Adria Kain on Growing Musically
Adria Kain is a Toronto-based R&B singer who has spent the last ten years sharing her soulful sound with audiences across the country. Her debut album When Flowers Bloom is nominated for a 2023 JUNO for Contemporary R&B recording of the year. The Grind sat down with Adria to discuss her incredible journey of personal and artistic growth.
The Grind: We're almost exactly one year to the date that you released your album. How did you feel when it finally was out in the world and people could engage with it?
Adria Kain: The best way to describe it is a breath of fresh air. I'm still processing a lot of what's happening right now. It has
been a whirlwind of events. I'm kind of just getting to the calm after the storm, as opposed to the calm before the storm. There's still a bunch of things in the works that are going to be happening throughout the new year, but right now, I'm just trying to give myself a chance to really like bask in all that is coming in, and just trying to allow myself to really take in how far I've come. I'm not used to really paying attention to how much I have actually succeeded in my career. “I think that this project could have only happened like this over the pandemic,”
The Grind: Why aren’t you used to paying attention to your successes?
Adria Kain: I think I'm just so focused on constantly working because that's pretty much all I've known since I was young. You work to try to make ends meet or try to build a better life. I think that just became embedded in my mentality to the point where I almost forgot to stop, pay attention, and just give myself a pat on the back.
Two years ago, I literally didn't have much. I was sitting in a space where I didn't really know what I was doing with my music career or like where it was, what direction it was going in. And so the fact that I've managed to figure all of that out and get to the place that I'm in now is just a really beautiful thing to see.
The Grind: You said, two years ago, you didn't know what was happening with your music career. Now you're JUNO nominated. How did you get from A to B?
Adria Kain: I started professionally making music in my 20s. I'll say 2013 is when things really began and from there, it's kind of just been an up and down battle, mostly a lot of downs. A lot of moments where I felt like I don't know if this is my calling or if this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Even though I knew inside that I was talented, and prior to me signing with ArtHaus, which is the label that I'm signed with now, I had moved from the city back home to be with my grandparents and I was living there for four years up until pretty much the fall of 2020. At that time, I had been seeing a little bit of the fruits of my labour coming in. I was getting a little bit of streaming money and it was holding me over for longer than I had expected
it to. And I was like, “Okay, well, maybe I can start looking for a place again, of my own or like, you know, to share or whatever the case may be.”
My music career was kind of up in the air because I had just signed but then it was the middle of a pandemic. We didn't really know what was going on with the world. I was climbing my way out of debt, I still didn't know where I was gonna live, but I was kind of in a situation where I needed to move out of my grandparents’ house at some point soon. And then it was like, all of a sudden, all of these things started to fall into place. An apartment came up out of nowhere and, within a couple
months, I fully moved into a space of my own, which I’ve never had. That transitioned into my studio experiences I've never had before working with artists who I've never worked before and that created basically the second half of my album.
The Grind: What's your sense of the Toronto music scene?
Adria Kain: I feel like there's a lot — like, a lot — of talent but there's no infrastructure in Toronto, especially for Black artists, let alone queer artists like myself. So I think it just makes it ten times more difficult for anything to really break regardless of how talented you are. And specifically here in Toronto, without going to somewhere like America or even the UK — and even getting those opportunities are kind of like few and far in between — it depends on who you know who you're connected to. And then with that, you know, there's still a money hurdle where you have to try to figure out financially how you're going to take on these opportunities and how you're going to get from Toronto to the UK or to the US and then you gotta apply for a visa. There's so many like hoops that you have to go through as well as an artist from Toronto.
And then when we try to make things work here, it just doesn't. It doesn't penetrate.
And I don't know, I think all of us are really trying to figure out what the problem is. Because there's been so many different
platforms, different writing camps, organizations and programs that have been implemented to try to change things, but it doesn't really seem like it's doing much, except for maybe just something in the moment, you know, that feels inspiring.
The Grind: Who were some of your influences as an artist?
Adria Kain: Growing up, I listened to predominantly R&B. I was listening to artists like Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, Aaliyah,
Brandy, Monica-the people who were leading the R&B sound back in the early 90s.
There were elements in my childhood that kind of spilled into the artist that I've become today, which I didn't even notice until
recently. When I was younger, I moved around a lot but Burlington and Oakville were the places that I grew up for the most part. Those areas are predominantly white and most of the music that people were listening to there was alternative or rock -sometimes country and folk. That’s the kind of stuff I was hearing more than anything. The only time I would really hear R&B is if I was with my immediate group of friends who were mostly people of colour, or at home with my mom
and my family.
And so I kind of had the influences of like, whatever music I was listening to around my peers outside of that, outside of family and close friends. I used to listen to bands like System of a Down or Avril Lavigne all the time at one point in my life; Paramore is my favorite band. So that kind of alternative sound kind of seeped into my sound now, and I noticed that I enjoy
certain elements of it, which is really interesting for me to discover about myself.
My grandparents are Trinidadian and used to listen to a lot of jazz and a lot of Calypso, specifically. So I just kind of naturally
took some of those elements and started to kind of just add them into my sound without even noticing until now. And now I kind of just want to play with that a little bit more to see how far that could go.
The Grind: With When Flowers Bloom, it's very clear that it's a journey that has a beginning and end, yet the end doesn't feel final.
Adria Kain: I think, honestly, the overall concept of the album was personal growth. I was pursuing being an artist, and it was inevitable for me to start to release some of these things into my music or my art in general, in my writing, and like, every way possible.
Something that I heard a lot from people just before the album came out was “this is just the beginning, this is just the beginning.”
I remember hearing that used to frustrate me because obviously, in my mind, I'm like, “It's not the beginning. I've been doing this for so long.” And then I realized in my better understanding of myself that it didn't have to mean what they were saying. For me, it means there's still more to go.
This article appears in the February - March 2023 Issue.