NEW YORK — Sade Adu may have appeared confident when she hit the stage on her massive U.S. tour last year in her all-black ensemble, svelte look, high heels and red lips.
But the 53-year-old singer was nervous. So nervous, she gave someone backstage a tattoo.
“It was giving me something to divert me from the chaos of getting ready psychologically to go out there,” Adu said in a recent interview. “I think I was more stressed about giving that tattoo than I was (doing) the show that night.”
But Adu had reason to feel anxious: As the leader of the veteran group Sade, she and her band mates were riding high off their platinum-selling 2010 album, “Soldier of Love,” their first release in 10 years. Sade won a Grammy a year later, and embarked on a 54-date U.S. tour.
The moment Adu gave that tattoo — and many other moments — are captured in the new DVD, “Bring Me Home — Live 2011,” released last week.
Adu talks about the tour, maintaining her youthful look and when the group plans to release new music.
AP: You were really that stressed backstage?
Adu: I was so stressed. ... That impression that you give onstage is what people go away with ... and remember you, and I feel in a way that’s what that tattoo was. I was going to mark him for life. I had to get it right.
AP: Have you done more tattoos?
Adu: That was my big tattoo moment.
AP: How have you maintained your voice over the years?
Adu: I’ve never been great with keeping up with vocal exercises. For 28 years I’ve been saying, ‘Tomorrow I must do some scales.’ But I haven’t done them yet. I think just being onstage and performing, you learn technique just by being there and having to deliver. You unconsciously learn technique just to survive those two hours.
AP: What was it like performing for your feverish fans after being away for so long?
Adu: That’s why you sort of feel like you’re a gladiator going out there because even though you know most of these people have come from a good place and they love your music and they come with a feeling of love, which is what you walk away with, it’s a bit like being thrown at the lions when you go out there because you have this sort of fear, even though it’s irrational, (that) you’re going to get torn apart, so you go out and you have to be good.
AP: You’re 53, but you look 30. What are you doing to maintain your youthful look?
Adu: I do move a lot. I’m always doing stuff. I don’t lounge around much. ... I’m always moving and I’m always active. ... I’ve tried things and I’ve tried exercise because I know it’s good and I’ve tried to do yoga, but my life just doesn’t seem to allow it.
AP: “Soldier of Love” went gold in its first week out. When you’re creating music, do you think about album sales?
Adu: I don’t think, ‘Are we going to be a success?’ Not consciously anyway, you know. But in my subconscious I’m probably, there’s probably that feeling of, ‘What if it doesn’t work out?’ But I don’t sort of actually have abstract thoughts like that. I actually don’t stop and think, ‘Yeah, this is going to be a great success.’ By the time it happens, it’s almost too late.
AP: In the 10-year break between “Lovers Rock” and “Soldier of Love,” did you run into fans who asked about new music?
Adu: Always in the queue at the petrol station. The gas station. I’m always being asked it, and I’ll always say ‘it’s tomorrow’ and they all think I’m a liar because I always imagine it’s going to be much sooner than it is. But then my life just gets in the way. I’m always asked that question. Like I said, I’m Nigerian. I’m always late.
AP: When will the band release another album?
Adu: I’d like it to be sooner and I always think that. It’s not like I go off of music or I go off the feel of it, but there’s a lot to it. I can’t work unless I go and I have to find the right moment to cut off. I’m not someone who can just sit in the middle of chaos of my life and write songs. I have to go away somewhere and cut off ... I would love to make an album soon, but it just doesn’t happen that way.
AP: A lot of young singers are inspired by you. Who are you currently listening to?
Adu: Somebody I recently discovered in the last couple years is Ray LaMontagne, and I love his vocals. I think he’s really, really talented and exceptional. He’s doing his thing. He’s sort of not associated with the times. It’s just his own thing. I (also) listen a lot to hip-hop because I like hip-hop lyrics; to me it’s poetry.
AP: Why do you think so many fans resonate with Sade’s sound?
Adu: The key is probably the songs — they come from the heart, and when we’re making an album, we put our whole heart in and everything we’ve got. And it isn’t about making a hit album; it’s not about second-guessing and predicting what people want to hear or what they want to buy. There’s sort of integrity in that. We just get lost in the music. — (AP)