Catch up with New York-based indie folk artist, Adrienne Tooley, and look for her sophomore EP, This Was True Once, to be released April 8th.
What got you interested in music?
Adrienne Tooley: I had the required youthful piano lessons. There was always classical music playing at our house and my grandpa sang at church, my mom sang around the house, and it kind of just was something I did and didn't realize was weird, but I would sing all of the time under my breath. I remember, I think I was probably 8 years old and I saw a stage production of the musical Annie and I was sitting next to my mom and I just turned to her after the first act and I was like, 'mom, I want to do this,' so I spent most of my youthful teenage years actually in musical theater, so I was very much that typical, I'm listening to show tunes all the time, going to play rehearsals, and doing my homework backstage and it was just this amazing way to be immersed in music all the time and be part of a team. So that's where my love of singing came from and, as I got older, I realized that I didn't have to sing other peoples' words, instead I could sing my own and use it as a platform for my own creativity and that's how songwriting came about.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Oh my gosh, I had to have been in high school. I had taken this road trip - and I use that very, very loosely because we were probably just driving around the hills in our town - with two of my best friends and we found this weird little bridge and, in your typical 16 year old girl fashion, made this a very ceremonial thing, like, 'the day we found the bridge'; I went home and I wrote this song that I ended up calling "Crossing Bridges" and it was very much that feeling of being a teenager and having no idea what's going on but you found something that is special and makes you part of a group. I don't think that I could even remember any of the lyrics, but I remember that we would remember that day because I wrote that song.
Which bands or artists have you been influenced by?
It's really all over the board. Like I said, there was a lot of classical music played in my house growing up and that's where you can find a true sense of musicianship, studying those composers and, also, I'm a huge musical theater nerd. I fell off the train for awhile, but recently I've been listening to the Hamilton cast album, basically non-stop, for a couple months; there's just something so incredible about the way that Lin-Manuel Miranda utilizes the language and it's this really amazing, groundbreaking hip-hop musical. It's actually incredible and I'm getting a lot of inspiration from that. Beyond that, I have a lot of love for British folk artists. They're quieter in sound, but that's where you get to really focus on their lyrics and I'm a lyric centric person in my own writing and also in what I choose to listen to; I just really love language and I love people who are able to play with that in an effective way.
Is there an artist you're hooked on now?
I am always a huge fan of Laura Marling, she's my go-to British folk muse. I've seen her live multiple times and she put out a new record - I guess I saw her last Summer - and so whenever I'm in need of a little bit of inspiration or emotional understanding, I go revisit her catalog. I find a lot in what she has to say and I find something new in myself every time I listen.
How would you describe your own sound?
I guess it's a conglomeration of any folk. It's hard, because what you feel about your music and what other people take away are so different and I always hesitate to give myself a little box because I don't want to alienate anyone based on a word that I'd say, but I definitely think that it's wondering and it's wandering and it's a little literary and - I'm sure everyone thinks this but that's one of the beauties of being an artist - I think it's really honest and it's one of the places that I'm the most comfortable allowing myself to be vulnerable.
What was the inspiration behind your new single, "White Noise"?
I don't like to talk about the specifics of songs, it's, again, that you don't want to burst the bubble for anything; the way that one person can listen to and interpret a song can be completely different from what I meant when I go to write it, but again I think that's kind of the beauty of music, is that you can have all of these different ways to feel something for and be influenced by one single track. I will say that this new song is a really lovely form of vulnerability and it's kind of about losing the sense of what you think you know when you love and having to define that and realizing that you don't need to. It's again, very convoluted, but there's something about "White Noise" and it's about how I have had a lot of experiences in life where people will try to define, for me, the way that I love, whether it be friends or old relationships, and sometimes the way that I love doesn't work for them and I think that song is about realizing that that's okay and the chorus is, 'I don't love the way I think I do,' and realizing that maybe that's okay and waiting for someone where my love will work.
How does this new EP, This Was True Once, compare to your last release, Nowhere Girl?
I think they're really different but you can still see me. Nowhere Girl was a really lovely and whirlwind adventure/creation. I was new here to New York City and I met Ted Young, who produced that one, from a friend of a friend and we recorded it all in one night with a live band and I was very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at that moment and I think you can hear that in, not only in the arrangements, but in the lyrics and the songwriting and it's more of a youthful, jovial record. I wouldn't say that I have necessarily lost any of that bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, eager sense but, obviously, this city is changing all the time and people are changing, artists and musicians change, and I think I would just say - and I'm sure everyone says this - that this album that is about to be released is just a little bit more grown up and it's a little more introspective, the way that my producer, Katie Buchanan, arranged things. It's really surprising and lovely and it's not what you would expect if you listened to Nowhere Girl, but it makes a strange sort of sense in the progression of, not only my musical journey, but just the journey of myself over the past few years.
Could you sum up This Was True Once in one sentence?
It's about recognizing that the things that you felt in the past are always relevant, even if they're not still true.
What do you want your listeners to take away from your music?
I hope that they feel something, whether it be, 'this is a catchy chorus,' or, 'wow, that lyric spoke to me,' but I love music that makes me feel something. I know that's kind of an outrageous demand to ask a listener, like, 'feel something,' and I'm not making music for that sense, but I feel a lot from the songs that I chose to include and I think it's just a really lovely, raw portrait of who I was and who I am and how I've come to kind of straddle that line of 'was' and 'is' and I hope that that can reflect outwardly and that other people can maybe find solace and seek some comfort in that.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
The music video for "White Noise" will be out sometime later this month, I think. I am going to release the record, it's coming out on April 8th and I am having a big EP release show on April 10th here in New York at Rockwood Music Hall.