One can’t help to daydream about having Oleta Adams’ larger-than-life voice to experience how it feels to be in her shoes, even for just one show. It’s no wonder that she has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and was recently honored with the Black Music Honors Legends Award. Her calling came in church with gospel music, but her immense talent and versatility have afforded her a superbly diverse career, having recorded nine CDs and counting. With collaborations with Tears for Fears, Phil Collins and Elton John, Oleta has performed around the globe and is on the top of her game.
You celebrated your 45th year in the music industry by releasing a new collection of classic songs entitled Third Set this year. How have the changes in the music industry affected you?
Not as many people buy full CDs anymore. Also, because of the digital age, the world is inundated with music, so it’s harder for one person to “stand out”. People don’t have to leave home for entertainment anymore because they can see it on cable or the internet. It’s a blessing and a curse.
You recently said, “At this point in my life it’s kind of cool that I don’t have to ask anybody’s permission anymore about what I want to sing.” Please explain.
When you are signed to a record company, they see themselves as artistic directors of your music, so they choose most of the music for you because they feel they know what’s best for you and what will sell CDs and make hits, even if it’s something you don’t like to sing. Being my own music director and producer, I choose what I want to sing.
Tell me about your LGBTQ+ fans.
The people who love my music are those who appreciate music that has depth and songs that mean something special to the individual. They love songs that are uplifting and encouraging; songs that express what love means to them and songs that feed their soul. Songs that make them dance, weep, and songs that speak peace to them. LGBTQ+ or straight… this is what people find in my music.
You’re the daughter of a preacher and grew up listening to gospel music. Is there a place in gospel music for LGBTQ+?
Gospel music is a part of every cell, tissue, bone and sinew in me. I don’t just listen to it. God’s promise of love, grace, mercy and spiritual freedom is here for EVERYONE. The LGBTQ+ have been enjoying listening to and performing this music for ages. (Man looks at the outer appearance, God looks at the heart.)
How is Los Angeles different than other major cities?
It’s obvious that it’s an entertainment industry city. Chances are great that you’ll spot a celebrity. It’s also one of the loneliest major cities I’ve ever been to, probably because it takes such an effort to get to any place. That’s how I ended up writing, “Circle of One”. Underneath the glitter and glam, there seems to be a sadness that I can’t explain. However, I have had some wonderful times performing there.
What does your average day look like?
I love quiet days. I have coffee with my husband in the mornings, sometimes in the garden on warm days. I take care of business and do housekeeping late morning (watching HGTV) before working in the studio in the afternoon. When John gets dinner ready, everything else stops. We go to bed early. When we do shows we travel the day before. Flights can be painful at this stage of life. Day of show means sound check and an outpouring of energy all day, then late nights. It takes longer to recover these days, but I’m grateful for the chance to still sing.
What’s new on your play list?
Robert Glasper, Jacob Collier, Gregory Porter.
What living person do you most admire most?
Two people in my Sunday school class; The Tebows have been married for 75 years. They’re both in their mid-90s. He still walks a mile a day. They both have active lives doing community and charity work and have a lovely peaceful existence.
What exciting project or event do you have coming up?
I’ll be in Los Angeles in September; Birmingham, AL and Las Vegas in October; New York and Alexandria, VA in November and a 12-City Tour in The Netherlands in December. But best of all, John and I will celebrate our 23rd Anniversary on October 8th!
Tell me a secret-a good one.
I love to sew! Drapes (lined with pinched pleats), duvet covers, clothes….. Just don’t always have the time.