What is the blues? To some, it's a feeling; to others, a beer-selling brand. Adia Victoria captures the spirits of the blues in a simple phrase: black genius.
The Nashville-based singer-songwriter and poet was raised religious in South Carolina, then broke away to explore the art world in metropolises like New York and Paris. She's now based in Nashville, and stands out as a singular light in that city – her songs are poetic and political, steeped in both punk and cabaret, and sung in a voice that blends Eartha Kitt's cool with Nina Simone's fury.
While making her soon-to-be-released second album, Silences, Victoria returned to the root of modern Southern music, chasing the Delta trails of Skip James and the juice-joint testimonies of Bessie Smith. Silences, produced by The National's Aaron Dessner, doesn't sound like any blues album you know, though: These songs are utterly free of nostalgia, instead highly attuned to the ways that 21st-century oppression affects the inner life of a young black woman in the South, or anywhere in America where the old ways are dying hard.
Adia Victoria brought her band to Nashville's Sound Stage Studios to talk about reclaiming her roots and the freedom of not fitting in.