Adele Adkins, known to many simply as Adele, is not yet 20 but already the British singer-songwriter is getting comparisons to Amy Winehouse, just minus the paparazzi, drug busts and continual controversies.
"It's a bit confusing and quite overwhelming," Atkins says from a London cab. "But to be honest all of the people around me -- like my friends, my mum, my band -- I've known forever. If I even tried to be a diva or get carried away with myself I'd be put back in place."
In mere months, the musician, playing a sold-out show next Wednesday at the Rivoli, has gone from virtual unknown to ending up on several lists of artists to watch for in 2008. Her debut album 19, which could do for her what 1999's On How Life Is did for Macy Gray, went to No. 1 on the British charts and cracked the top 20 in Canada in its first week.
Adele, who had only three songs when she signed her record deal in October of 2006, had a span of eight or nine months where she wrote nothing for 19.
"I write songs I can relate to and I didn't want to write a song about something I made up or something about someone else's problems or situations. It was difficult admitting things to myself that I didn't really want to but I had to so I could write an honest record."
19 will strike many as a very soulful, soothing album from top to bottom, highlighted by the single Chasing Pavements Adele wrote following a "full-blown" fight with an ex-boyfriend. Other standouts include the Patsy Cline-ish Crazy For You and the groovy Best For Last.
The record also contains the leadoff track Daydreamer. Based on a beau Adele had, it reads as your typical love song: girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy but boy likes both girls and boys, resulting in boy running off with another boy.
"I had no problem with him being bisexual, but I can't fight off girls and boys and I get jealous enough as it is," she says. "It's about everything I was hoping he'd be and we'd be but he would never be and we would never be. So it's me daydreaming about him."
Although Adele wrote all but one of the songs, she's especially proud of how her cover of Bob Dylan's Make You Feel My Love turned out, a last-minute addition to the record. Her manager turned her onto the song after constantly praising it.
"I never really wanted to do a cover because I never felt that I could do other people's songs' justice," she says. "He played it to me and I was like, 'All right, it sounds nice but I can't understand the lyrics.' I got the lyrics and listened to the song again and they were some of the most beautiful lyrics that I ever heard or sung. For me it sums up everything that I've been trying to write in my lyrics."
The one thing she won't be doing though is starting up a "super group" with fellow British singers Kate Nash, Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse as reported in some magazines. This despite the fact all attended the same London performing arts high school.
"That was so out of context, completely out of context," Adele says. "Journalists always try to make it out that we're rivals. I said we're not rivals and in fact I'd bet we'd be the best girl group ever and it got blown out of proportion. I like all of them and we're not rivals."
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MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008