Album of the Week: Adia Victoria, 'A Southern Gothic'

by

Adia Victoria, 'A Southern Gothic' album art
Adia Victoria, 'A Southern Gothic' (Courtesy of Artist)

Nashville's Adia Victoria has returned with her third full length album, A Southern Gothic, our Album Of The Week. Jill Riley caught up with the singer-songwriter about her recent performance at the Water Is Life festival, putting together the record with producer T Bone Burnett, and the changes she's seen in the Nashville music scene over the years.

Interview Highlights

Edited for clarity and length.

JILL RILEY: The new record, A Southern Gothic is due out right around the corner, September 17. I wonder if you could just--let's talk more about the record in the second half here because I really want to dig into it. But before we do, I'm interested in finding out your path from South Carolina to Nashville because you've been in Nashville for a while. So can you kind of tell me how you made your way there?

ADIA VICTORIA: On a Greyhound. [laughs]

Did you just kind of like pack up what you had and hit the road--did you have a plan?

No, never. I still don't. So it wasn't a straight line. You know life tends never to be that way. I actually went from growing up in South Carolina, I moved to Brooklyn when I was 19. Came back down south three years later, and then I moved to Atlanta when the recession hit 'cause South Carolina just got destroyed by the recession in 2007/2008. Moved to Atlanta, put in some time there. Started learning guitar, listening to Gillian Welch getting into like older folk music, blues music. At this point, my entire family lives in Nashville, except for my little sister, she was in Charleston. So she and I came to Nashville together in the winter of 2010. I had a cat, I had a guitar, and not much else. And I just arrived, I enrolled in college, got my GED, and I started performing out and I guess people dug what they heard. Cut my first record with Roger Moutenot, and got signed to Atlantic and now here I am.

Yeah, you've been in Nashville for over a decade now? I mean, you've probably watched that city change quite a bit.

Oh, yeah, absolutely. So me and my sister Hanifa--we arrived in Nashville in November 2010. And our home--we live right where Midtown meets North Nashville. So it's a very historic black neighborhood and we have literally watched the skyline change because we can see downtown from my Momma's house and we just watch it change. We've watched new people come in, gentrify whole blocks in our neighborhood. It's been like this slow creep and it's actually honestly quite terrifying.

Yeah, I remember visiting Nashville, like the end of the aughts and downtown felt like a city, but it kind of felt like almost a small town city. Almost like the way that St. Paul feels to me here in Minnesota. And then the last time I was there a few years ago, I'm like, wow, this this is changing and it's changing at a rate where I don't know that I see a lot of the old city but I think you can still feel that music buzz in the air. I don't know what your experience has been, if you kind of feel a little taste to the old Nashville, but with the music industry, the way that the industry in Nashville is working, again, seems to be changing with a lot of artists like yourself.

Yeah, when I first moved to Nashville, my generation of artists that I first stumbled upon when I came into the scene, it was Bully it was Those Darlins it was Promised Land Sound, it was Denney and the Jets. It was a lot of this garage punk kind of alternative scene and this was still the days where kids could rent a house together in East Nashville right off of Gallatin, like you could afford to live and like create art and basically be like a crusty a** punk kid and be a musician and I love that. Jessi Zazu Darlin was my best friend and she's the one that convinced me like, "You have talent. You are good enough to be on stage." And I miss that sense of community. I miss that that group of kids, they're all now grown and have kids of their own and married and a lot have moved out of the city because they've been priced out. But I see what's taken its place so much of it now is just about streams and having a good TikTok song or like, the city's just become basically an extension of social media. When I was coming up, there was no Instagram. Twitter really wasn't a big thing. Streaming was a huge yet and I don't know, I feel like a lot of the soul has just been removed from it. But I do find that spirit that I loved listening to Hank Williams records with friends and drinking wine and writing songs. I've now got to the point, you know, I'm 35--I'm not 23 anymore, where I'm more intentional about creating the community that I want. I don't wait for a scene to start. I create my own scene. I call up my girlfriends. I'm like, "Look, let's do this." I met Fiona Prime the other day on an elevator, going to Trey Burt's record release show, and I pretty much was just like, "Hey, are you in town? Do you like to eat food and music? We should do this." And I basically was just like, "Let's hang out." And she's like, "Yeah, let's get the girls together." So that's what that's where I'm moving to now. Like, I'm no longer in the club. I'm with my friends in their house. But we're trying to protect that spirit of Nashville.

Let's get another one of your performance videos in here, and then let's dig into this new album. So last year, you put out a song called "South Gotta Change" and I wonder if you could help me just kind of set up this song and talk about the inspiration for it and what you were feeling at the time that you wrote it.

Yeah. You know, last year it was...it was a lot. A lot of everything at once and a lot of people in the industry, a lot of my peers were feeling pressure from their people to be online, and stream, and live shows, and release content, like keep feeding the baby and keeping people interested. And I kind of took the opposite approach. I did not like the experience of doing live streams, I did not like the experience of how connected I was to my phone, how reliant I was on my phone for connection with people. So I kind of withdrew from that. I would hope that anyone who follows me found time to have a sacred pause for themselves. But last summer, this was right around the period when representative John Lewis left us, and it was also immediately following the lynching of George Floyd. I was sitting outside on my back porch, and it was so hot, like in June, I was burning up. It's that heat in the south where it's not just hot, it's humid, so it sticks to you. It's claustrophobic and it frustrates you, and I remember feeling very frustrated. I remember thinking about the south, like, what would you say to someone that you loved that was running from themselves, that was so terrified of their past, terrified of the things that they did. They smothered it and covered it in lies. They projected they blamed. They're just haunted by their past. What would you say to someone that you loved and you saw them? And that's kind of my experience with the south, like, I love it here. I'm a Carolina girl. I'll die here. I'll die for this place. And I don't let nobody talk mean about it either. But I'm just like, ain't you tired? Aren't you tired of running, aren't you tired of pretending? Like, look, I think that the South is the most beautiful most American most profound place in our country. We are blessed with so much, we're blessed with each other. We're blessed with this amazing culture. If only white folk would let us be blessed, like get out of the way of your blessing, y'all. And so I wrote that song kind of as a prayer. And I was inspired by John Lewis when he told young people to get into good trouble. I wondered what that meant. And I thought about the power of telling stories, the power of bearing witness and sharing narratives of people that have been oppressed in silence. What could be more radical, what could be more troubling to a system that seeks to divide than sharing stories and coming together? And that was the birth of "South Gotta Change". Just let me share my story. Let me speak to this mountain. Let me call it out and tell you that I love you. And I'm not leaving so for everyone that says, "If you don't love it, leave." No, that's not love that's walking away. That's cowardice, and shame on you. My family's been here for 400 years I'm not leaving. You leave.

External Link

Adia Victoria - official website

Related Stories


comments powered by Disqus