Just before she hits the festival circuit, we caught up with the best new songwriter to come out of the American South.
The first time Adia Victoria came to New York, she was a ghost. Or at least, she spent her days like one: quiet, invisible, coming and going without a soul who noticed where she’d been. “I need to get to a place where no one would bother me,” she says. “I like to think that I left no imprint on that city.”
Victoria grew up deep in the American South, at the heart of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. New York was her reset button—and she’s been on the run ever since. There have been stints in Arizona, Georgia, and Paris, but for now, Victoria makes her home in Nashville, together with a trio of swampy, hard-rocking band mates.
To date, she has released just three singles. They’re also the only singles you need to know that this songwriter means business. “Stuck in the South,” for example, starts off easy, with a finger-picked melody like summer days — and then, Victoria lets you have it, pairing hazy licks with all the anger, as she puts it, of a “swamp cat lady howlin’ at the moon.” Gone is the invisible girl in the big city. This time, Adia Victoria wants you to hear her loud and clear.
If you’re after a hard copy of her first EP, you’ll have to catch Victoria on tour this spring with the Afropunk collective. Until then, have a listen and read on as we talk Paris, Ray Charles, and wearing ball gowns to the dog park.
When did you first know you wanted to make music?
I first knew I wanted to give music a real shot when I realized what the world had in store for me otherwise. This was when I was around 22. Once it became clear that if I didn’t make music I would spend the rest of my life pushing someone else’s bottom line, there was no turning back.
What has been your favorite memory of making or performing music since then?
I played at a restaurant in Marché Saint-Germain in Paris a few years ago. The manager at this restaurant Jgo overheard me mention that I was a musician and he asked me to sing him something. I sang “Lonely Avenue” by Ray Charles a capella as all the servers where closing down the restaurant. It was late. It was midsummer. There were cigarettes and wine. And it was in fucking Paris. It was one of those moments where you’re like, “Whoa. I can’t believe this is happening.”
How would you describe your style?
My style is entirely self-indulgent. It reflects whatever mood I’m in. I once wore a floor-length, blood-red ball gown to the dog park with my roommate and her coon hound. Looking back, I do believe I was in the throes of a manic swing that day. I use my style to stay connected to my own world. Most often you will find me swallowed in a massive coat and lots and lots of layers to hide beneath.
What’s your most treasured possession?
An enormous blue sweater I bought with my aunt at the Walthamstow market in East London. It’s huge and soft and I can ball up inside it like a cat — this is very appealing to me.
What can we expect from your first full album next year?
You ever wonder about the girl handing you your fast food in the drive through, or the one folding sweaters at the mall or the one on the bus heading into work at 4 am? I’m telling you their stories because I’ve been all these girls. I wanted to share stories that aren’t often given prominence. And what’s funny is that a lot more people are able to relate to these songs written from the perspective of a girl who is essentially a ghost to them.
Where is the most beautiful place in the world you’ve visited?
South of France. Best use of my student loan refund check ever. Two years later, I’m still paying for that one.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about being a musician?
Speaking only for myself, I would say most people don’t realize that creating music engulfs you. It’s become my whole life. I like to think when I’m writing a song, I’m preparing to meet someone for the first time that I’ve known all my life. As a musician, all I’m trying to do is create my own little world. And I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to share this little world with you.
Adia Victoria will release her new album including Stuck In The South, Sea of Sand and Howlin’ Shame at tour dates only.
Words: Lisa Siva
Photography: Danielle Holbert