When it came time to write her debut album, Adaline decided to get away from it all. So she went on a cruise. By herself. “With couples, and old people,” says the singer over a glass of Pinot Noir on Commercial Drive. “It was kind of”¦” And here she lets loose with a big, self-deprecating laugh. “Well, it was depressing at first. When I got on the shuttle bus they were counting everyone, and they’re like, ”˜Two, four, six, eight”¦’ And then they get to me: ”˜nine”¦ 13, 15.’ You could see people trying to count in odd numbers, which no one is comfortable with. And then these people turned around: ”˜Where’s your partner?’ ”˜I’m here alone.’ ”˜On a cruise by yourself?’ ”
But don’t cry too hard for the artist sometimes known as Shawna Beesley. As artistic sacrifices go, a cruise down the West Coast doesn’t sound too bad. And the result is Famous for Fire, a promising debut showcasing Adaline’s talents. Indeed, from her grasp of pop songwriting and arrangements, you’d never know she grew up singing in churches in her home province of Ontario, as well as in the U.K., with her parents and younger brother Tyson. Or that her folks would throw out her copies of Pearl Jam’s Ten as quickly as she could save up her allowance money to purchase them.
“I didn’t know there were other artists like that, so I just kept buying that album. We laugh about it now. There was this interesting phenomenon in the early ’90s in the Christian world where everyone was burning things,” she says with a grin. “I found my Pearl Jam Ten albums being stacked on top of these piles of things being destroyed. I never understood it. Now we look at it as a weird moment.”
Her time singing and performing gospel music with the Beesley Family Singers, as well as studying classical piano, led to her desire to break into the pop-music milieu. At least, once she discovered that there was more to life than Amy Grant.
“I remember things like the first time I heard Radiohead,” says the 27-year-old, who relocated to Abbotsford from Ontario with her family just before her last year of high school. “When I moved here, I’d be sitting around at someone’s house and I’d be like, ”˜What is that?’ And someone would say, ”˜That’s [Radiohead’s] OK Computer.’ And you’d see me putting my head against the speaker. And then my mind blew open. All of a sudden, this whole other world opened to me.”
Adaline kept it in the family by working on Famous for Fire with Tyson, whose guitar contributions fuel the more rock-oriented half of the album, including tunes like “Broken Glass”, “State of Mind”, and “Poor You”. And as far as melodic rockers go, the pounding “Pioneering” would be a standout on anyone’s record. But the most anomalous track is “Chemical Spill”, an alienated, paranoid-android type of song featuring a skittish drum program and blunt guitar tone.
Adaline would like to see her music move in this direction, which is more reminiscent of her beloved Radiohead. But she had other goals in mind with her debut. “I wanted to create something musically intriguing but accessible,” she says. “Like, my mom’s been selling my CD to all her friends at work.”
At first, Adaline’s parents were “very, very hesitant” about their daughter’s immersion in the diabolical world of commercial music. But they’ve come around—there’s even a brief video of her mom singing “Chemical Spill” on Adaline’s Facebook page. “Once I showed them you can sing in theatres, that music can be a career, and that it doesn’t have to be sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, they were fine with it.”
Just like she was fine going on a cruise on her own. “I ended up telling people that I was there to write,” she says. “So I’d walk around and I’d hear [she whispers] ”˜There’s that girl—she’s a celebrity in Canada, she’s here writing for her album.’ It got bigger and bigger.” By the end of the trip, people were coming up to her and saying, “I hear you’re a huge pop star in Canada.”
“And I was like, ”˜Yeah, I’m huge in Canada. That’s why I’m on the cheapest cruise line possible, sailing to Ensenada. Hi, I’m Avril. Perhaps you’ve heard of me.’ ”
Adaline plays a CD-release show for Famous for Fire at the Biltmore Cabaret on Friday (April 25).