“My South has nothing to do with vampires or mansion or [cowboy] boots,” Adia Victoria told Wondering Sound in late July.
Even though the South Carolina-raised singer-songwriter has only a few widely available songs to her name, her representation of the region isn’t exactly something that needs clarifying. It’s a picture that is very much in focus.
Most were first exposed that imagery this summer with the attention-grabbing debut single, “Stuck in the South”. “I don’t know nothin bout nothin’ but more misery / I’ve been dreaming of swinging from that old Palmetto tree,” she sings in its haunting opening lines. “I don’t know nothin’ bout Southern belles / But I can tell you something about Southern hell,” she continues as a swampy twang seeps into the track.
That’s how you make an entrance.
The self-described “back-porch-blues-swamp-cat-lady-howlin’-at-the-moon” hasn’t been stuck in the South for all of her life, though – at least not literally. As she discussed with Rookie last year, she traveled to France as a a teenager and moved to New York City at the age of 19. Since 2010, however, she has been back in the South, in the relatively cosmopolitan music hub of Nashville.
It’s there that famed producer Roger Moutenot (Yo La Tengo, Lambchop, Sleater Kinney) came across Victoria and reached out. The two are working on her full-length debut, which will be preceded by an EP in the coming months.
Currently, Victoria – who Rolling Stone recently dubbed “PJ Harvey covering Loretta Lynn at a haunted debutante ball” (OK!) – and her three-piece backing band are in the midst of brief U.S. tour. (In March, they’ll head to the West Coast opening for Hurray for the Riff Raff.)
BYT checked in with Victoria over the weekend, just before the release of her second single, “Sea of Sand”, a song written in Harlem during the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“Here’s a song for my friends,” she sings, amongst several dedications on the track. “I hate every single one of y’all.”
How is the tour going? At the outset, was there anything that made you nervous?
Tour’s been great so far. It’s been surreal to play for such receptive crowds this early in my career.
The thing most nerve-wracking so far has been finding parking for our van. Other than that, it’s been smooth sailing.
“Stuck in the South” is the only song of yours that’s widely available. What else are you performing these days? Is there an album in the works?
I’m performing songs from our upcoming EP, as well as working out material from the album.
What does “the South” represent for you? Why come back to it after living elsewhere?
The human heart has a way of returning to that which has cut it closest. I suppose that’s why I’m here.
How would describe Nashville? In what ways (if any) does it differ from what you expected when you moved there?
I’m gonna skip this question.
Roger Moutenot is a legendary producer in the city. What drew you to working with him? How was the experience?
Roger found me while I was playing out at a club one evening. He reached out to my manager about working with me and it’s been two years now that I’ve been able to slowly grow as an artist with him. He’s given me a safe place where I can play with my ideas and get sounds out of my head.
How do you write your songs? Is it something that comes in spurts? Is it a process that’s more methodical? Are you usually coming from a personal place with them?
I write when I need to. I don’t sit down and say ‘I’m going to write a song now’. It comes when it wants to, usually while I’m walking around the city.
I saw that you sat on a panel discussing “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records” this fall. What’s your history with the label’s music?
I enjoy blues music. They asked me to come up and discuss the importance the blues has played in my life.
What’s been the best show you’ve played?
I don’t really think about shows like that. Every show is its own experience. I respect that.
What’s the most recent great record (old or new) that you heard for the first time?
I’m really into Black Messiah by D’Angelo. He isn’t afraid to take people to some dark sonic places.
Are there any misconception of you – as an artist or as a person – that you come across with some regularity?
I wish I had time to care about what other people think about me! I just keep on moving.