Soul singer and Chatham native Nola Adé doesn’t like to box herself in. When we sat down to talk, she had just performed a sold-out opening show at Hyde Park’s Promontory. “I grew up just listening to the voice of Ella Fitzgerald,” she told me. “I’ve always loved her voice, but some of my influences go from Lauryn Hill to Asa—she’s a Nigerian artist—to Amy Winehouse—I do so many of her covers—to Mali Music, one of my favorite artists today. And I still have some traditional Afrobeat artists that I really love too.”
It was primarily the jazz strain in Adé’s voice that held together her set at the Promontory, but Adé made it clear, even in her short performance, that her musical range is anything but limited. Her voice—fresh, honey-coated, complex—was what pulled Patsy Cline and Chrisette Michele together as she bounced between artists and eras. At her peak, Adé’s fusion of genres seems like a genre all its own.
“I call it soul-pop,” she said. “It’s like my soul, the soul in my voice, but I’m really drawn to pop music and very upbeat sounds.”
During her opening set for touring soul singer Avery Sunshine, Adé was backed by a four-piece band and a back-up singer. She started the show with an unexpected cover of “Crazy,” written by Willie Nelson but popularized by Patsy Cline. Her transformation of the country classic, complete with stamping, rolling drums and a twinkling electric guitar, set the bar high for the rest of the act, which included staples from Adé’s various genres.
Though Adé’s influences have expanded since her youth, she cites her church choirs in Chatham as the environment that first let her to fall in love with music.
“Oh, I knew from the beginning, since I was little,” she said. “Since the second grade—I sang in the choir for my grammar school, a Catholic grammar school on 90th and Stony. I started there at their choir and literally fell in love with singing, with music.” She laughed, “I had a few solos.”
Adé enrolled in law school, but her desire to sing and to be on the stage never left. “While I was in law school I was still performing on the side—even then, I knew that this is what I wanted to do,” she said.
Those few choir solos have turned into a career, or at least the thirst for one. On the heels of her recent single, “Love,” Adé has transitioned to recording music full-time and has been trying to finish an EP for release in the new few months.
Adé’s earnest adoration of music and performance were clear during her set at the Promontory, and she sang with the same huge, confident smile she wears while considering her future. “I’m just at the beginning phase,” she said. “I’m ready for the rest.”