Singing, Songwriting & Self Expression, With Adelaide
Creativity runs strong in Adelaide’s gene pool. Raised by a family of musicians and artists, it comes as no surprise that Adelaide’s paintings often emerge alongside the creation of her music. In her newly released EP, Clementine Season, Adelaide (AKA “Lady Clementine“) explores the many ways we experience love. Her innate musical ability paired with her longtime passion for poetry birthed this folksy, lyrical, and vulnerable first album. Listen to this episode of The Cultured Podcast to discover how Adelaide went from an International Affairs student to a singer, songwriter and visual artist. You might even get an exclusive sneak peek into Potato Season…
Michelle Khouri 0:00
Can you imagine bursting your heart open and bearing it for the world to see through your art? Lady Clementine, aka Adelaide, aka Amanda Tai, has done just that with her first EP Clementine Season. It is a beautiful ode to all the different kinds of love that exists in our lives. Both the positive and the heartbreaking. On this episode of The Cultured Podcast, we talk to Adelaide to find out more about her forms of self expression.
Michelle Khouri 0:40
Welcome to The Cultured Podcast. I’m your host Michelle Khouri. And together we’ll journey into the unknown reaches of the art world.
Michelle Khouri 0:58
Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour! (to the tune of Beauty and the Beast) Welcome to The Cultured Podcast. This is such a tasty episode, you guys. I had a blast with Adelaide. She sings. I sang. We record an album together right on this episode. I’m not going to tell you anymore.
But before we get into this episode, I’m going to tell you about what’s inspiring me this week. And this week, I’m inspired by criticism. I’m a Virgo, okay? And I certainly do embody the Virgo spirit in terms of being nurturing and being hard working and being pragmatic and being just a little bit critical. But you know what, I’ve come to really embrace criticism when it comes to self-criticism. And when it comes to being able to critically identify what’s right for you and what isn’t. I think criticism, like everything else, should be taken in moderation and wielded in moderation. But you know, with my FRQNCY team, we actually often practice self-criticism. So we look at ourselves and we say, “Hey, is our website everything that it could be? And are we expressing ourselves in the right way when we talk about what frequency does?” We look at ourselves with self-awareness and we say, “Is there something I could be doing better to honor the people around me?” And you can’t really do that if you’re not exercising some sort of self-awareness yielded by criticism. Do you know what I mean? So actually, I’m reframing that word. I am bringing it back with some positivity. I am giving it a place in our own self-growth. So I want to encourage you to be more critical of yourself in a way that is healthy, and in a way that promotes growth and evolution and perchaps less critical of those around you. It’s a thing that I work on every dang day. Alright, y’all. It’s now time to talk to Adelaide Leggo!
Michelle Khouri 3:04
Hello, Adelaide! (singing)
Hello, Michelle! (singing)
Michelle Khouri 3:08
Aw! You’re the first guest to sing back to me!
Michelle Khouri 3:13
So you sang back to me and that is pretty appropriate because you just released an album called Clementine Season.
Michelle Khouri 3:20
And it is beautiful. I’ve been listening to it on repeat.
So, let’s just level set because that’s not the only thing you do. And you’re not just a singer. So, why don’t you tell us who is Adelaide?
I am Adelaide. I am a songwriter for Lady Clementines Fantastic Party. That’s the name of my band. And I also make art.
Michelle Khouri 3:45
A-ha, so, your artist name is Adelaide. Is that right?
Michelle Khouri 3:50
It’s a beautiful name.
Michelle Khouri 3:51
How did you choose it?
A couple years ago, I was doing promo modeling work. And when you’re working in these agencies, you apply for these jobs and you’re in a pool of a bunch of girls and they just, you know, go by your hair color, your ethnicity and Amanda sounds like everyone else’s name. I was also starting to get into performing at the same time. And I just picked the name Adelaide because I liked it. To show up better in the, you know, in the search.
Michelle Khouri 4:24
So when you say you started performing music was it like open mic nights, coffee shops…
When I got out of college, I started writing music. I was writing poetry in college and fell into a group of musicians and artists when I graduated in Atlanta. And I started turning the poems into songs, writing melodies and started performing more, kind of, in the background because I didn’t have a lot of confidence to sing lead. So I’d sing harmonies. I would write songs and just sing harmonies to the songs that I that I was writing.
Michelle Khouri 5:00
It takes such an enormous amount of vulnerability to sing lead.
Michelle Khouri 5:04
And I don’t think people realize that.
It does! Mm-hmm. And memory.
Michelle Khouri 5:08
To share your voice. Do you have a bad memory?
I do. (laughter)
Michelle Khouri 5:13
So you’d like lose the lyrics in the middle of the song?
Yeah, well, to this day, I feel a lot more comfortable singing my own songs because I can improvise as I go in case, you know? Even singing karaoke makes me really nervous because even though you have the words in front of you, just knowing that everyone knows the words that you’re supposed to be singing…is waiting for those words to come out of your mouth.
Michelle Khouri 5:41
You said you were writing poetry in college and I was actually going to ask you if you’ve ever written poetry or studied it, because your lyrics are beautiful and they are very poetic.
Wow, thank you.
Michelle Khouri 5:52
And yeah, that’s for me, how I get lost in music is through these like labyrinthine lyrics that take you on this journey, and then there’s like these surprises and you go high and then you kind of come back down to earth with very like grounded lyrics and then you go high again, which I really love. So tell me about how you discovered poetry.
I took a creative writing course in college. And it was just an intro course. But my professor really challenged me to always be reading poetry. He said anytime he saw us on campus he wanted to be able to ask us what we were reading and we better have an answer. So that’s when I started learning about form and I really enjoyed writing prose, poetry and in college because I liked breaking form. And I think that I carry that over with me now into my writing process for lyrics.
Michelle Khouri 6:51
What does it mean to break form?
Poetry has a lot of rules, like old-school poetry has a lot of rules and I didn’t like that. Going into it and I was learning it.
Michelle Khouri 7:01
Like iambic pentameter.
Yes. But now I understand that it’s good to learn the rules so that you can break them.
Michelle Khouri 7:08
Michelle Khouri 7:10
Okay, so you are a painter.
Michelle Khouri 7:14
And you just released an album that you are lead singer on with a beautiful voice. And you wrote the lyrics, which is rooted in your practice of writing poetry. Do you come from a family of creatives, because your brain is pretty magical?
Oh, thank you. Yeah, my parents are both creatives. My dad paints and sings and plays any instrument that he picks up, pretty much.
Michelle Khouri 7:41
Oh my god.
Yeah. I remember when I was a kid, we were at my grandparents house with extended family and my baby cousins were starting violin lessons. And my dad picked up the violin and started playing it. And we just kind of all turned to him and we’re like, “What? What’s happening right now?”
Michelle Khouri 8:02
He had never played violin before?
He had never picked up a violin in his life.
Michelle Khouri 8:06
Michelle Khouri 8:07
And it was, like, pretty? It wasn’t horror movie like?
Exactly! Yeah. Yeah. Strange, strange.
Michelle Khouri 8:15
Very, very magic person. And my mom is an incredible singer. And my extended family all plays instruments. And yeah.
Michelle Khouri 8:24
Y’all are like the modern day Brady Bunch.
I think I probably, out of my sisters…I have two younger sisters. And they’re both really gifted vocally and musically. And I think I probably got the least amount of skill in that area, but I just have the most desire to do it.
Michelle Khouri 8:42
Well, that brings up a point, doesn’t it? It’s about skill, yes, but it’s also about desire, and it’s about putting in the hard work and vulnerability. A massive amount of vulnerability. And it sounds like your dad was very comfortable putting himself out there trying new things. There is a vulnerability in picking up a violin that you’ve never picked up in your life and being like, “Well, sure, I’ll give it a go.” So your family, your upbringing, does play a role in your new album. Can you tell us about that?
Even though my family is full of creatives, there aren’t many of us who take the creative path professionally. So I actually studied international affairs in school. And I thought I was maybe going to go into politics or, you know, public sector. And it was only after I tried a lot of jobs in those areas that I realized that I didn’t have a choice. I just have to, I have to do my art. Yeah, but I gave it a really fair shot. I tried to be normal.
Michelle Khouri 9:43
Normal is overrated.
This EP that I just put out. I had a lot of starts before doing this project. I was doing more of a singer-songwriter kind of folksy style. I just wanted to have fun with this one. I realized that part of what was holding me back musically was taking things too seriously and also not taking things seriously enough.
Michelle Khouri 10:07
Mmm. It’s a balance.
Michelle Khouri 10:08
How do you strike that balance?
I decided to stop half-assing things. (laughter) I think it’s not really a balance. I’m not I’m not a balanced person. It’s kind of all or nothing. Anything less than what I love doing is torture.
Michelle Khouri 10:27
Yes. So we were talking about your family and upbringing and its influences on your career as an artist, and you were telling us that you started off singer/songwriter, and more folksy. So where did your path lead from there? Were you during that time focusing more on painting and your art?
Music has always been a part of my creative outlet. And I would do shows here and there, but I hadn’t made a concerted effort to focus on a project. Given all that, I was focusing a lot more on art. Art just sort of happens.
Michelle Khouri 11:07
It just happens. It’s a part of your expression. So, while you were working on Clementine Season, were you painting as a part of an outlet? Or do you throw your entire creative self into whatever you’re working on?
I was working on a collection called Moss.Stream.Sky while I was putting together the final touches on the songs before I went into the studio.
Michelle Khouri 11:32
Does that provide space for you? Like does that allow your brain to sort of switch gears and create just that stillness and space that allows you to refresh?
Definitely. I think working with your hands can be very helpful in bringing ideas together.
Michelle Khouri 11:49
Yes, absolutely. One is so mental, right? And physical. Like, singing is a very physical thing, but it’s also very mental and emotional. Whereas there is this exertion of energy in a more physical way when it comes to, you know, painting.
Michelle Khouri 12:06
It takes you out of your head in a lot of ways.
Michelle Khouri 12:09
So this is your first album.
Michelle Khouri 12:12
Oh my gosh. What was your vision for Clementine Season?
I chose Clementine Season for the title of the EP because of the song Clementine Season. The first lyrics are, “Let me prove myself worthy of your love.” And I think it’s really important as an artist, also just as a human being, not to be entitled to people’s attention, and respect and love. And I think that’s something that’s changing in our culture between adults and kids also, you know? I grew up with the idea that you had to respect adults just because they were older than you. And you had to be obedient. I think that now I’m seeing in our culture, we’re teaching kids to respect their own feelings. And their own minds and make conscious decisions and choose who you give your love and respect to. And that’s what this song is about.
Michelle Khouri 13:09
Love is certainly an extremely pervasive theme throughout the whole album, but it’s expressed in such diverse ways. So will you tell us a little bit about the tone of the album that resulted after you were done with everything?
Mm-hmm. It ended up being sort of a trip like you said. A lot of different phases of love: dysfunctional love and unrequited love and friendly love and family love.
Michelle Khouri 13:38
My favorite song, can you guess?
Michelle Khouri 13:42
We’ve known each other for like, 45 minutes, Adelaide! How do you not know? (laughter)
I have no idea! What is your favorite song though?
Michelle Khouri 13:50
Oh, that makes me really happy.
Michelle Khouri 13:54
Oh my god.
Rock and roll.
Michelle Khouri 13:56
Oh, yes girl. And it is so…there’s a codependent energy to it. Like, it’s that codependent love. That’s like just see me for the goodness in me and ignore all the flaws because I’m not ready to see my shadow.
Michelle Khouri 14:09
Like I’m not ready for you to be my mirror.
Michelle Khouri 14:12
It’s very relatable. But it’s also–it’s just a groove. Like it’s just fun. It comes on and I’m just like (singing the melody). You know?
I love it. (laughter). Michelle is dancing right now. (laughter) She’s grooving.
Michelle Khouri 14:30
Groovin’. So tell us about the process of writing that song in particular. And the intention that went behind it.
I learn a lot about my intention after I finish a song. And sometimes it takes a long time. Even a painting or you know, poems. It takes a long time and then you reread or listen to something that you’ve done. You’re like, “Oh, damn, that’s what it was about.”
Michelle Khouri 14:55
Yeah. So I have learned that I am a perfectionist and that it’s really hard for me in relationships to see that shadow.
Michelle Khouri 15:09
You’re not the only one.
Yeah, so this song is about a romanticized idea about love that I grew up with. The fairytale, infantile idea about how you think love and romance is supposed to be when you’re in a relationship with someone where you’re an adult person. And realizing that it’s not that way but still holding on to those ideas and and wanting to act out and perform whatever role that you grew up thinking you were supposed to play.
Michelle Khouri 15:41
Heart Aflame is my second favorite. Just FYI. Because I just love in Heart Aflame, how it centers around this argument about the dishes.
Michelle Khouri 15:50
And if that is not just like realness about a relationship…
Right? Everyone has been there, right?
Michelle Khouri 15:54
And, she, Clementine, she holds on to this like argument about the dishes to the very end. And she’s like, “You were wrong.”
Yeah, I’ll have the last word on this.
Michelle Khouri 16:04
And listen, Adelaide, I’m a Virgo. I understand being right about the dishes. (laughter)
Michelle Khouri 16:11
So, will you sing us a little bit from Heart Aflame?
Sure. I would say that one’s also folksy. Folksy, twangy, country.
(Sings) Heart aflame/I followed yours into the maze/It isn’t fair/The way you play/It isn’t right/Heart aflame/My tears send you into a rage/Tears that refuse not to escape but I’m a keepin on/Here is your final honeydo list/Remember love was in our last kiss/You picked a fight over the dishes/You were wrong.
Michelle Khouri 16:57
(Sings) You were wrong…
You will never find a love more honest/Two hearts aflame/We made a promise/I care for you until my last breath.
Michelle Khouri 17:16
Let’s just have a moment of silence so you guys can applaud your phones. And the crowd goes wild. I really love that one.
Thanks for the backup. You’re ready.
Michelle Khouri 17:28
It’s so good. Just like from you singing that bit from Heart Aflame listeners can understand what I meant by like going high and then going grounded. And there’s just this…it takes you on such a journey where it surprises you with these elevated concepts and then it’s about the dishes, you know? And Heart Aflame. And then it’s like you were wrong about the petty ass argument.
Michelle Khouri 17:52
That really those little petty things are what define relationships and love.
Michelle Khouri 17:58
Wow. Okay, so once the album was done, and you’ve heard it all together, what did that feel like for you?
I was finished with this project in October. And I didn’t release it until last month.
Michelle Khouri 18:16
Michelle Khouri 18:17
Why is that?
Michelle Khouri 18:20
Yeah, it was that perfectionism. I went through ups and downs. I was like, I love it. I hate it. I love it. I don’t know. Will people like it? So I finally just decided to put it out without any fanfare and then there was…a little bit of fanfare.
Michelle Khouri 18:43
You gotta have the fanfare. Listen, the fanfare is how you’re here right now and we know each other now. This is how we’re going to release Potato Season.
Yes! Potato season! I’m so yeah, I’m so glad that people are connecting. Potato season. So we were talking about potatoes before we started today because I love potatoes.
Michelle Khouri 19:04
And Quincy looks like a potato to many people.
And Quincy looks like a potato so I was…yeah I thought..
Michelle Khouri 19:09
Quincy being FRQNCY‘s mascot. Okay so we’re going to make an EP called Potato Season.
Michelle Khouri 19:16
And so what’s our first song going to be?
Michelle Khouri 19:19
Michelle Khouri 19:22
We’re gonna record it right now.
Okay. Are you gonna start it?
Michelle Khouri 19:24
Mmm-hmm. Or you can.
Okay, you start.
Michelle Khouri 19:27
(Clears throat) Okay, I got this. (Sings) French fries/You can be so many things/Seasoned with salt/Ketchup/Mustard…
Michelle Khouri 19:46
(Sings) Potatoes/You really made me smile/I really want to eat you when you’re fried/
(Sings) Every day/All day/Potato love.
Michelle Khouri 20:00
Good, so. Potato love.
Michelle Khouri 20:04
Potato Season isn’t real. Clementine Season is very real. And it is very good. And so is Hi Adelaide, your artwork. So why don’t you tell us where people can find your work and appreciate you and show you some love?
Michelle Khouri 20:33
We’ll also of course include all of that in the show notes for this episode. It has been such a joy having you, Adelaide.
Michelle Khouri 20:40
We’re friends now, right?
Michelle Khouri 20:43
We just recorded an album. It was conceptual…but still.
Michelle Khouri 20:55
Oh my god. Did you guys have as much fun as I did talking to Adelaide? Holy moly. What a beautiful voice. You know where to find her work now and I especially love listening to it on YouTube where I can listen to the songs in the order in which they were intended. So, just a little Michelle tipsy there. Until our next journey into the unknown…Keep it classy. Keep it curious. Keep it Cultured.
Michelle Khouri 21:32
Visit culturedpodcast.com for show notes and subscription links. The Cultured Podcast is a production of my podcast production company FRQNCY Media. I’m the host Michelle Khouri. Enna Garkusha is our fabulous producer. Becca Godwin is our wonderful associate producer. Our sound engineers are Cooper Skinner and DonTae Hodge. And we’re recording at ListenUp Audio in Atlanta, Georgia.