'You Can't Prepare Yourself': A Conversation With Adele The singer's career has been a story in numbers, and not just the ones in her album titles. She discusses motherhood, stage fright, the Spice Girls and more in an extended chat with Ari Shapiro.

'You Can't Prepare Yourself': A Conversation With Adele

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ADELE: (Singing) Hello, it's me...


And that is Adele. The superstar from London has just shattered another global record. Her new album, "25," has sold more copies in its first week than any record ever, and the week is only half over. While her last album was full of breakup songs, Adele recorded "25" while in a long-term relationship, and she's now a mother.


ADELE: (Singing) Hello from the other side. I must've called a thousand times to tell you...

SHAPIRO: Adele joins us now from our New York bureau. Welcome to the show.

ADELE: Hello. How are you?

SHAPIRO: I'm doing great. You know, I read some interviews that you did before this album came out where it sounded like you were actually afraid this might not sell.

ADELE: Well, it wasn't so much it wouldn't sell, it was more that people wouldn't be interested. (Laughter). That means more to me.

SHAPIRO: How do those fears look in the rearview mirror?

ADELE: Oh, the reaction's been ridiculous. I'm pretty overwhelmed, to be honest.

SHAPIRO: I imagine listeners have such a personal connection to your songs. They must want to not just take selfies with you, but, like cry with you. How do you handle the intensity of all that emotion, especially from total strangers?

ADELE: I take it as a huge compliment, really. You know, I listen to music as a fan for the outlet of my emotions and stuff like that. So the fact that people seem to be listening to my music for the same thing is really, really wonderful. And that's why I like to put my music out there. Obviously, you know, I hope that I bring joy to people's lives and not just sadness...


ADELE: ...As well. But yeah, you know, I love it. Sometimes it is a bit intense, but, you know, once I've sort of said, come on, snap out of it, they do. You know, I crack a joke, and it chills them out, it breaks the ice so then they're fine.

SHAPIRO: There is a super-catchy pop moment on this album, "Send My Love To Your New Lover..."


SHAPIRO: ...Which is probably more pop-y than anything I've ever heard you do.

ADELE: Yes, I totally agree. It's pop-y-er than a lot of pop songs I've even heard.


ADELE: (Laughter).


ADELE: (Singing) Send my love to your new lover. Treat her better. We've got to let go of all of our ghosts. We both know we ain't kids no more. Send my love to your new lover...

SHAPIRO: So this is a collaboration with the Swedish super-producer Max Martin. He worked with Taylor Swift...


SHAPIRO: ...A lot of other big names. Tell us about the process that led to this song.

ADELE: I was in New York with Ryan Tedder, and "Trouble" came on the radio, which Taylor - Taylor's song that she did with Max and Shellback. And I loved - and I knew it was Taylor, and I was like, who did this though? I was like, it's amazing. And I've always loved her, but, I said, this is a total other side to her that I want to know, who, like, brought that out in her. And he said Max Martin. So we - I reached out to him, yeah I got my management to reach out. And he says yeah, and they came to London. And I took my guitar along and I said, I've got this riff, and I played it. And then they recorded it, and then we put a beat to it and then "Send My Love" happened - really, really quickly.


ADELE: (Singing) Send my love to your new lover. Treat her better.

SHAPIRO: It sounds like a lot of the feelings on this album resonate with the feelings that were on "21" - the nostalgia, the looking backwards to when we were young - but it filters them through a very different lens.

ADELE: Yes. I think in some ways my attitude towards my ex-boyfriend when I was writing "21" was a little bit immature. But I was a kid, I was 21. I mean, so it was fine. And now that I'm a mom, I feel like everything I do, I'm making a legacy for my child so I try and be very articulate with my feelings going forward because he will read all about this one day. And I want him to know that I, you know, I cared about how I was portrayed when he existed in my life, you know, and that I wasn't flippant with those things. So he is my legacy, you know? So I'm very, very conscious to have become a grown-up. I don't want to be a baby raising a baby. You know, my boyfriend's older than me so I'm a lot more worldly than I used to be. (Laughter).


ADELE: (Singing) Everybody tells me it's 'bout time that I moved on and I need to learn to lighten up and learn how to be young.

SHAPIRO: Can we talk about the song "River Lea?"

ADELE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: This is a real place. I lived in London for a couple years so...

ADELE: Oh, you did? Where did you live?

SHAPIRO: I lived in Spitalfields in East London.

ADELE: Oh, my God, that's so nice there. Look at you.

SHAPIRO: I really loved it. It was really good.

ADELE: It was lovely down there, yeah.

SHAPIRO: The River Lea, based on this song, kind of sounds like a beautiful, wild, rolling country river - you know, reeds growing out of my fingertips...

ADELE: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: That's not actually what this place is like.

ADELE: Oh, no. No, it's a filthy river, but it ran through my home. It ran through - you know, and a lot of my life was spent walking alongside the River Lea to go and get to somewhere else. I worked at a cafe called the River Lea Caf. It's just a huge part of my life.


ADELE: (Singing) But it's in my roots, in my veins, in my blood, and I stain every heart that I use to heal the pain. So I blame it on the River Lea, the River Lea, the River Lea...

ADELE: But, you know, it's just that - the idea of the song is, you know, I've - especially since I became a parent, let alone writing this record, I'm dealing with myself for the first time, and I have a lot of bad habits. So rather than admitting that I have bad traits in my actual character, I would always be like, well, that's how I was raised, that's what happens when you come from where I'm from (laughter) and all that. And it's so unfair on where we're from. And I'm very proud that I'm from Tottenham. And I don't go back that often, but I'm very proud that I'm from there. And it's completely made me who I am, and I think it's one of the reasons I've managed to keep - hold onto myself and keep myself together because we're very humble in Tottenham. So I'm very glad that I'm from there. And that's what the song's about.


ADELE: (Singing) The River Lea, the River Lea, the River Lea...

SHAPIRO: It's funny to think about how different your son's upbringing is going to be.

ADELE: Yeah, very.

SHAPIRO: You are so true to where you came from, and your son is going to come from a completely different kind of life.

ADELE: Yeah. But I have the same morals that I've always had, and his dad is a really wonderful man. I think it will be all right. And he will always know why he gets to live such a wonderful life - 'cause I don't want him thinking that comes for free because it does not.

SHAPIRO: Let's wrap up with a track that I believe actually begins with the sound of your son's voice. Is that right?

ADELE: "Sweetest Devotion."


ADELE: Yeah.


ADELE: Yeah, I recorded him - I want to sit next to my mommy. (Laughter).


ADELE: (Singing) With your lovin' there ain't nothin' that I can't adore. The way I'm runnin' with you, honey, is we can break every low. I find it funny that you're the only one I ever looked for. There is something in your lovin' that tears down my walls.

ADELE: I was always looking for the feeling that he gives me, and I was looking for it everywhere in the wrong places having no idea that I would find it in having a child.


ADELE: (Singing) The sweetest devotion hitting me like an explosion.

ADELE: And he did, he hit me like an explosion (laughter). It's the most shocking thing when you have a child.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

ADELE: You can't prepare yourself - oh, my God, what have I done?


ADELE: But, just, his love is just like - the love I feel for him is so poignant. And that's what I've been looking for, like, my whole life, like, and on my records, it's like I'm looking for this love. And I don't need to find it in my partner. I have it in my partner and I'm lucky, but, like, I'm going to be a mom forever no matter what happens. And that love is always going to be there.


ADELE: (Singing) The sweetest, the sweetest, it's the sweetest...

SHAPIRO: Adele Adkins, the world knows her as Adele, and the new album is called "25." What a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much.

ADELE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


ADELE: (Singing) The sweetest devotion.

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