calendar yet.
Adams: I know! I’ve been so lazy
ever since I got back from tour. I’ve got to update that stuff. Let’s
see—in late April, I’ve got some Northeastern shows, beginning in
Indiana and going up to New York. Then May 1, [I'm] flying out to
France, playing for a little over a week in France, a little over a
week in the U.K. And then, come July, I’m planning on touring in the
Northeast. I’m looking to get a booking agent to help me out with that
because I’m dog tired, but that’s why I don’t have any dates up on the
site, because I book them myself. Northeast will be in July, and then
August, I’m hoping to book some West Coast dates.
Paste: Who is coming with you out on tour in the Spring and Summer?
I’m hoping to play in August with David Dondero on the West Coast. In
July, I’ll be on tour in the Northeast with The Ginger Envelope. And
I’m going to Europe with my good friends in Defiance, Ohio. This is
actually our fifth tour together. I love them so much. I always try to
travel with buddies.
Paste: Where have some of your favorite venues been on past tours?
I think my favorite club ever is the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette, La.
It’s a really cool Cajun club—and the Dragon’s Den in New Orleans.
Those are probably the two that impressed me the most. I hope to come
back probably this time next year.
Paste: What are they like on the inside?
Well, the Dragon’s Den is kind of lit by just one red light bulb, and
the band plays in the middle of the room, in a wrestling-ring kind of
thing made of wood. And it’s very small and intimate. And the Blue Moon
Saloon is so charming. It’s like a club out of a movie. You would think
it would be in Dirty Dancing or something. It’s too cool. It’s real old
and wood and charming in a Louisiana kind of way.
Paste: What’s the best environment for you for songwriting?
It’s so strange right now because when I was younger, writing songs
never seemed all that precious. Now that I kind of recognize when a
song is good or bad or when a real winner’s coming, it’s almost like an
orgasm: If you think about it too much, it just goes away. I think it
happens most often when I’m either on a walk or bored and driving, I’ll
sing to myself. I tour solo a lot, so I’m alone in the car for, like,
Paste: I read that you started your musical career when you were 15. How did you end up where you are now?
It was a pretty wild ride. You know, Athens is very encouraging for
music, especially the way the downtown was when I was 15. It’s changed
quite a bit. It was a real happening scene downtown, and I could see
how cool everybody was. And, being 15, I wanted to be cool, so I
started playing music. I went on my first tour about two years later
when I was 17, and I really didn’t stop after that. I was a punk
rocker, opening for anybody I could, playing in living rooms and under
bridges, anywhere I could. I did that for years, recorded a few albums
along the way, and I’m doing the same thing now.
Since you started working on music at such a young age, how did you
balance that aspect of your life with other things, like school?
School’s always been real difficult. I guess I’m a seventh-year
sophomore. I still go off and on. I don’t balance things as well as I’d
like to, but it’s real hard. Music is a full-time job, but you just
don’t get paid for it all the time. With that said, I’ve tried to quit
before. You can’t, really, if you love it. I’m looking at almost 10
years, and I’m sure I’ll be doing it for another 10.