It’s time for a piece on one of the most talented country music breakout stars on the scene this summer, The Voice’s Adley Stump, whose Cinderella story of how she’s made a name for herself in music is as striking as her looks and voice. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Adley had never dreamed of big stages, hot lights, and screaming fans. But with a magnetic personality and a contagious smile, it was only a matter of time before the world found Adley and demanded more.
Although she may not have lasted very long on The Voice, Adley has taken her newfound opportunities in stride. Carrying a deeply businesslike mindset, she’s not only striving to interact with fans whenever possible, but also inspire them through her music This is particularly evident in her new single, Stay At Home Soldier, that details the struggles of those who stay behind while our troops go to war.
Let’s just start at the beginning. Tell me what got you into music?
Totally honestly, I was a senior in college at Oklahoma State as a PR major and I cheered for fifteen years and singing was something that everybody loved to do but definitely didn’t take seriously by any means. I was broke, and I was googling, “how to get on Jeopardy” to win some money and a list of reality shows came up. I had missed the deadline for Jeopardy, but I was sitting with one of my sorority sisters and a list of reality shows came up and we saw this show called the voice. We didn’t know what it was, but we figured it was a singing show and then all my friends started joking around saying “Ad, you should audition for this, it’d be funny, you know, for all of us!”. So on a crazy whim my boyfriend and I jumped in the car that week and drove through the night, chugging energy drinks, clearly caring about the quality of my voice. So we auditioned in Nashville and I think it was about two weeks later, and kept going through the casting process, now fully convinced somebody was playing a prank on me, and kept going through several more rounds until we landed on the blind audition state. The Voice was really the beginning, and I think being handed that opportunity, right off the bat, especially since I’ve had friends who’ve wanted to sing since they were two, and would have given their left leg for a break like that. I took that really seriously and said “ok, I will earn everything else and we’re gonna run with this.” So off the show I was able to get a good team around me, and we have just been really really blessed for the last couple of years to take that opportunity to really continue to grow.
Even though you got eliminated from The Voice fairly early, you seem to have kept in good spirits about you, and I’m curious, because I think a lot of people in the music industry are wondering, what is that space like in the interim when you’re eliminated off the voice and you’re looking for a new management team, how do you keep yourself encouraged and what’s the next step from there?
You know, I’ve watched a lot of people go through this. I had a lot of friends who were Top Four, and Top Six, and they kicked my ass! They did way better than I did, but they’re not doing music anymore, It just killed them. You go through this time on The Voice where you feel famous because you just got 11,000 Twitter followers in an hour, but then you leave the show and they don’t hand you management unless your options get picked up, and they’ll only hold about two people a year to the contract. I don’t know anyone who’s phones rang off the hook with people going “oh my god we’ve got to see you!”, even with people who are top four. My friends that were just on this last season, I just saw one of them last night and I go “did Blake (Shelton) even keep in touch with you after the show?” and he was just daunted and he was just like “no but it was a good experience” and he was top four, five, six, something! So you end up right back where you were, only with a giant fan-base afterwards, and what you’ve really got to go, and I hadn’t been jaded coming into the industry before so that wasn’t like my last shot that I’d give myself, I thought it was a beginning for me. I thought “ok what a killer launching pad, let’s go!” It is a very interesting transition because when you get off the show, you don’t have any help. All that infrastructure you just had for the last four months of taping, with people catering to your every need, and press calling you up is gone. It’s a very different transition. I talk a lot about this industry being an independent artist now, it’s very much like being an entrepreneur where it’s on you to create value and to give people a reason to want to get behind you and help you build your team. No one’s gonna care more than you so it’s a total mindset and a total attitude of “ok, I was just given a blessing and a platform, with millions of dollars worth of marketing on my face.” It really is all on you to do that, and some artists can do that and some others can’t.
When you were trying to go around and sell yourself what was the thing you’d primarily tell people to be like “pick me up, and take a chance on me?”
I didn’t focus on the “hey I’m talented, pick me up, take a chance on me!” I figured that’s the way ninety nine percent of the artists in this town are. If you take any other business besides this one, like if you made toys at a toy company, and you had a cool toy, you wouldn’t sit back and wait for somebody to discover “oh hey they have a cool toy!” You wouldn’t sit back for the money to come, and for people to invest in and acquire you. You have to build it on your own, show that you’re profitable, show that you’re out there and that you’re working, and that you’re gonna be an artist whether or not anyone tells you that you can be. It was really just “ok, let’s get to work!” , and I’d work to create value and I partnered with Nissan right off the bat. I just went down to the local dealership and said “hey, here’s my idea, here’s the visibility that I have right now, I have a single coming out,” that’s how you organically get people to care, instead of begging them to care instead of being that girl who’s like “oh I have new music out, tell your family, tell your friends!” You don’t want to beg and so I knew a family in Moore Oklahoma who had just lost their home, transportation, and child when the big tornados came through. When stuff like that happens, especially since I’m from Tulsa and my guitar player lost his house that year, you want to help. I can’t go physically to them and help, I can’t write a big check, I can’t bring their child back, but I can write a song. So I went to Nissan and said “hey listen, we have this song, I’m gonna put on Twitter if you guys tweet about this two hundred times, I’ll go steal a country music star’s car. I would want to see somebody do that,Hell!
Exactly! I thought “how could I create a story that the fans could then be a part of?” If somebody’s sitting at a table full of six people and they go “hey, retweet this, if she gets a hundred of us, she’ll steel a car and tape it!” So I stole Joe Diffie’s car, sales and visibility did really well because of that challenge, and then knowing the kind of PR stealing Joe Diffie’s car would garner, that’s when I went to Nissan and said “listen, I’m gonna steal this car but let’s do something really cool with it, where you give me a truck and I’ll go a three day social media goose chase, we’ll have Joe’s management kick off the hashtag ‘Where’s Adley’, we’ll do a three day tour, stop at six different Nissan dealerships, I’ll bring TV and radio out to every single one of them.” People knew I was gonna steal the car, but where they would say “where the hell is she going with this thing?” So we ended up circling it back around and gave it away to this family on this big stage in Moore Oklahoma, surprised the heck out of them. We taped the whole thing so not only was it a live stream for three days, but it made content that is still available online. So I’ve done a lot of stuff like that, which is continuing to prove the value that I’m working, and helps build the kind of career that I have. Part of that comes from seeing my friends on The Voice that waited for somebody to discover that they were talented…everybody’s talented, but when you have Youtube and Instagram stars and artists willing ti take it into their own hands, I think you have to be one of those artists.
So you crave this social media stuff, this interaction with your fans. I imagine you take this influence into your songwriting, these interactions you have with people. What primarily influences what you write about?
I think influences for writing can come from anywhere. I mean, my god, we’ve sat in the writing room and talked about a whole running of things that sparked all this music. What sparked me to do this whole thing in the first place is connecting with other people, you nailed it! That’s what you do it for, that’s why we as artists make music! It’s to be there for somebody whether it’s for celebration or healing. When I get to go out and be around people, anything I can do to give back to those people and make my career not just about me. As much as we like talking about ourselves, what’s worked well for me is trying to create a brand that gives as much as it takes. We’re trying to do that again with our latest single which is military focused. So in every new project that I start, it’s got other people in mind, and the more that I take care of other people, the more they take care of me. I think that’s true in any business. If you make your customers happy, they will take care of you. You focus on solving their problems, and then they buy my music and come out to my shows. I was just at festival in Iowa where I sang the anthem and opened up for Blake Shelton and there were like fifteen thousand people there. I posted ten thousand and then everybody was in the comments like “no there was thirty thousand blahblahblahblahblah.” There was this one girl who didn’t know anything about me, and I was standing in the pit watching the show, and she was by herself and you could tell she was so freaking excited to be there. Cell phone service wasn’t working, so she was alone and couldn’t find anybody but she just grabs my hand, turns to me and goes “WOO isn’t this the best thing you’ve ever done, we’re in the front row!” She’s freaking out, and needed to share this moment with somebody. So me and a buddy that I was with, we thought she was adorable, and so we said “hey do you want a drink, we’re gonna go get another drink,” and she goes “oh ok yeah! so we took her hand, had the guards open the rails, and we took her backstage, and her eyes I mean.. she was about to loose it. She didn’t know who we were, or that we had any pull at all, and we took her up to the rafters, and to the backstage bar and let her meet everybody. Then I wake up this morning, and she has sixty new people as her friends having an entire conversation about me online, and they just bought two hundred dollars worth of merchandise this morning. That’s what it’s all about, those little connections.
I just think that you take those moments to appreciate those little interactions. A lot of people who get to that really high level forget that. They meld everybody into this sea of fans and they forget that those people are people. I would imagine that your fans really appreciate the fact that you think of each individual one of them as a human being.
I’m not at that level yet where I could take those moments for granted. Hopefully I get to that level someday, but right now, on the way up, I think it’s building that ladder. I’ve had friends who’ve started from nothing and it was literally like an overnight, crazy viral thing. They were instantly famous for a couple months, but then it dies off because they didn’t have that infrastructure and built up those other rungs of the ladder to support that big push when it comes. In this business it can get really lonely when you’re not on the road all the time too, and so making those little interactions is the funnest thing, and since it means so much to them, that’s what makes me excited to do it.
(We were a bit excited when we saw a tweet from Adley saying she got a casting call request for “Dating Naked”, but she wasn’t interested. Alas we’re not going to be seeing Adley Stump nude anytime soon)
Totally. I wanted to talk about Stay At Home Soldier for a minute because I was kind of surprised that it had more of a rock vibe than a country one at least musically. I wanted to talk about what that song meant to you and where you developed the sound for that song.
I hear ya, did you get to see the video?
I did! The video was really nice.
You know I didn’t plan for that song to be a single. We wrote it about two years ago, and it was Rob Bironas, the Tennessee Titans kicker who we just lost about six months ago who I wrote it with. It was the first song he had ever wrote along with Billy Dawson and Chad Raymond. We didn’t sit down to write intending to write a military song but we started talking about our troops and everything happening in the media and we tried to do a good job of honoring those who serve us, but I think we forget that staying behind is just as hard as it is to leave, if not harder. So we were talking about it, and started riffing and the melody came, and Billy, the guitar player, he’s a rock player. So he started playing rock music, and so it took that turn. We felt like the song was special when we walked away from it, but it was sitting there for a couple of years. Then the spokesperson from Little Black Dress Wine along with Outback Steakhouse had heard about it, and they said “wow we love this song, could she create a visual for it?” So we threw together that video in about seventy two hours, something simple just to turn that around. Then after I put a fifteen second clip of that on Instagram, the VP of Remington Marketing (who was following me on Instagram) reached out, and said “can you be in our office at 9AM tomorrow?” and I said “sure,” cause I was wearing a Remington hat! Those relationships started happening, and then we started talking to a bunch of production companies who wanted to shoot thirteen episodes of Stay At Home Soldier, kind of like I was doing with the Joe Diffie shoot. So it kind of turned itself into a single, so we didn’t have time to go back in the studio and loose that momentum. People were ready to go, and put money behind it. They just said “do an updated vocal and some harmonies.” So this album is kind of like an Adley sampler, so it’s not phonically all the same, but it is a good representation of who I am and what I believe in and what I like to write. We’re really not that rock, but it catered to what that song needed in terms of the emotion and feeling behind it.
Absolutely! Where can people find you?
We’re doing a lot with Little Black Dress Wine. We’re doing a Kroger tour, which is cool because they’ve got my face hanging on banners on all these Krogers even before I get there, and we go and do meet and greats and bottle signings to go support them. So that’s been really really fun. The Stay At Home Soldier video has some good visibility and distribution right now, along with the clothing line. It represents a much bigger demographic than what I have a hold of. My fan base is nominal compared to who this song deserves to get in front of. We have stories pouring into my inbox of people really resonating with this song. So instead of it just being a song for fans of Adley Stump, we created this clothing line by Urban Outfitters to try and reach a different demographic of people who have no idea who the heck I am. I set up a military base tour also to get out there and hear these stories and get cameras on them so people can hear, what they don’t talk about, and get these stories of the stay at home soldiers out there. So this next phase should be really exciting. Also, I just love interacting with people online. If I can’t physically be there to hang out and sing in front of them, I like to be there for them. I’m on all social media at @AdleyStump.
Thanks to Adley Stump for taking the time out of her busy schedule to sit down and talk with us. Make sure you check out her new single, Stay At Home Soldier, and visit her website at www.adleystump.com.