The first time I met Adele properly was for a Radio 1 Live Lounge that we did in her tiny flat, back in 2008. She answered the door wearing her trackie bottoms, cooked me a Pot Noodle and told me all about her love for the Spice Girls, who she had pictures of on her fridge. I remember staring at her in disbelief and saying, “Seriously?!” And she was like, “Yes! They were such a massive influence.” And you know what, it was really refreshing.
Because that’s what’s amazing about Adele – if she loves something or wants to do something, she will do it wholeheartedly. She won’t be swayed by what other people think or what they say she should or shouldn’t do; she is resolutely herself.
I actually remember her saying, “I don’t know why I’ve moved here,” because the flat was in west London, and she was from Tottenham. She said, “I’ve just moved here because it’s the done thing. People said because I’m earning money I should be going to west London, but I’m going to move out of here, I don’t fit in, it’s not the kind of place that I should be.” Again, it was her being true to herself and saying, “I’m not happy, I’m going back home again.” Which is exactly what she did.
Her talent and personality shone through, but all of us who knew her back then have been left open-mouthed at her success, asking, “How has this happened?”
The turning point was that performance of Someone like You at the Brits in 2011. That changed absolutely everything. As an artist, you can graft – you can play all the TV shows, you can meet all the right people, you can do the tours, and for some it will happen and for others it won’t. It’s a cruel business, but it goes to show that if you can pull off one incredible performance, you can become a star. And you hope that in every generation there will be an Adele.
The voice, the songs, the personality. Those three things. Quality will always out. She’s also really funny and down to earth, and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what she is. She won’t compromise at all – when she didn’t want to tour, she didn’t tour. And she worked really hard to make her new album, the album she wanted to make, scrapping songs, going back to the drawing board, because she’s smart enough to know that she couldn’t put out a substandard product. She’s a very strong woman, very strong-minded, but so incredibly warm and loving at the same time.
And all the while she hasn’t changed one iota. She rose to fame at the same time as Amy Winehouse, who was obviously always troubled and perhaps didn’t have a chance, but the one thing that really helps artists survive is the people they surround themselves with. Jonathan Dickins, her manager, has always been there, with her mum, Penny, a very gritty woman who has worked incredibly hard all her life and brought Adele up in a very down-to-earth sort of way.
I was actually surprised that she’s headlining Glastonbury because it’s so exposing. She’s always preferred playing smaller, more intimate venues. Can you imagine walking out onto that stage, in front of a sea of people stretching as far back as the eye can see? Although I remember feeling the same about Beyoncé and she managed to make that vast field feel like a living room. I’m sure when Adele takes to the Pyramid Stage on Saturday she will make it feel warm and intimate.
It’s great that women are now headlining Glastonbury. The fact is, older male rock bands have always been more bankable. If you go to a standard rock festival, there are a lot of blokes in bands performing, and a lot of blokes who go and see them. But Beyoncé and Adele will also sell tickets forever and a day and it’s great that Emily Eavis had the vision to see that.
I’ve got two daughters – one who’s 24 years old and one aged seven – and it’s incredibly important to me that they have strong, exciting female role models. For them to go to a festival and see women – from Adele to Laura Mvula and even Cyndi Lauper – performing live is amazing and I hope it inspires them to think, “I could do that! I could be up there on that stage one day!”
I’m not someone who believes in tokenism. You have to deserve your place on the bill, but these women do. And they are putting out really good messages at the same time. They are showing the next generation that they can also succeed if they work hard, know their own mind and are smart. Girl Power today is about thinking before you speak, about being wise and being strong. Adele is Girl Power 2016.