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Interview: Adrina Thorpe by Sandman

I'm sure all the listeners and viewers at this site know that wonderful feeling when they come across a new artist's music that they have never heard before, and that music reaches out and touches the soul. Such was the case several months ago when I came across the music of Adrina Thorpe. With a voice as clear and pure as any I have ever heard this girl is something very special! Adrina has a classical music backround and yet writes pop tunes so fresh and moving. She always strikes a familiar chord with listeners everywhere which is one very good reason for her popularity here. Adrina hails from southern California and can be found performing at many clubs and festivals there. I urge all listeners in southern California to check her out live if they get a chance. This girl is on the fast track to the big time. I hope all listeners will give Adrina's tunes a listen and see what I'm talking about; and when you become spellbound by her delightful music don't say I didn't warn you. Her music is as addictive as a jumbo box of milkduds while watching a five star movie! We are honored to have her music and enthusiastic support at Let's all sit back for a few minutes and learn more about the person behind this incredible music. I had a chance to talk with Adrina and found out some very interesting things that I know will entertain you. Without further ado, Adrina Thorpe!

I know from reading about you that you wrote your first song at six years old. Please tell us when you started writing serious compositions with a piano. At what age did you think you might be pretty good at this?

Although I've found notated melodies written when I was eight and my first song idea came to me at the age of six, I'd say my first serious composition (having complete song structure and a pretty melody) was written at the age of twelve. It was also around that time when the desire to write became very strong and I thought I might be good at it. I had just seen Phantom of the Opera on stage, and wanted more than anything else to write a musical when I grew up.

  I know you started playing piano at a very young age. Did you always enjoy taking lessons or was there a struggle with staying at it during certain periods of your childhood? If so, what kept you going at it? Did you get a lot of encouragement or support?

Actually, I got nearly sick to my stomach whenever we'd drive to my piano lessons, because although I enjoyed playing music, often I neglected to practice enough. it felt like a chore. I was required to learn piano from age four to age eighteen. a rule created by my mom after the sudden death of my birth father. He was an excellent pianist, organist, and supposed genius according to family legend (he studied at Eastman School of Music and MIT). When he died of an unexpected heart attack at the age of thirty-four, I was only three weeks old. With all the grief my mother was going through, it made sense that she would have wanted me to carry on my father's legacy. Later, she admitted that her imposing piano lessons on me was a bit much, and yet, the rule remained. Growing up, I resented "having" to practice piano, but now I am grateful for the extra push I received: who knows whether I would have had the willpower to master piano otherwise?

I was also encouraged by my teachers, all of whom seemed to think I had a special knack for bringing the emotion out of written piano works. When I reached my teens I started to win several piano competitions, and this drove me continue practicing piano with renewed enthusiasm.


Upon listening to your music it seems the vocals flow out of you effortlessly! Has this always been the case for you? That is, have you ever had to work very hard at perfecting  your vocals or did the whole process of singing come easily? Did you or do you  sing in a church or school choir? Did you ever take professional singing instruction?

Thank you for thinking so! About the question, whether vocals have always come effortlessly, I'd have to say that I don't know. Lately I've received a lot of compliments and they always surprise me. I was never singled out as a soloist growing up, even though I was in choirs, so I had never thought of myself as a particularly impressive singer, although from a young age I'd always wanted to sing, and to sing well. When I was six I begged my parents to let me sing "Tomorrow" in a school talent show. Looking back, although I was required to take piano lessons, it seems singing and writing were where my heart was.

A few years ago I took voice lessons because I wanted to improve in any way I could. Since the time of the lessons, I have spent a lot of time alone practicing what I learned and just copying individual lines sung by other singers I admire. until I feel I have the sound that sounds right. You should hear me in my car alone practicing. I must sound like a crazy person, repeating lines over and over.especially when I try to imitate say Sarah Mclachlan vocal stylings in "Fallen" (love how her voice breaks in-between and during words) or Alanis Morissette in "You Oughta Know."

Anyway, I think the best lesson I ever received about how to sing was practicing singing with a microphone so I could hear myself. Like posing before a mirror, you instantly recognize your flaws and know how to improve.

  Do you remember the very first serious composition that you wrote? Did you ever record that song? Do you still ever play that song? As you have gotten more experienced do you think the process of good songwriting comes easier now or is it still as much work as ever? In general does the process of songwriting come easily or is it more difficult for you?

I definitely remember the first serious composition I wrote down, and I can play it to this day. I've never recorded it though. I should! I do play the song on rare occasions. (I wish I could remember the first song I ever came up with, when I was six. Sadly, that one is lost forever.)

About whether songwriting has gotten easier or harder. I'd say it's gotten both easier and harder. Melodies still come to me almost subliminally. Time and experience has made my initial ideas better, I think (and hope). But I find that my expectations for my lyrics/melodies are higher; I spend more time working on a song before I feel it is worthy for recording. I feel a great desire to not just write whatever comes easily, but to really think. "does this sound move me? Does this lyric pull at my heart? Is the sentiment lasting, deep, transcendent? Is it universal? Would I buy the album if someone else sang this song?" I've built up a lot more questions about the process, and in that sense, the process has become harder. And yet, those questions seem to make it easier to form a good song.

  What artists or groups do you remember listening to in your childhood? What artists do you think have had the greatest impact on you and your style of music?

As a child, I grew up listening to classical music. There was no pop music in my house until I started listening on my own in high school and college. So there's this classical influence running around in the back of my brain. I'd say Sarah Mclachlan is my all time favorite and my biggest influence. Before I heard her music, I was writing mostly instrumental pieces. I credit her music with inspiring me to write songs I could sing. Other influences were Andrew Lloyd Weber (in junior high and on), Tori Amos, Coldplay, and everything else I've ever heard.


If I went to Adrina's CD player right now and opened it, what CD would be in the tray(s)?

It would be empty. I haven't used the thing much at all for quite some time. I've been partially mesmerized by the silence and the rumblings of my own thoughts, and partially addicted to this new computer program where you can listen to practically everything for a nominal monthly fee. So, ok, I see what you'd like me to respond with. What artists have I been listening to this week? Well, that would be Heather Nova, Jem, Sarah Mclachlan, Coldplay, Palo Alto, Chris and Thomas, Imogen Heap, and Susie Suh.


OK, here's my standard introspective self probing question I like to ask all the the artists I interview. What do you think drives you to write music? Is it an emotion, an incident, a thought or idea about something? Do you think that music is the very best way you can express yourself? Do you, like so many artists, have a drawer full of unfinished works or partial songs that you can't quite come to finish? Have you ever salvaged any of these unfinished songs?


Oh, don't talk to me about the unfinished songs! There are SO many of them. I have salvaged a few.

About what drives me to write. All of the things you stated do drive me. I definitely find myself expressing my strongest emotions in song. it's cathartic. But deep beyond all of that, there's this inner pull I can't's this intense desire to create beauty that is a sunset of sound or some other impossibly ravishingly beautiful thing. I want the beauty to move people, to reach them inside. at the core. I guess it's a desire to relate to people in a sense. I don't know why this desire is there, really. It just is and always has been.

Music is a therapeutic thing for me. When I'm sad, I write a song about it to help soothe my pain. When I want to feel peaceful and happy, I write a song that makes me smile. Music is a great way to reflect my mood; it lets things out that I wouldn't otherwise dare, and also keeps a lot more in than if I were simply talking. It moves me to feel more than I'd feel without it.

If Adrina were a famous actress she would be most like.............(any time period)?

Megan Follows as Anne in "Anne of Green Gables." With all the emotional ups and downs, and embarrassing situations, of course. But oh, to live in such a beautiful place as Prince Edward Island (assuming it's as pretty as it is in the film, of course).

  With the classical backround in music you have, who are some of your favorite classical composers? Do you ever still like to play any classical compositions?

Lately I haven't been playing much classical music, but here are some of my favorites to listen to: Vivaldi, Chopin, Brahms, Mozart, Bach....


Are you concerned with the state of commercial music today? Do you think it's in a bit of a rut? What do you see in the future of commercial music? Why do you think we have so few choices (genres) to listen to today as compared to the state of commercial music thirty years ago? 

I don't necessarily feel that it's my place to judge because I am not intricately involved with the workings of the commercial music world. There will always be flaws in any structure. I think record labels do a fairly good job of locating talent and developing it, considering how many people claim to be worthy of signing these days. As much as people complain about the state of commercial music, I doubt they'd like to sift through ALL the would-be talent to find the pearls. Even the so-called "rut" of prepackaged music (compositionally speaking) is definitely much better in quality than SOME of the independent musicians' songs out there.

That being said, it is sad still to see how much more talent lies undiscovered by record labels. There are an amazing number of independent artists that remain independent and are equal or better in caliber to the artists signed to labels these days. But they are gaining exposure through online means. And I think the industry is shifting slightly. people are becoming more open to independently released albums and independent artists are sharing stages with signed artists on a national level. The internet is a wonderful place for leveling the playing field and exposing us to genres of music that radio stations seem to have forgotten about. Although I can't predict the future of commercial music, I do think independent artists will continue to take a more prominent role on a large scale.


I'm sure you've noticed the incredibly high quality of the artists on Do you have any favorites that you have heard? What in a song captures your ear specifically? Is it the melody , the lyrics, the overall sound? What makes it or breaks it for you?

I just started listening recently, and I really have enjoyed music by Melody Gardot, Anna Lovelis, MiniPop and Sully. I'm sure there are dozens of other artists on IAC that I would enjoy as well. The more I listen, the more I'm amazed.

As to what in a song captures my ear, it's the melody and overall sound. If the lyrics relate to me as well, then I'm sold.


When you have a day to relax and do exactly what you want, we would find you doing what? When you are away from music what are some of your favorite things to do?

I love going shopping, and I also enjoy visiting new cities, going to plays, reading, listening to new music, spending time with my family and.taking naps.


What are you thoughts about the site's drive to take the very best of indie artists and provide a platform to put them out in the world for all the public to hear and enjoy? Do you think this could possibly help to change the narrow genres of music we hear on today's commercial radio? That is to say, is there any hope of changing the sad state of commercial music today?

I think your site is incredible for providing that platform. We artists need all the help we can get with regards to gaining exposure for our music. And there are so many artists worthy of this exposure! I hope that eventually there will be more variety in what we hear on today's commercial radio, but since commercial radio is often moved by the dollar rather than by the soul of the song, who knows the direction commercial radio will take. If an independent song started gathering attention and making money, I think commercial markets would pay attention eventually. I think that the biggest change is being seen on an individual level: we're changing listeners one by one. People are turning off their radios and going online to find music or listening to podcasts. If enough individuals change, commercial music will have to catch up to them. The state of commercial music seems to be always evolving with the times, so I do believe there is hope in changing it.


Everyone's got a few so when you feel like "pigging out" on a certain favorite food that you know isn't the best or healthiest that food or foods are...?

I am a lover of all kinds of food, so this is hard. but I guess some of my favorites are:

-my grandma makes this awesome Romanian dish with stuffed cabbage and saur kraut (want the recipe? I'll email it to you ... and no, I'm not Romanian, I'm Armenian, just in case you were wondering)
-Thrifty's Chocolate Malted Crunch Ice Cream
-Macaroni and Cheese all its forms
-Carls Junior's Southwestern Chicken Sandwich.
-Crème Brulee

If Adrina were not a performing artist today she might well be working in what field or studying to be...? 

I would be depressed. I can't imagine myself doing anything else. except perhaps having a family. Yes, I've got a degree and could get a number of jobs, but they're so boring!


Some of Adrina's pet peeves are?

-Key changes in songs. they're so manipulative.
-The notion of collecting figurines. Why? Are they special?
-Calling your credit card or bank to get help, and reaching a person with a script in a foreign country who thanks you after every statement while not helping you at all!
-Makeup: specifically foundation. Why don't they make a color that actually matches olive skin! I've tried SO many.
-People who don't admit when they're feeling sad, and don't allow others to cry or express emotion. People who act cheery around sad people and minimize their pain.
-The kind of people who stare out of windows while driving and honk at pretty girls.
-child abuse
-The fact that in some other countries people are starving, being murdered by their government, being raped by gangs, having their houses burned down, just hoping to stay alive ... and that people in our country do so little to help.

Oh, and one more pet peeve, in regards to the music industry: (it's not quite as important as all the starving people though) Anyway ... Why are record companies picking teens who can't sing and can't write and then packaging them with songs written by other heros of the writing world, having their vocals auto-tuned and ghosted by professional singers, and spending millions to promote them? Why are other talented singer/songwriters overlooked, left to muddle their way singing in small coffee shops and bookstores, hoping to drum up a "following" so that some record label will notice them? Why is there less focus on talent development? Why must an artist prove that he/she has sold thousands of records or built up a following of thousands before that artist is considered worthy of backing by a label? I find as an artist that it is hard to try to do all the promotion to prove yourself, and it detracts from writing, which should be the main focus. (Ok, my rant is now finished.)


Where do you see yourself in five years? What is your main goal? Do you feel you are on track to achieve your goals?

My main goal would be to go on several large scale tours and record 2 more albums by that time. I have a long way to go to reach that goal. but it's my dream.


If Adrina was going to a concert tonight, she might well be going to see...?

Sarah Mclachlan, if she were touring.


In your incredibly beautiful song "More Than Seventeen," is that written about someone in particular? That is, what is the inspiration behind that song?

It's written about a friend of mine named Simone. Everything in the song is true. Here's what happened: A few days before I started recording my album, Simone told me how she hoped to get married but her parents were doubting her judgement on this issue. She was so mature, he was so sincere and devoted to her, and her parents just didn't see it. I really felt for her. Usually when people wish to disregard their parents wishes, they are being foolish. In this case, her parents were acting foolish, blinded by the fear of letting go of their little girl. When I went home I found myself writing a song about it. and 5 days later we recorded it and put it on the album. Here's an update on the story: My friend is now married, and her parents are happily supporting her marriage. Her husband is in the military right now and she only sees him every few months until his term is finished. They talk every day. their relationships is wonderful and I hope he returns safe and sound very soon. (Sounds like I could write another song about that!)


What are your thoughts about the state of the world today? What hopes do you have for the world in general? What are some of your biggest worries concerning the state of the world today? Do you think the world now is safer or better place than when your parents were your age, or are things in your eyes deteriorating as the future unfolds?

I think we live in a very cushioned part of the world, and because of that, we don't have to ask the tough questions of life as often as we might need to. People are so comfortable at times that they don't place an importance on discovering what is really valuable and what is really true ... actually comparing different beliefs to see if they have flaws ... actually testing thought to see if what they believe is valid. People these days tend to think everything is relative, and don't take time to search for absolute truth.

I hope more people in the world will search for answers, and honestly, I hope more people will find their answers in the Bible. I believe we can all get lost sometimes, and I think Jesus really is the answer that can help people find peace and something more than they've ever experienced before ... a filling in of all the empty pieces, and a stability and hope for the future. I wouldn't think so if I hadn't experienced it personally, and also if I hadn't seen so many studies on the Bible and how historically accurate it is, and how many prophecies in it have come true. But I'd never force that opinion on anyone or judge them if they thought otherwise. Still, because it's so true to me, it's a very deep desire of mine that other people will find what I believe ... have their eyes unveiled to the beauty that's right in front of them.and experience the deepest and truest love the world has to offer.

As to the safety of our world: I think our world is less safe than the world of our parents, but with a lot more conveniences. I think a big concern is that children are getting exposed to too much adult information via movies, the internet, and careless parenting.

And then there are all of the people who don't live in our "cushioned" side of the world. They struggle with issues we'd never dream of dealing with. Do they have the answers? Do they have hope? Do they understand why they are struggling? Are we helping them?


If I picked up the latest book that Adrina was reading, it would be...?

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I confess ... I'm addicted to the series.

Oh, and the Bible.


I've read you had some radio interviews. How was that experience? Did the interviews go well? Did it make you nervous at all? Have you ever performed on live radio? If not, would you like to do that?

I LOVE radio interviews! What fun! I did get nervous about the first one, and I think I tried to talk differently so my voice wouldn't sound too high on the airwaves. My attempt backfired and now I've learned my lesson. I've had better interviews since then, and can't wait for more interviews.they are such a blast. I've never performed live on radio, but would love to do so!


In school, Adrina's favorite/strongest interests were/are in what fields?

In high school, writing and grammar came very easily to me, and I really enjoyed math! To me, math was like doing puzzles for fun (yes, I'm sick).

In college, I really enjoyed Communication Studies: particularly Public Speaking, Media Ethics, and Argumentation & Advocacy.


Before you started performing as a solo act I read you performed in a band for awhile. What kind of music did you play? What made you decide to go it alone?      

I just played backup piano in that band and the style of music ranged from folk rock to gothic styles, depending on the lead singer (it had two). I decided to go it alone because I wanted to sing my original songs without having to merge my style with something else.


     OK, time to play Adrina's faves!

            1) favorite season - I don't have one.
            2) favorite holiday - Christmas
            3) favorite singer - Sarah Mclachlan
            4) favorite group - Coldplay
            5) favorite meal - Breakfast
            6) dream car? - a shiny new one
            7) favorite soft drink - Dr. Pepper
            8) favorite kind of pet - cat
            9) favorite kind of keyboards - skip the keyboards, give me a grand piano
          10) favorite ice cream  - Chocolate Malted Crunch