Adaline: the Artist You Didn’t Know You Knew

Interview with singer/songwriter Adaline

Whether you know her by name or not, you’ve definitely heard Adaline’s music before. Whether it be the dozens of times you’ve scene her Cineplex preshow ads or her tracks in shows like Lost Girl, 90210, Ringer or Grey’s Anatomy her songs have been everywhere and heard by more people than even now her by name. With her new album Aquatic she’s taking her personal body of work even further and talks with us about being an unknown superstar, writing for movies and if she’s considering joining the acting world herself.

Northern Transmissions: While your music has been licensed a lot, how do you actually approach scoring like on The Canyons?

Shawna Beesley (Adaline): That’s been a really exciting thing for the last couple years. I think doing licensing for years and building relationships with different music supervisors sort of gave me the opportunity to do more exciting things like scoring a picture, which is a rare thing to get to do. It’s really exciting to get inspired by a character or a scene and write in that headspace, getting out of your own world. You have to understand where silence has to be. You have natural instincts as a songwriter, there should be words here, and there shouldn’t be words here. It’s usually pretty heavily inspired by what’s going on the narrative. It can be a fluke to license a song that works for a scene, but when you get to know the characters and write from their perspective you get more insight.

NT: What was the most exciting part of working with Brendan Canning?

SB: That was an interesting phone call to get. Brendan was the lead composer for the film and he would bring in other people to collaborate with. He’s a pretty collaborative person, being from Broken Social Scene. They brought me in, it’s a quite a racy sexual film. They wanted someone who could evoke that emotion and someone mentioned me. The first time I met him was in the studio which was quite intimidating, going in to work with somebody you have a lot of respect for, but I also knew he was bringing me in to do what I do, which is nice. I just did some top-lining it was really guttural, feeling what my instincts were and going from there. One of the songs, I was singing in the booth on lyrics that didn’t make sense and we ended up tracking them somehow which was kind of magical when you’re just instinctual.

NT: What was your strongest takeaway from you composer residency with Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre?

SB: It was one of the most collaborative things I’ve done because you’re working with up and coming actors, producers, directors, writers and editors, and we all work together. The collaborations that have come from that, I have a music video coming out next month with one of the actors I did the program with one of the actors from it who’s now on Grey’s Anatomy. Because we’re friends and we’ve done this collaboration he’s like yeah I’ll do this with you. Refining the skill of scoring because as a song writer you write songs, but for films it’s a different skill set. Hearing these speakers, asking them questions about how they approach a scene. Silence was a really big lesson, just learning when to be quiet. I sing throughout my songs all the time so it was interesting to shut up a little bit and just let it sit.

NT: I hadn’t realized how many places including Cineplex ads your music has appeared in, have you had any interesting experiences being an artist people don’t know they already know?

SB: I think the reality is, people would know me by a scene but not as an artist. People don’t necessarily know who I am but it’s crazy that almost everyone I know has probably heard a song of mine but they don’t know. You’ll have those conversations about the shows you’ve been on and someone will say “Oh I remember that scene,” they might not even remember the scene but how the music made them feel. It’s very incredible to feel as a songwriter.

NT: Are you looking to bridge the gap into acting and make the full career sweep any time soon?

SB: No one’s ever asked me that but I’d love to do it. I’d love to do that, I studied theatre in university, it was my major. I haven’t acted in years but if I got to the position that I could audition for something I would, but I’m not actively seeking anything.

NT: What was it about the ocean that appealed to you thematically?

SB: For me the theme of this record wasn’t preconceive, it was something that I noticed later. I wrote this record on the water. I went away and spent time on this boat for a week just staring at the ocean. I write music and lyrics separately so I just went in this stream of consciousness and filled a notebook full of lyrics and ideas, then I go back and make all of those things work. I’ll massage the lyrics to fit the melodies. I didn’t notice until later there was so much liquidy movement in the lyrics so I was influenced by the water.

NT: Where in your recent years of writing and music did you finally decide to make another album?

SB: Being a musician is not easy and all of us are trying to find ways to do what we love and make a career of it. I think that after my last release in 2012, I really saw the need and value of learning to make a score, do more co-writes and collaborate. I love making records but it’s really important now to diversify and know how to do it all. I would love to be my own island but the reality is you need to be more flexible and involved in different areas. The more involved I got it was just really fun because you get so sick of yourself between your own writing all the time, the collaborations and stuff is the key to keeping it fresh. It takes time to put to put together a body of work that feels like it’s my own again, and feel right.

NT: What’s next?

SB: I just had a song that I partnered with the film Below Her Mouth. Since I took a break I’m really excited to focus on my music, so I’m releasing another EP in the fall. Just keeping music coming and keep maturing, I haven’t toured in a long time so I’m hoping to expand that. Making more connections out here in L.A. and make more partnerships with films.

Words by Owen Maxwell