CONSIDERING the accolades already bestowed upon 19-year-old singer Adele Adkins, it’s remarkable she’s so relaxed.
Just before Christmas, the BBC’s annual poll of industry experts put the London lass at the top of the pile of those most likely to succeed in 2008. Last year, Mika achieved the same feat, and look where he is now, while The Bravery and Corinne Bailey Rae were the most heavily tipped artists going into 2005 and 2006 respectively.
On top of that Adele has been told she’ll get the Brits Critics’ Choice Award at the glitzy bash on February 20.
But despite these two headline-grabbing occasions, not to mention articles in every broadsheet newspaper and music magazine, Adele remains as laid back as ever.
She does admit to being “dead excited and a bit nervous” about the release of her debut album, 19, today. But those butterflies aren’t making her miss any sleep. It’s 10.30am when we speak, and she sounds a little croaky.
“I’ve only just got up, had a bit of a lie-in,” she says in her broad North London accent, before commenting on the massive amount of hype already surrounding her.
“I don’t notice all that because I’m rehearsing in a little box room all the time. I don’t read my press either. I mean, I know about stuff, like the Brit award and the BBC thing, but I don’t take much notice,” she says.
“I didn’t really know what that BBC poll was before, but then I found out who had been at the top of it before, I couldn’t believe it. Over Christmas and New Year, I was with my mum and we weren’t paying much attention to news or anything, then when all the papers came out with that news in, we were really confused and didn’t know what was going on!”
Adele’s first foray in the public spotlight came after an appearance on Later...With Jools Holland last year. It came before Adele had released a single, or even finished recording her album. After careful consideration, she decided to perform on the late-night show and while she says it was horrible at the time, she’s glad she took the plunge.
“I felt sick on the day, it was terrifying, but I look at it on YouTube about once a month now and remind myself how amazing an experience it was. It was so flattering of the producer to invite me on – you can’t just blag your way onto Jools Holland – and the line-up was ridiculous,” she giggles.
“Bjork was on, and she’s one of my favourite artists. I didn’t get to meet her – she was pretty moody on the day and didn’t talk to anyone – but I did chat to her son who was very buff, so that was nice!
“Paul McCartney was on too and he’s lovely. I walked past him in a hallway hoping I’d pluck up the courage to say ‘Hiya, great performance there, Paul’ or something, but I couldn’t do it and went to jelly, but he stopped me and spoke to me, which was so nice of him.”
The TV performance was followed in October by a limited edition single, Hometown Glory, which saw Adele’s stock rise even higher.
“I couldn’t believe how well that song did. I was in New York finishing the album at the time and heard it’d been played on the radio. I thought I’d get played once on Zane Lowe’s show or something, but Radio One and Two were playing it all the time, it was amazing. I’m so flattered it was received so well because it was the first proper song I ever wrote.”
But it was not a one-off success – her current single Chasing Pavements is also receiving heavy airplay and winning her new fans.
Adele attended the famous Brits performing arts school in Croydon, South London. Former pupils include Amy Winehouse, The Kooks, Kate Nash, members of The Feeling and Katie Melua.
While there, Adele dabbled with writing songs, but didn’t develop the jazz-tinged sound she has now until leaving the academy.
“When I was a bit younger, I was just listening to the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child. I love R n B so much, I wanted to be the next Beyonce and I still do sometimes! But it’s really hard to sing like that, all those notes are a nightmare, so I gave up on that one,” she says with a laugh.
“The way I sing now came when I heard Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. I was 15 or 16, and taught myself to sing by listening to their records. I’m obsessed with people’s singing voices, I love trying to understand what they’re feeling and listening out for the emotions.”
The majority of the 12 songs on Adele’s debut album were written last May and were borne out of difficulties in her personal life.
“I wrote nine songs in a short space of time, all about this awful relationship I was in. I never quite got down what I was really feeling in those songs, though.
“It wasn’t that I was holding back or anything, but I just couldn’t get it down. I was bitterly upset and then my manager played me this Bob Dylan song Make You Feel My Love.
“The lyrics are just amazing and summed up exactly what I’d been trying to say in my songs. It’s about regretting not being with someone and it’s beautiful. It’s weird that my favourite song on my album is a cover, but I couldn’t not put it on there. I’m not normally a Dylan fan either,” she says in typically open fashion.
As for the rest of the songs on the album, there’s pretty much something for everyone, from the epic, slow-burning Hometown Glory, to the upbeat pop of Cold Shoulder, which was produced by Amy Winehouse collaborator Mark Ronson.
“I keep getting called ‘The New Amy Winehouse’ and things like that,” says Adele. “When people hear more of my music they’ll realise we’re not alike. I haven’t made a Motown record like Back To Black, I’ve made a modern pop album.
“If I was compared to someone I didn’t like, then I’d be annoyed, but I think so highly of Amy it’s nothing but a compliment.”