Last spring, Rock Cellar interviewed Carsie Blanton about her latest album, Buck Up. Next week, Blanton will kick off her 2020 “World Worth Saving 2020 Tour,” including three upcoming dates in California. The California shows will be opened by Adron, an equally engaging and memorable singer-songwriter.
Adron’s most recent album, Water Music, brilliantly places R&B and soul influences on a symphonic pop landscape, featuring a style of guitar-playing heavily rooted in Brazilian music, particularly of the sounds and feelings most closely associated with the Saudade tradition.
Having recently moved to Los Angeles from Atlanta, Adron has spent the last year performing in LA while recording the follow-up to Water Music. She recently took a break from recording to sit down with Rock Cellar at the Steampunk Café in LA’s Valley Village. Over the course of a delightful afternoon, Adron generously shared her story and insights with Rock Cellar, including the genesis of her stage name, how Brazilian music influenced Water Music, her journey to Los Angeles and what lies ahead.
“I think what I’m trying to do is inhabit, musically, a feeling, which is sort of a romantic, breezy feeling,” Adron began, when we initially began discussing her approach to songwriting. “There’s a word for it in Brazilian music, they call it Saudade, which is sort of a word for nostalgia. With regard to music, it’s often used to describe this sensation, this feeling, of this wistful tugging at the heartstrings. But you’ve got a cocktail in your hand. I’m trying to inhabit somewhere like that.”
On how she initially began playing guitar, Adron ruminated, “I don’t know how I construct things. I have to preface by saying that I’m a very untrained musician. I kind of refused to do vocal lessons as a kid. Because I hated all group instruction. I generally didn’t really like instruction at all, unless I loved the teacher. I did take piano lessons as a kid. But I don’t really play piano anymore. So I’m a self-taught guitarist and singer. And mostly just learned by imitating. Since I started playing on a nylon string, that was what my brother handed me down, when I first heard some Brazilian stuff, I was like, ‘Oh. That sounds correct to me. I feel right at home with that for some reason.’ And then just started learning guitar in the context of imitating Luiz Bonfa and stuff. Not that I will ever sound like him.”
When asked what spurred her interest in Brazilian music, the self-described “Atlanta hipster” reminisced, “I heard of this group called Os Mutantes, they’re Brazilians from the late sixties/early seventies, very psychedelic rock and rollers. I just found that record randomly at a record store when I was going in there as a fourteen-year-old, trying to find something that looked really, really obscure. Just to buy it and feel like I was really, really cool. So I got that. I took it home to listen to it. And I was just like, ‘Holy shit. This is where I live.’”
On how her interest in Brazilian music influenced the delicious melodies that make Water Music so enjoyable, Adron continued, “Os Mutantes became my favorite band in the world. Caetano Veloso was like the obvious next step. Because he wrote a lot of their early material and they all collaborated extensively. He is a genius melody person. I feel like, in the history of music, there are some people whose connection to pure melody is instantaneous and constantly available to them. It’s like a supernatural power. I think the people who have it are Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, J.S. Bach, Caetano Veloso. It’s very few. But every once in a while, in a generation, you get somebody who’s just in the realm of melody at all times. It’s just like breathing for them. Caetano has that big-time. His melodies are just gorgeous. His voice is gorgeous. My ears have always latched onto that. It feels like home to me. So I started to need to sing along to him. That’s how I started to learn Portuguese, was I needed to sing along. So I learned all the words. And started to get pretty good at Portuguese. From there, I guess in my late teens, started playing samba and bossa nova, and learned that music. So that’s kind of how that happened.”
It was also around this time, when Adron was in high school, that she was given the nickname that still graces her art and her artistic persona. On how the name “Adron” came and stuck, she shared, “My real name is Adrienne McCann. But when I was in high school, my friends like nick-named me. There were a few iterations that it went through, as it evolved to Adron, versus Adr’un. And then something else after that. I forget. So my friends nick-named me Adron. Because, ‘we can’t just call her a normal name.’ I always wanted to be a musician-performer. But I also never wanted to be an ordinary first name/last name type of person. Because I had some weird prejudice against that. Like it makes you boring or something. Which is not true at all, obviously. So I’m a one name, Adron.”
On what makes up the ‘Adron’ persona, or the extent to which she may differ from Adrienne McCann, she mused, “That’s an important question. Because, ideally, I am not in character, or in any kind of costume. What I want to be is like completely transparent. And totally myself. I don’t have the most confessional, open diary type of lyrics. But I don’t think that that is what ‘myself’ would do. People who see me live will tell you right away that my stage banter is super goofy, free-associative nonsense sometimes. I’m just trying to be like exactly the same way that I am all the time. I feel like the dream is to be able to do that on any kind of stage, no matter what. Because what I want to convey is not so much a character performance. I want to make people inhabit a space which is about pure life force. I don’t really know how to articulate that. I just want it to feel really true. And like I’m just doing art that I needed to do. And it’s true stuff. It doesn’t have to be about anything. Just, ‘There’s a sunset feeling.’ And that’s it.”
In celebration of Water Music, Adron made a psychedelia-infused music video for “Be Like The Sea” with director Bill Guzik. On how their deliriously joyful video came to be, Adron shared, “Bill is a super-sweet friend who is enthusiastic and generous with his time. We came up with some ideas. ‘Okay, we can use this space. Oh, look, they have this old bathtub in there. I can clean that up and we can use that for something.’ We just riffed on all these random ideas. We had some friends who let us use a green screen and some lights. There’s magic that can happen when you just have a large network of artistic, generous, cool friends in a town like Atlanta, and you just sort of ask favors. I learned to do the silly little pixel animation, the pixelated self-portrait thing in that video, just on some free pixel art website, where you can make little GIFs and stuff. So I just threw a couple of those together. The part where I’m in the tub, and it’s just my chin with the googly eyes. That was pretty crazy. I was basically water-boarding myself for an hour trying to get those shots, with my entire nose submerged and my eyeballs, trying to lip-sync without drowning and suffocating. It was pretty fun.”
Having now lived in Los Angeles for slightly over a year, Adron revealed of the transition, “I moved to LA, mostly because of a romance that is no longer a thing. I always knew, even if it didn’t work out, I would want to be here. And that’s become very obviously true. I will say that the major feeling, once I got back on my feet, was absolutely over the top, insane gratitude for being here. Because I freaking love it. I think that LA is the most fun, silliest place. I love it so much. I’ve made incredibly wonderful friends. I feel like, since I got out here, in spite of having to pay a pretty serious cost to my emotional well-being up front, I feel like everything since then has been the universe applauding me. Like, ‘Hell yeah, you belong here. The best freaking people are going to show up in your life. You’re going to have the best time. You’re going to feel so super-inspired, all the time. And you’re going to come home to yourself, in this way that you’ve never done before.’”
With the move to the West Coast following the recording of Water Music in Atlanta, Adron is now working on her next album as she continues to perform in California. “Water Music took six years to complete and release. So that’s a laborious work of art right there,” Adron stated. “Having done that, graduated from that, my story now is, where do I go from here? What do I want to do that’s different? Right now, I feel just like, that was so heavy. Can I please do something much quicker and more fun? If that makes any sense.” Adron is currently working on her follow-up to Water Music with her longtime drummer/percussionist Colin Agnew and a local producer named John Hendicott.
Asked how Adron came to be opening the upcoming shows for Carsie Blanton, Adron beamed, “I love Carsie Blanton! I saw her play at the 30A Songwriters Festival, a super adorable festival on the panhandle of Florida on the beach. I saw her just do this solo performance and absolutely slay. Her songs are so clever and so funny and just thoughtfully put together. I don’t hear so many artists that really, first of all, sing the shit out of their songs gorgeously with texture and thought and delivery. And kind of like a retro attitude towards it. And there are interesting chords in there. And thoughtful, subtle transitions. She’s just awesome. She blows my mind. We watched each other’s sets. And we were like, “Holy shit, you’re great!” “Holy shit, you’re great!” Didn’t really know what to do about it. But, the next time I saw her, she happened to be in LA, and I was playing a show, and she was playing a show. It was very serendipitous. So she brought her whole band out to see me at this very weird little bar in Silver Lake called the Hyperion Tavern. I love this place. It feels like a David Lynch movie. And the strangest characters in there. So it was a great setting for them to see me. So I went to see her and her band at the Bootleg the following night. And at that point just like made friends with the whole band.”
On how their musical community has evolved, Adron continued, “Gobs of time passed, but we all stayed in touch. Then her bass player, Joe Plowman, came out to play a show with me. Because I don’t have a bass player out here. And we had just kind of been making friends, all of us. Joe came out from Philadelphia, hung out in LA for a few days. We played at Zebulon. Me and him, and a drummer from here named Tim Carr, who’s in a band called Fell Runner. By the way, they rule. So that was like my first LA show, Zebulon. That place was just somewhere I had wanted to play for a while. It felt very much like a beautiful coming out party. Like, ‘I’m a real LA musician now. Check me out!’ So I’m getting to borrow Joe Plowman again for the Hotel Café show on the 26th. And then going with them to Santa Cruz and Albany, right by San Francisco, do shows with them and her bass player and maybe her drummer, a little bit. We’ll see what we can get away with. I think it will be pretty collaborative. I think that’s just hopefully the beginning of a great and powerful friendship and more tours. I know we all want to tour together extensively, if possible. It’s just a matter of seeing what’s going to happen.”
Looking ahead to what lies in store for the rest of 2020, Adron previewed, “More live dates on the East Coast in May. We’re working them out right now. I don’t know what the timeline for the new record is, yet. Because I think the recording process is going smoothly and quickly, which is great. I’m hoping that the album comes out this year. I think that’s a reasonable expectation. We’ll see what happens.”
To turn yourself to Adron, go to adronmusic.com to listen to Water Music and other recordings of Adron’s, along with tour dates and an array of awesome performance and music videos.
An even larger collection of Adron’s music can be listened to and purchased digitally at adron.bandcamp.com. Adron says Instagram is her personal social media platform of choice, where she can be found @adronical, though she is also active on Facebook and twitter @AdronMusic.