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LIANE HANSEN, host:

To call British singer-songwriter Adele an overnight sensation would be an understatement. Last year, she was singing to sparse audiences in pubs. This year, she released her debut album, "19." The title comes from her age at the time she worked on it. "19" topped the charts and became a best seller. Adele actually received a Critics' Choice Award before the record came out. Her most recent award nomination is for the video to her single "Chasing Pavements".

(Soundbite of Adele's music)

Ms. ADELE (Musician): (Singing) Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements? Even if it leads nowhere, or would it be a waste? Even..

HANSEN: Adele was born and raised in London and attended the Brit School of Performing Arts there. Amy Winehouse was also a student. But Adele's education and talent were not the only reason she was offered a recording contract. She had already amassed fans on the social networking site MySpace. One of them was Kanye West, who posted the video of "Chasing Pavements" on his blog. Adele joins us from the BBC studios in London. Welcome, Adele, and many congratulations on all your success.

Ms. ADELE: Oh, thank you very much. Hello.

HANSEN: Did you want to be a singer when you were growing up?

Ms. ADELE: Yeah, but I never really thought it would happen. So I never really kind of chased it or pursued it that much. You know, I just kind of sang for fun, really.

HANSEN: Yeah?

Ms. ADELE: And (unintelligible), I wanted to be a pop star. I was the ultimate Spice Girls fan. So I always wanted to sing, yeah.

HANSEN: You went to the Brit School of Performing Arts, which is a free school, right?

Ms. ADELE: Yeah.

HANSEN: What was a day like at that school?

Ms. ADELE: It's varied, really. Sometimes you had no lessons all, but you just go in and kind of sit in the hallways and jam, or like just kind of hang out with friends. Sometimes you'd have like seven hours a day of theory lessons. I never went to them. I don't like theory. It's just pretty chilled out and laid back, and they kind of leave you up to do wherever you want to do.

They don't try and tell you that you should do this because this will sell, and they don't try to say that you shouldn't do that because it's kind of not cool anymore. They're just going to lead you up to it and support you, really, and give you the facilities to do it. Yeah, they're amazing - amazing today that I had been there.

HANSEN: Was your voice, do you think, different before you went than, you know, after you graduated?

Ms. ADELE: Yeah, very much. I was listening to R&B a lot when I first went when I was 14. And my voice is very generic in the beginning. Whereas kind of as I got older, I kind of got into more obscure artists like Karen Dalton and, you know, Annette James (ph) and stuff. And another thing, you have to kind of sound like something that you think is amazing in order to be good. And I'd rather just sing and be honest rather that see what note I can reach, really.

HANSEN: You know, your voice and your music is very soulful. You can really hear it in the song "Melt My Heart to Stone".

(Soundbite of 'Melt My Heart to Stone')

Ms. ADELE: (Singing) And I hear your words that I made up You say my name like there could be an us I best tidy up my head I'm the only one in love I'm the only one in love.

I wrote that the day after I'd ended the relationship with the boy the album's about. And it's just about, even when you know that someone's really bad for you, you can't really live without it at that point in time.

(Soundbite of 'Melt My Heart to Stone')

Ms. ADELE: (Singing) How do you tear your way right through me I forgive you Once again without me knowing you've burnt my heart to stone.

HANSEN: The whole album is very angst driven. I mean, look at the song "Cold Shoulder".

Ms. ADELE: Get out of here.

HANSEN: Yeah. What, did you end up going to look a party, and the old boyfriend was there?

Ms. ADELE: Well, no - it was just - he was just bad. He's a player, cheater. But I knew that, so it's my fault.

HANSEN: You knew that going in?

Ms. ADELE: Yeah. Everybody around me knew it as well, and they were like, don't go there. Leave him alone. I was like, no, I love him.

(Soundbite of 'Cold Shoulder')

Ms. ADELE: (Singing) So where you been then? Don't go all coy Don't turn it round on me like it's my fault See I can see that look in your eyes The one that shoots me each and every time You grace me with your cold shoulder Whenever you look at me I wish I was her You shower me with words made of knives Whenever you look at me I wish I was her.

HANSEN: Does he know that he's the source material for this album?

Ms. ADELE: Yeah, yeah. It was like everyone was telling him, and he was like, no, I don't think so. And then I was drunk one night, and I called him, and I told him. Oh yeah.

HANSEN: What did he say?

Ms. ADELE: Nothing. He quite liked it. He keeps on pestering me for royalties.

(Soundbite of 'Cold Shoulder')

Ms. ADELE: (Singing) Do tell me why you waste our time When your heart ain't admitting you're not satisfied You know I know just how you feel I'm starting to find myself feeling that way too. When you...

HANSEN: What was behind your decision to post your music on MySpace because, you know, a lot of artists put their music up there, and they don't go anywhere. Why do you think you made it?

Ms. ADELE: I don' know. If I - I didn't even know what MySpace was. My friend made my MySpace for me. And then I didn't look after it for like a year, and then it was only when Lily Allen got big on MySpace that I found out what MySpace was.

HANSEN: How important is the Internet to you as a vehicle to deliver your music?

Ms. ADELE: Well, I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for the Internet. I mean, I would be doing it but not at this level. I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you now, and I think it's an easy way to communicate with your fans and to find out about new music and listen to your fans as well, like. I'm more likely to listen to a comment on my MySpage page. I'm more likely to listen to that random person that leaves in Baltimore than I am going to my MD who signed me a couple days back.

HANSEN: Your musical director is it?

Ms. ADELE: Yeah.

HANSEN: Yeah. And in terms of critics, you don't pay attention?

Ms. ADELE: No, not at all, which is a shame because everybody lies.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Yeah, it's kind of unusual to get an award for a record that had not been released yet.

Ms. ADELE: Oh, thank you. I think it's quite ridiculous, to me honest. (Unintelligible)

HANSEN: You don't strike me as the one who puts much truck behind awards and stuff to tee.

Ms. ADELE: No, not at all. I'm not really all big about awards. My Brit award is my toilet bowl holder and my bathroom.

HANSEN: You're kidding.

Ms. ADELE: Isn't that what you do when you're a rock star? Isn't that what Jimi Hendrix and them used to do?

HANSEN: I have heard about that...

Ms. ADELE: Yeah.

HANSEN: A lot of people...

Ms. ADELE: At least I'm not using it as a door stop. That will be really disrespectful.

HANSEN: I have to mention the song "Hometown Glory" because it's a wonderful ode...

Ms. ADELE: Thank you.

HANSEN: To London. What are the circumstances of writing that song?

Ms. ADELE: That was the first song I ever wrote from start to finish on my own when I was 16 at college at the Brit School. We had our first meetings about going to university, and I didn't want to go. Then my mom wanted me to go. Me and my mom had a big fight about it, and I ran upstairs and kind of wrote it. It's my ode to London, but it's a bit of a protest to my mom, saying (unintelligible), I'm staying. Leave me alone.

(Soundbite of 'Hometown Glory')

Ms. ADELE: (Singing) I've been walking in the same way as I do Missing all the cracks in the pavement and tutting my heel and strutting my feet Is there anything I can do for what you did Is there anyone I could call No and thank you, please Madam. I ain't lost, just wandering. Round my hometown...

HANSEN: You know, it's interesting because - to hear that you wrote it early because it - after the bombings in London...

Ms. ADELE: Yeah. Everyone talks about that.

HANSEN: Yeah?

Ms. ADELE: Everyone talks about that. It's not at all. I don't think I could ever write so much something like that. I don't think I have any right to write something like that.

HANSEN: Why not?

Ms. ADELE: Because it didn't affect me, you know. I think it'd be very offensive for people that it really really did affect. I don't really think I want to get into politics very much with my music. I think it kind of smells of trouble.

(Soundbite of 'Hometown Glory')

Ms. ADELE: (Singing) I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque I love to see everybody in short skits, shorts, and shades I like it in the city when two worlds collide You get the people and the government Everybody taking different sides...

HANSEN: You're 20 now, right?

Ms. ADELE: Yeah.

HANSEN: Yeah. We've seen people that have become successful at your age, and then they burn out, or they end up using drugs. But that's not who you are.

Ms. ADELE: No. It's not who I am, but, you know, I can't say that nothing's ever going to go wrong. I'm 20. I've got a lot of time to mess up. And I don't think I will. But if I do, I'm going to step back. If I'm crumbling, I will be stepping back.

HANSEN: Yeah. Do you still have time to write?

Ms. ADELE: A bit. Well, I'm just actually - I've just come off of having like six weeks off. I wrote nearly every night two or three songs then. I have a nice, new boy in my life, which is lovely for a chance, and I've been writing about him.

HANSEN: Ah, so maybe the next album won't have so much angst in it.

Ms. ADELE: I hope not. Well, you never know. He might dump me. I don't know. I have no - I'll probably run away from him. I always do that. No. I can't release another sad record. I think I'll kill myself. Oh, my gosh. Depresses me to sing that album sometimes, going back to how sad I was two years ago. I don't think I will write a sad record again.

HANSEN: Adele's recording, "19," is on Columbia Records, and she joined us from the BBC studios in London. Adele, thank you.

Ms. ADELE: Thanks you very much.

(Soundbite of 'Hometown Glory')

Ms. ADELE: (Singing) Are the wonders of my world Are the wonders of this world Are the wonder of my world - of my world yeah Of my world, of my world, yey

HANSEN: You can watch a video of a solo performance that Adele recorded exclusively for NPR at nprmusic.org. This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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