Interview: Legendary Chanteuse Oleta Adams Graces SOPAC’s Stage May 11

Oleta Adams

NJ Next is proud to be the exclusive media sponsor for SOPAC’s “Artists You Should Know” series. Read our interviews with other artists in the series, including Jose James, Alexis Morrast, Red Molly and Leo Kottke.

The incomparable Oleta Adams takes the stage at South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) Friday, May 11 at 8 p.m.

Renowned for her vocal versatility, which allows her to transcend a range of genres, the “Get Here” singer has earned a loyal following. From her gospel roots to her pop collaborations, the four-time Grammy nominee has garnered critical acclaim ever since her first hit, “Woman in Chains,” recorded with Tears for Fears.

NJ Next had the opportunity to speak with Adams about what she has in store for fans when she visits South Orange.

“We have a new CD that we released last year called ‘Third Set,’ and we’ll play some tunes from that,” she said. “I came up with the name because I used to – back in the club days, before my discovery or my big break – I played three one-hour shows six days a week for a lot of weeks, like 48 to 50 weeks out of the year. It’s hard to keep your interest up or the interest of the musicians up unless you kind of switch things around, so the first two sets were for the public and the third set was for us. We played whatever we wanted to play and we’d mess around with the tunes and we felt like there was a lot creativity in there. Those were the moments when we were really inspired to bring something to the party.”

Adams said the concert will include songs from her ‘Third Set’ album as well as fan favorites.

In that spirit, Adams explained that she and her band waded into unchartered waters, coming up with an elegant reimagining of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” a bluesy revision of Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You,” which the singer said is always a “crowd-pleaser,” and more.

Oleta Adams

“We’ve been having fun with the music, so we’ll share a little of that. But I also discovered whenever I try to do a brand new show for my audiences, they’ll listen so sweetly and then at the end of the show they start screaming out their favorites, so we’ll combine it all and hopefully do the songs that help everybody feel great,” she said.

The singer, who has toured with Phil Collins, Michael Bolton, Luther Vandross and others, will turn 65 in May. While that’s generally a time when many consider slowing down, it sounds like Adams is truly hitting her stride. She shared that the thing she’s enjoying most about growing older as an artist is “not having to prove yourself, but just go out there and fun, it just feels so good,”

“I remember when I turned 50 everything felt different,” she said. “All of a sudden I felt freer. You’re not desperate anymore. You’re not so much striving anymore. You get to a point where you really get to live, and you don’t have to take everything that’s offered to you if it’s something that you really don’t want to do. That’s the point where we are in our lives and we’re working with the best musicians ever. We can hardly wait just to be together, let alone to play together, and you look around you to see the opportunities you have to meet people you’ve never met, hear their stories, and affect each other’s lives. We get out there and go, ‘That’s what God intended for us on this trip.'”

With eight albums and over two-and a-half million records sold, Adams considers it a gift to be able to continue sharing her love of music with the masses.

“There are new surprises every single day. I have such a joy. Before it was all about technically being right, singing perfectly, and this and that. Age has a way of evening things out and changing things because you’re not longer able to sing perfectly ’cause everything changes and sort of breaks down. But you find out it wasn’t just your voice or just that song that got to the people, it was about you as a whole, as a person, and what you offered their spirit, your spirit to their spirit, and that has such a deeper meaning, for me and for them. Then I understand what my purpose is all about.”

For Tickets: $38-$58