Toronto songstress says she’s 100 per cent comfortable with her ‘tomboy’ image
As she walks towards the stage to perform songs off her recently released EP, Reverse Psychology, people in the crowd are overheard talking about her extraordinary talent and how excited they are to finally see her perform in person. Adria Kain jumps on stage wearing a black hat, black jeans, black shoes and an oversized cardigan, with a warm, inviting smile on her face. As she looks out into the audience she seems to know this is her moment to use her unique blend of hip-hop/R&B/soul music to show how much she’s grown in the last year.
As she opens her mouth to sing her first song of the night, “Colours”, it’s clear to anyone that’s been following the songstress since her 2012 EP Love, Kain that her vocals have grown into a smooth and euphonic sound.
The Toronto-based singer has built up a strong local following through her performances at some of the city’s most prominent music events: the Manifesto Festival of Community and Culture, Tika Simone’s Known Unknown talent series and Canadian Music Week to name a few.
“I’m my biggest critic at the end of the day.”
Tonight she’s onstage at IIIN Double Double Land, an event put on by Omit Limitation, an organization in Toronto that produces spaces for artists, bloggers and content creators to share their work. Her stage presence captivates the crowd, forcing them to pay attention, join the hype and turn up.
The progress Adria displays onstage didn’t come without some self-realization, however.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot. I think just in regards to the industry in general and how to go about getting my foot in the door,” she explains, after her set.
“In regards to my growth in my actual music, I just kinda listen. I listen to myself all the time, as annoying as it is, just so that I can hear things that I could change, things that I can do better. I’m my biggest critic at the end of the day. I also listen to a lot of music outside of my own music and compare myself to a lot of my favourite artists and just kinda move off of that. I feel like that has helped me a lot to establish myself.”
Adria’s learning curve that came with listening to her vocals in order to improve her sound also came with what she felt mattered most: working on being 100 per cent authentic with herself and her music.
“Just being myself and coming out of the whole trying to be someone else and trying to cater to whatever’s popping right now. I think that has to do a lot with my growth,” she shares.
“It actually feels f*cking amazing. It feels comfortable because I don’t have to be anything that I’m not. This is who I am, this is what I do, this is what I sound like, this is what I look like. If you don’t like it, f*ck you; if you like it I appreciate you. That’s how it is.”
“A lot of people wanted to sexualize me in a certain way. [They] wanted me to look a certain way because I’m a female and give me sex appeal in that sense. I’m not comfortable with it . . .”
Although Adria’s new no-effs-given attitude may come off strong, or even conceited, it doesn’t stem from a place of cockiness or hatred; instead it comes as a reminder to be herself and not give in to what others think she should be as an artist.
“I’ve had a lot of moments where people in my past – there’s a reason why they’re not in my present or future – [They] tried to make it seem like I had to branch out and be something that I wasn’t in terms of dressing a certain way. Almost everyone knows me as this ‘tomboy’ artist. Some people classify me as a stud, [but] I don’t put myself in that category. I’m just a person, I like what I like [and] a lot of people wanted to sexualize me in a certain way. [They] wanted me to look a certain way because I’m a female and give me sex appeal in that sense. I’m not comfortable with it, so I’d rather just be myself at the end of the day.”
Adria, who also raps, wants artists coming into this industry to know that worrying about others’ opinions can hinder what they want for themselves.
“Just don’t worry about what other people think, because I went through that phase, where I cared a lot about what other people’s opinions were. I was always so worried about my image and how I was gonna come across to certain people and now I just don’t give a f*ck.”
“If they don’t see a purpose, or they don’t see a major goal that will make them feel good about themselves at the end of the day, then is it really necessary?”
Furthermore, she wants to make sure female artists coming into this industry rethink requests to sexualize themselves.
“[I’d] suggest they think about the purpose behind that change. If they don’t see a purpose, or they don’t see a major goal that will make them feel good about themselves at the end of the day, then is it really necessary? I’d probably just suggest they think about that action before taking part in it.”
Kain recalls a time where she tried to be more feminine at the request of other people.
“I did have moments where I tried different things because I was made to believe that tapping into my feminine side was highly important, but then I learned that there are so many other ways of doing that without it being strictly about my style and the way I choose to present myself in my outer appearance,” shares Kain.
Not wanting to feel uncomfortable pushed Kain to remain true to her style and not focus on the need to please people.
“I like to stay stylish, but make it look as natural as possible without stepping too far outside the box,” she adds.
Rebeka Dawn, who came out to support Adria’s performance, says she knew that it was only a matter of time before the young artist’s true potential would be achieved.
“I feel like her confidence and focus has shifted a lot, which is amazing. She’s definitely growing, it’s a beautiful thing to watch and be a part of,” says Dawn. “I listened to her for a while and I’ve been a fan for a long time, but I always kind of felt like she wasn’t reaching her full potential, but I feel like she’s coming into that now.”
Photos © Isa Ransome & Urbanology Magazine
Photo Assistant: Janelle Scott-Johnson