Adam Naas might just be the most personable artist I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. When I arrived at Rich Mix in Shoreditch on Wednesday night (doused in a healthy amount of rain) I knew only a handful of his songs, but I was excited to talk to the Parisian artist who owns a sultry voice, and – if I’ve understood his lyrics correctly – a heart that is vast, hopeful, and precious.
I startled him as he came out of the lift on his way for a cigarette, but once we relocated to his dressing room he graciously asked where we should sit to conduct the interview. I suggested he take a spot where he felt most comfortable, and to my surprise, he smiled and sat cross-legged on the floor. In hindsight, I should’ve joined him, but I’m awkward (and I was wearing a dress), so I perched on the couch beside him. The sky was still grey outside, but Adam’s warmth and openness when answering my questions genuinely made it feel like a summers day…
Hello Adam, and Happy Birthday! Have you managed to find time to celebrate? Or is the fact that you’re playing at Rich Mix tonight a celebration in itself?
Thank you, probably the second option. My brother called me about an hour ago – he was calling me, and calling me – and it was kind of overwhelming. He was like “I just wanted to wish you Happy Birthday!” and I was like “Oh, I completely forgot it was my birthday!” Turning 25 is pretty important, I guess? (laughs)
It sure is. I also read that you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, so I hope someone has given you a Harry Potter-themed present? I probably should’ve brought one, so I apologise for that…
(laughs) That’s not a problem. I was in LA a few weeks ago and we went to the Universal Studios Harry Potter World, and I was shaking. It was an amazing experience and I’m so, so happy about it!
Speaking of Harry Potter, and this is a bit cheesy…
I love cheesy!
It feels accurate to say that your music is spell-binding…
What originally inspired you to start writing?
I find the relationship that I have with humans really, really precious. I think sharing emotions, feelings and memories together is the most amazing gift that someone can give to you. I think I was about 10 or 11 years old when I realised how important this was to me. My best friend at the time wrote me a poem for my birthday, so I wrote her a song for her birthday, and I found it kind of liberating to write about her, and how I think of her, and how she’s important to me.
So it all stemmed from poetry? That’s nice.
Yeah, I guess. Writing has helped me a lot.
Cool. How are you feeling about tonight’s show? Do you have any pre-show rituals to help calm your nerves and prepare you for the gig?
I’m really, really excited to be here. I’m fucking in love with London! I’ve always wanted to live here.
Have you been here before? Either performing or just visiting?
I performed here last November at Royal Festival Hall.
Oh of course, I couldn’t go to the gig because I was already booked in for another show. I was gutted!
It was amazing and it’s such a beautiful venue. It was so great, especially playing with the guys in my band who are fucking amazing. I’ve been dreaming of London….forever really. So I’m excited to be here again tonight.
So no nerves then?
Oh no, I definitely have nerves. Rituals-wise, we usually listen to garage punk music before going on stage to move and kind of, feel our bodies I guess, and then we give each other a big hug. Now we’ve been playing together for a year and a half and touring together, I’m wondering if I should start doing extra things you know? Like, should I start trapping them or something?
Physically, in a cupboard maybe?
(laughs) Maybe, or a bathroom perhaps? Lock them in and be like “surprise, you’re not playing tonight!” I just want to make it more entertaining for us. It’s already pretty entertaining though, so maybe not (laughs)
They’ll probably read this interview and start avoiding cupboards on tour now. You’re playing two shows on Friday at Wagner Hall at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton. It’s a festival for new music, so is there anyone you’re hoping to catch?
Oh definitely. We’re only going to be there for one day before we head back to Paris, so it’s kind of sad because I really wanted to see Slotface and Parcels. There’s so many great bands…
I know, it’s my favourite festival of the year! Sorry to rub it in…
Yeah, thanks, now I’m like “ugh, I’m missing it and that makes me want to kill myself!” (laughs). I’m quite happy though because I haven’t had a chance to listen to the bands who are playing on the same day as me, so I’m going to listen to them and I’m sure it’s going to be a brilliant day.
Your most recent single ‘Please, Come Back To Me’ paints a vivid picture of a person pining for their lover, trapped by feelings that aren’t reciprocated. Is it sometimes difficult to write about affairs of the heart in this way? Or does turning situations like this in to a song make it easier to deal with?
A friend of mine told me that he really, really liked the song; but he could only listen to it once. He was like “do I want to put myself in this kind of mood?” and it was actually one of the best things that anyone’s told me about my music. If someone feels something, I guess, it’s great for me. It means they had a glimpse of something that I felt and something that I want to understand. At first, I didn’t really want to write the song. I was like, do I really want to put myself in this situation where I have to dig, but I was really satisfied in the end. I thought it was important because it helped me to realise what’s actually happening in my head and stuff. It was difficult though.
It was brave to write about it, it’s a beautiful song. You’re working on your debut album at the moment, is that right?
I don’t know actually (laughs), I’m just always writing music. I don’t talk a lot about albums and stuff, not because I don’t want to, it’s that I don’t really know what’s going to happen. The songs are there, but the big question is do I want these songs to be on the album? It’s going to be my first record and it’s going to be important, I have to choose them wisely I guess.
That makes sense, no need to rush anything. Finally, what have you been listening to lately? Any recommendations?
Okay (takes a deep breath), I’m fucking in love with a girl called Charlotte Day Wilson. I heard of her four days ago because my booking agent told me about her, and I just can’t stop listening to her. I’m so in to it. I’ve been listening to her music for four days, twenty-four seven, and I’m like…she should probably fill out a restraining order against me because I’m so obsessed it’s kind of dangerous (laughs)
We’ve all been there…
I’ve also just realised that she’s performing in Paris tonight, and she’s going to be at The Great Escape tomorrow, and I won’t be there!
So she’s actively avoiding you, is that what you’re saying?
I think karma is telling us that we’re not going to meet, and I’m really sad about that. I mean, there are so many people that I adore. Perfume Genius is still one of my favourites. He’s fucking great.
Huge thanks to Adam for answering my questions. Follow him on Facebook for more updates.