Four-time Grammy nominated Singer, songwriter and pianist OLETA ADAMS celebrates the 30th Anniversary of her major label breakthrough album Circle of One this year which includes the album's signature ballad "Get Here" as well as "Rhythm of Life" and the title track "Circle of One". I caught up with Oleta Adams' to discuss how she got signed to record the album, her Jazz Walk of Fame honor, new song and much more...
TERRANCE: First, congratulations on being inducted into the American Jazz Walk of Fame.
OLETA ADAMS: Thank you.
TERRANCE: Talk about that honor and what it means to you.
OLETA ADAMS: You know, the first time I came to Kansas City, I didn't realize what a musical town it was and there's so much Jazz history here. In fact, there's a photo that somebody shared with me from the 70's when I first came. I think I came here the first time in 1975 and they had what they called The Count Basie Day and Count Basie came to town and there were other Jazz people like Ella Fitzgerald, Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis, Harry 'Sweet' Edison and some other Jazz favorites that came. I was sitting at a table with all of those people, not realizing at that time, what a special thing it was. For people to listen to me after all of these years and to help raise me up musically, is just a marvelous thing that I can be included in such a prestigious surrounding of people, because I know that there was a lot of great Jazz music going on here for so many years and we had some fabulous times here in Kansas City at the shows I did that could rival anything that I've done elsewhere, so that was very, very special and unexpected too by the way. I just never thought they would put me in the Jazz Hall of Fame. That's amazing.
TERRANCE: Your album Circle of One turned 30 this year and so with that being said, how did you get signed to create it?
TERRANCE: Was there a particular goal set out for the album or just creating music?
OLETA ADAMS: Creating music. There was no theme. It was, what do you feel like singing for your first record? I remembered that Roland said that the A&R guy whose name was David Bates said, yeah but how do we market her? And Roland told him to just let her sing. In fact, Roland told David, after our album The Seeds of Love comes out, since I was on "Woman in Chains", I was also singing a little bit of "Badman's Song" and I was playing piano on some songs as well as "Standing on the Corner of the Third World", she's going to get a lot of offers from other record companies. You'd be smart to be the first and so that's how I got the deal.
TERRANCE: What was the writing process and story behind the title track "Circle of One"?
TERRANCE: How did "Get Here" come about?
TERRANCE: What can you share about "Rhythm of Life"?
TERRANCE: Are there any personal favorite non-singles?
OLETA ADAMS: Oh absolutely. There's two that was great to have a chance to record. The first is "I've Got to Sing My Song". I'm surprised at how that one had hit so many people. I wrote it for my dad who was a Baptist minister and the last thing he wanted me to sing first of all, was anything other than Gospel. Second of all, singing in clubs and in those places where they serve all that wine (laughs). I hated to disappoint my parents. I loved my dad. I was a daddies girl and I remember him saying to me one day, well if I known you had wanted to sing like that I could've found you a little place in our hometown and I thought, no that's not what I had in mind (laughs), but he was so sweet. I loved him for it. So I wrote the song in a fashion that he would understand. It has a Gospel style to it, even though it's not a Gospel song and I've had so many people come up and tell me that's the way they needed to express to loved ones why they had chosen the careers that they had in mind. They needed a voice and had to speak their own voice and live their own life and it doesn't mean you don't love them or disrespecting them, but you've got one life to live. Live it.
The other one is "Everything Must Change". Oh my goodness. I remembered hearing Bernard Ighner sing that song on Quincy Jones record, way back when and I loved that song. I've sang that song for so many years and it's funny, when I start the intro to that song, every time there are people screaming and I don't know what it is. The only constant in life is change and that's just a profound truth. It's a fact that will not change. Everything must change and the funny thing about it is, the irony that for some people that's good and for some people that's bad. You can think of a circumstance each time where you don't want to change when you're in love with someone and had a fantastic night together and you just want to be right here. I can stay here forever and I don't want this day to change and for somebody else, their saying, this moment is so horrible. What we're going through right now is so bad and the only hope that we have is the fact that this too is going to change. That's life. So that's one of my favorite songs, not to mention, the haunting melody and chords that are used. The mood that it brings is just intoxicating. It's comforting and unsettling all at the same time.
TERRANCE: Talk about the message behind your new song "Place of Peace".
OLETA ADAMS: I actually wrote this song 14 years ago and recorded it for a prayer album. I had always wanted to do an album of prayers, but not necessarily all in the Gospel form. I wanted it to have different personas, because people who pray are all different kinds of people and their praying under different circumstances, so I didn't want all the songs to sound the same. I put out a Christmas record at that time and later on the Let's Stay Here that was to be released by this company. They said that they would accept the Gospel record, but when they heard it, they didn't like it, because they said that my music wasn't "in" anymore and that everybody wanted Hillsong music and that wasn't my style of music and so it just sat on the burner for a long time. It was a song that I'm sure I wrote during Lent at that time and we've just come out of Lent and into Easter and it just seem so appropriate. You know the story of Jesus praying during the Passion Week of in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he knew that something bad was about to happen and that an awful lot would be demanded of him. He had a great responsibility and he didn't know how he was going to make it through and so he prayed in that Garden, you know? Lord, it's not my will but whatever your will, let that be done and he took his friends up there to pray with him, but they fell asleep. So I based the whole thing on that and not only that, that's the way it is here. We have a lot of people saying, well I'm going to pray for you. How often do we say that? I listen to even the news people say, you'll remain in our prayers and you wonder... are they really praying for us? We're gonna need some people to really put on some kneepads and really pray hard during circumstances like these and others. I know that they all want to help, but many of them might fall asleep in the midst of those prayers and not be prayed up as they say. I don't want to go through this, but if I'm gonna go through this, I need you to be with me to help me. So I based it on that and it turned out, at this time, I thought this is a wonderful time to release that song.
TERRANCE: Any final words you would like to share with your fans, followers and the readers?
OLETA ADAMS: Well, I do want everyone to be very wise about the next steps that they take regarding opening things back up and that they remain diligent, being safe and practicing social distancing. I hope that they first of all, take really good care of themselves, not only in regards to the coronavirus but I mean good care of themselves on a daily basis, personally, because they've shown over and over again that the one's who are most defeated are the one's who are in bad shape to start with. We have to eat healthily, we have to exercise and make sure we treat our bodies well. To all of the people who have remembered my music and the one's each day that I check on under my Instagram, Facebook and website, who are telling me, I play your music everyday and that it inspires and helps me start the day in a positive way. That just makes me feel great and that's the reason why I'm putting out music. It's for the benefit of those who need that extra pat on the back and extra inspiration, so I thank you so very much.