Sade Opens Up About Her Tour, Her Success and Why She Does Not See Herself As A Celebrity
After a decade-long hiatus, the soulful jazz band led by Nigerian-born British singer Sade Adu, 53, returned to the stage with their "Bring Me Home" tour last year. And for those who couldn't make it to a show, there is now an album and film.
This week, Sade released "Bring Me Home - Live 2011," a live CD and concert film directed by frequent collaborator Sophie Muller shot over several stops on the tour.
Sade Adu may have appeared confident when she hit the stage on her massive U.S. tour last year in her all-black ensemble, svelte look, high heels and red lips.
But the 53-year-old singer was nervous. So nervous, she gave someone backstage a tattoo.
"It was giving me something to divert me from the chaos of getting ready psychologically to go out there," Adu said in a recent interview. "I think I was more stressed about giving that tattoo than I was (doing) the show that night."
But Adu had reason to feel anxious: As the leader of the veteran group Sade, she and her band mates were riding high off their platinum-selling 2010 album, "Soldier of Love," their first release in 10 years. Sade won a Grammy a year later, and embarked on a 54-date U.S. tour.
The moment Adu gave that tattoo—and many other moments—are captured in the new DVD, "Bring Me Home—Live 2011," released this week.
Adu talks about the tour, maintaining her youthful look and when the group plans to release new music.
Q: "Bring Me Home" director Sophie Muller has directed most of your videos over the last 20 years. How has that creative relationship lasted so long?
Adu: "We met many years ago when we were both at (Central) Saint Martins (college). We used to sit in the library throwing things at each other. We would write really weird abstract poetry. I would write a line and then she would write a line, and then I'd write the next line and we'd put it together.
"Sophie was in and out of the studio when we were making the album. We can trust each other. It's not enough just to like each other or love each other. It's like if you're climbing up a rock and someone's got your rope, you have to know that they're not going to let you go."
Q: How was it having your 15-year-old daughter accompany you on tour?
Adu: "She loved the show. I was amazed at how many times she watched it. She came out on the road with me the last time but she was always on the bus. She was so young, just four. I didn't want her to see me on stage. I felt it would be too much for her to grasp because to her, I'm just her mommy. I thought it would overwhelm her. A long time after that she asked, ‘Mom are you famous? Are you really famous?'"
Q: How do you spend your time between projects? Are you always working on new material?
Adu: "I always sing because I listen to music at home and I sing. I'll sometimes write things down - thoughts or feelings that might trigger a song later on. My life between the albums is a collection of experiences, which I will one day write about. It's not like I'm a prolific writer who just writes, and writes and writes."
Q: There is a clip of you dancing to Snoop Dogg in the "Bring Me Home" behind-the-scenes footage. Do you really listen to hip-hop?
Adu: "I love hip-hop. I love the beats, I love the lyrics and I love the fact that it's from the heart. It's real and not just commercial. I listen to Snoop Dogg and Drake - they're great. I listen to a lot of hip-hop, so I do dance a lot. I actually love going out. I haven't lately, but I love getting on the dance floor."
Q: It's interesting you say you enjoy going out because you are often described as reclusive, so is that fair?
Adu: "I don't think I'm reclusive but I do avoid celebrity. I will go out to dance where no one bothers you because they're all doing their own thing. I don't consider myself a celebrity, I consider myself a songwriter and a singer - a person who makes music. I don't see why that's necessarily synonymous with giving your whole world away."
Q: How do you handle your sex symbol status? I know several guys who want to marry you.
Adu: "What are their addresses? (laughs) I don't think of that. When I perform I'm just expressing elements of myself, and I don't really stop and think about that stuff. But I ain't complainin'! It could be worse."
Q: At 53, you're often described as age defying. How do you stay so young?
Adu: "I think it's an energy thing. Your physical language determines how young you look moreso than if you have plastic surgery. You have to keep that love for what you do and, even in the battleground, keep your head up. So many people let go of that. They get past a certain age and feel they no longer belong. I never really feel that way. I always have something to add. It's still a battle to be won."
Q: You were really that stressed backstage?
Adu: I was so stressed. ... That impression that you give onstage is what people go away with ... and remember you, and I feel in a way that's what that tattoo was. I was going to mark him for life. I had to get it right.
Q: Have you done more tattoos?
Adu: That was my big tattoo moment.
Q: How have you maintained your voice over the years?
Adu: I've never been great with keeping up with vocal exercises. For 28 years I've been saying, 'Tomorrow I must do some scales.' But I haven't done them yet. I think just being onstage and performing, you learn technique just by being there and having to deliver. You unconsciously learn technique just to survive those two hours.
Q: What was it like performing for your feverish fans after being away for so long?
Adu: That's why you sort of feel like you're a gladiator going out there because even though you know most of these people have come from a good place and they love your music and they come with a feeling of love, which is what you walk away with, it's a bit like being thrown at the lions when you go out there because you have this sort of fear, even though it's irrational, (that) you're going to get torn apart, so you go out and you have to be good.
Q: You're 53, but you look 30. What are you doing to maintain your youthful look?
Adu: I do move a lot. I'm always doing stuff. I don't lounge around much. ... I'm always moving and I'm always active. ... I've tried things and I've tried exercise because I know it's good and I've tried to do yoga, but my life just doesn't seem to allow it.
Q: "Soldier of Love" went gold in its first week out. When you're creating music, do you think about album sales?
Adu: I don't think, 'Are we going to be a success?' Not consciously anyway, you know. But in my subconscious I'm probably, there's probably that feeling of, 'What if it doesn't work out?' But I don't sort of actually have abstract thoughts like that. I actually don't stop and think, 'Yeah, this is going to be a great success.' By the time it happens, it's almost too late.
Q: In the 10-year break between "Lovers Rock" and "Soldier of Love," did you run into fans who asked about new music?
Adu: Always in the queue at the petrol station. The gas station. I'm always being asked it, and I'll always say 'it's tomorrow' and they all think I'm a liar because I always imagine it's going to be much sooner than it is. But then my life just gets in the way. I'm always asked that question. Like I said, I'm Nigerian. I'm always late.
Q: When will the band release another album?
Adu: I'd like it to be sooner and I always think that. It's not like I go off of music or I go off the feel of it, but there's a lot to it. I can't work unless I go and I have to find the right moment to cut off. I'm not someone who can just sit in the middle of chaos of my life and write songs. I have to go away somewhere and cut off ... I would love to make an album soon, but it just doesn't happen that way.
Q: A lot of young singers are inspired by you. Who are you currently listening to?
Adu: Somebody I recently discovered in the last couple years is Ray LaMontagne, and I love his vocals. I think he's really, really talented and exceptional. He's doing his thing. He's sort of not associated with the times. It's just his own thing. I (also) listen a lot to hip-hop because I like hip-hop lyrics; to me it's poetry.
Q: Why do you think so many fans resonate with Sade's sound?
Adu: The key is probably the songs—they come from the heart, and when we're making an album, we put our whole heart in and everything we've got. And it isn't about making a hit album; it's not about second-guessing and predicting what people want to hear or what they want to buy. There's sort of integrity in that. We just get lost in the music.