Wandering the streets before her show at the Sunset Tavern in Seattle, she may have looked lost to anyone who didn’t know her, but Adia Victoria is an artist with a purpose. Her debut album, Beyond The Bloodhounds is an ode to her often times antagonizing 20s. Growing up in the South, battling racial and gender barriers, to finding a creative community in Nashville, she has a story to tell. She speaks very bluntly on all topics with no boundaries. She does not try and sway you one way or another, but in doing so, is telling her story. The story is hers to tell after all, and she has a unique outlook that is worth learning from.
After her theatric, ghostly and fierce live show, the only thing more unique would be someone leaving an Adia Victoria show unimpressed.
Ian Bremner: You have mentioned before in the press that you don’t want to be defined by “Nashville” putting you in a box, but there is a lot of music coming out of Nashville. Perhaps I had a glorified vision, but upon visiting I got the feeling everyone knows everyone, which is both good and bad. What is your perspective of the art culture there? It seems to have potential of chewing up and spitting people out.
Adia Victoria: For me, the reason I moved to Nashville 6 years ago was because my whole family was there. My mom, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all my siblings were there, so I was never drawn to “the scene.” I started playing music when I first moved there, playing open mic nights in between my classes, my jobs, so I just sort of happened upon everything. I had no idea who anybody was. I didn’t have any friends or connections. I just went out and played my guitar a little bit and from there, the network of people unfolded. But, I’ve found some really great friends in the community and great artists and I try to take everyone on a one-on-one basis. I don’t say, “these are my Nashville friends,” its, “oh, these are my friends.” I don’t box other people in like that in return.
IB: Your band now is just through mutual friends?
AV: Yeah, we were all friends before we joined the band in one way or another. All my players have been in Nashville for a decade or so and have all been in other projects, so we just came together one by one saying, “this is the new formation of our band” and we are very fortunate that we all love each other and we’re all buddies.
IB: That’s where Beyond The Bloodhounds was recorded?
AV: Yes, it was recorded at Haptown Studio with Roger Moutenot, our producer the last 3 years. We started tracking in 2013 and we finished the record around last Christmas.
IB: So the SEA of Sand EP was the first 3 songs and then built around that?
AV: Yeah, well we were just recording a piece at a time. I had those three songs that we put out right before we went on tour with Hurray For The Riff Raff. I put that out on my own little “label” just to get it out.
IB: Listening to Beyond The Bloodhounds a lot, one song that keeps jumping out is Then You Die. It seems like a deathly, dark song, but at the end you say, “I’m not sad anymore.” Also, the phrase “beyond the bloodhounds” is in that song so I feel like that could be the entire “vibe” of the album. Is that fair to say?
AV: Yeah, I wrote that song with my guitarist, Mason Hickman. We were sitting around our practice space strumming. It was Valentine’s day, and he put together a little chord formation and I thought “hey, pretty cool.” So I starting writing out a melody and lyrics around it. That song has to do with me losing a loved one for the first time in my life. It was my aunt. She died of cancer and she was the first person where I had dealt with death. That was the closest I came to… giving myself up to my demons and fighting and telling myself, through hardest of times, that all we are here for is to live and to die. The end is this human-ic dance in defiance of my sadness and just not letting it capture me.
IB: The way you speak now is very poetic as is your writing style, and you perform poetry as well. When you have something written down, how do you know, “this is going to be a song” or “this is better left on its own, as a poem?”
AV: I think that the art leads me to where I need to take it. If I sit down to start to write a poem, if there’s a musicality to it, I need to add that. Then, other times it will start with a chord progression and I need to fill in words, but I never sit down and say, “I’m going to do this!” It sort of comes to me and I try my best to channel it a certain way.
IB: Speaking to that, one of your songs, Mortimer’s Blues… is that really about our cat?
IB: You don’t have to disclose anything here, but you…. Stole him from Pet Smart? Care to elaborate?
AV: Hah! I got Mortimer through Pet Smart’s foster program where you can take an animal home for a few days and see how you like it. I saw him. They said he was 7+ years. He was fat, had protruding fangs, and was said to be “not very nice.” I said “you fat black bastard, if I don’t take you, they’re going to put you to sleep” so I just took him, filled out all the paperwork with fake address, fake phone number and I just never went back.
AV: He was with me from girlhood to womanhood. I stole him when I was 21 and he passed away when I was 25.
IB: You do a great job of using your platform speaking out against gender and racial injustices and inequality, and as you may have noticed here in Seattle, most of the shows I go to are predominately white crowds. Do you ever sense any weird tensions between the song and your personal views?
AV: Well they’re not my personal views, I’m just telling them my personal story. When you level with people and say, “here’s my story, I am not trying to persuade you,” and you approach people with an openness and an open hand, usually they will receive you in that same way too.
Growing up, I was the only black kid around and at most of the concerts and shows I go to, it’s usually just been me most of my life. I am usually the token black person. I’ve noticed lately, since the album has come out, I’ll look out in the crowd and I’ll see a handful of black people, especially black girls and it makes me really happy. They are getting it from another level. They’re seeing themselves up there. There are parts of themselves that are never validated by our culture and our media and I think it’s cool to be able to look at them and be like, “I KNOW you KNOW what I am talking about”
Beyond The Bloodhounds