Jude Adams: Music is my refuge
The gay singer released her debut album aged 57, after being diagnosed with ME.
She released her first album at the age of 57 despite being diagnosed with ME just a couple of years earlier. This month at DIVA, we caught up with Jude Adams, who’s album This Girl, This Woman is on the (digital) shelves now.
DIVA: Hello Jude, it’s lovely to chat to you! First of all, have you always enjoyed singing?
JUDE ADAMS: It was absolutely behind closed doors, right the way through to adulthood - until this really! No choirs, no karaoke, nothing, but I loved singing. I had quite a turbulent adolescence as a lot of people did and music was absolutely a refuge for me.
How did you first come to sing in front of a crowd?
My wife, after years of trying to encourage me, eventually said: “Okay, you have your 50th birthday coming up in six month’s time and we’re going to have a big party and you can sing at it - won’t that be an amazing thing to do!” And the long and the short of it was, we found a local teacher who was prepared to take this challenge on, and that was exactly what I did. I sung in front of a hundred very unsuspecting friends and family [laughing].
Just a few years after you began singing publicly you were diagnosed with ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy), how did that affect your ability to perform?
In 2010, I started performing locally in Kent, formed a band and things and that was when I started to get quite ill, around the beginning of 2011. I was putting myself under a lot of pressure and gradually lots of symptoms evolved and escalated in severity and regularity and then very near the end of 2011, I was told I’d got ME.
I tried to keep going with a few strands of my life, but I realised after a few months that I couldn’t sustain stuff, it was too stressful, exhausting and I had to stop and focus on my recovery. So that was all pretty devastating really. You know, it is debilitating. It’s a very cruel illness - and my diagnosis was only mild. It effects people in very different ways, but there’s a huge "shopping basket of symptoms", physical, mental and emotional. And of course, extreme and extraordinary fatigue is the overriding one. And it is a fatigue that I can’t compare to, your battery just completely runs out.
You’ve said that with ME, “peace, tranquility and solitude is actually really helpful”. How did your recovery help you begin to write your own music?
In the early stages I used a counsellor for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), to help learn how to manage something that’s suddenly very life changing, and one of the things I was encouraged to start doing was to keep a journal, which was a way of getting what was in my head down on paper and I found some of the things that I was writing were slightly poetic and I though, “oh, perhaps there a bit like song lyrics…” And that’s basically how the songs came about.
When did you realise you might actually be able to make something out of the lyrics you’d written?
I started working with a local music teacher and he advised me to get an "arranger", which I found in Janette Mason. That was a really big turning point, because up until that stage my writing had been therapeutic, I hadn’t set out to write and album, and that’s when all the lovely health benefits went to pot [laughing].
How was the recording process for you?
It was a slow process, because of geographical and health constraints, but during recording it suddenly all became very real for me. There was sheet music on the [musician’s] stands with my name on it and songs that I’d written and I was like, “really?” [laughing] It was something that even two years before, I wouldn’t have ever had as a dream really. Somebody described it as an "unimagined dream", because I could never have imagined recording an album - certainly not of my own songs.
Do your songs reflect your experiences?
The reality is, whilst I don’t like to have ME defining me, this particular album is inextricably lined with my health issues and also being 57-years-old when I did it. And of course, I’m a gay women as well. This Girl This Woman is about another woman. There’s another song called Don’t Judge Me No More which is about prejudice and inequality and it’s not just talking about what I’ve experienced, it’s more general than that really, but equally I’ve drawn on any discrimination I’ve experienced as a gay woman, because of my age and certainly about my health because there is still a stigma and a lack of understanding about ME.
So being a gay woman has influenced your work?
The fact that I’m a gay woman, is really important. As I’ve got older I’ve got more sort of vocal about stuff and I guess, it was a means for me to be very sort of explicit in my songs and my writing. My whole story starts in that I used music to overcome some pretty massive challenges when I was a teenager. There was unrequited love for another woman, probably only one or two people were aware that that was happening to me. I messed up my A levels because of it, started drinking and smoking and within the same year became anorexic. All of that stemmed from a situation that was hidden, because I didn’t feel I could share that with other people and music became a refuge.
Do you think it’s important to publicly identify as a gay woman?
Ruth Hunt form Stonewall has spoken about “editing your life”. I would still probably be wary of walking down a street hand-in-hand with my partner of 22 years, because that’s how I grew up. We have made such progress, but there are still horrors going on around the world, there’s still a long way to go in terms of being accepted and not having to “edit” your life. This album is almost a coming out again! [laughing] If any of those elements can encourage other people in similar situations, then fantastic.
Why do you feel it’s important to share your story?
In the humblest possible way, if my story can inspire other people to step outside their comfort zone into worlds that are totally unfamiliar to them, then that would be fantastic, I would love that to happen.
What have you got lined up for the rest of the year?
There are lots of bits and pieces coming up this summer, I’m going to actually be appearing at Pride in Canterbury in June. …and of course, there has to be a second album in the not-too-distant future!
To keep up to date with Jude, visit her website judeadamssings.net.
Read more about Jude in the June issue of DIVA, available now at divadigital.co.uk.