Adia Victoria's southern roots have drawn her to reclaim the danger in the blues.
Adia Victoria is reclaiming her Southerness by reclaiming the blues. The blues she’s accessing aren't the “he done me wrong” blues; they're sinister and wicked, something deeply Southern and born out of trauma. She is currently touring for her second album, Silences, which is a haunting, lyrical exploration of survival, with a stop in New Orleans on Monday, May 6 at Gasa Gasa.
Victoria was raised in a deeply conservative, religious household in South Carolina where the markers of racial inequality were constantly present. Before turning to music, Victoria saw herself as having “one foot in the grave,” and showed little concern for her physical well-being. She would drive around in borrowed cars without a license. She did things that were physically dangerous to counteract the numbness she felt growing up estranged from the world around her in the South.
Victoria heard the blues as resistance and when she taught herself to play MGMT’s “Pieces of What,” she realized she was capable in ways she had never felt while growing up. As a black woman who was constantly told that she felt too much, she claims the South is a place that “shredded her.” The blues gave her an outlet and brought her back. She believes the blues is a “whole field of study… a way of perceiving the world” that was born out of racial trauma. It’s rooted in survival and in accessing a danger that doesn't physically threaten her.
Her music is ripe with dark, religious imagery. “Devil Is a Lie” and “Heathen” both depict straying from God and ‘goodness,’ a prominent theme throughout Silences. Her version of the blues is haunting and theatrical. Her voice transforms into something wicked and smooth, and her lyrics are explicit in discussing generational, racial trauma. There’s a dedication to the South and to the darkness and pain that the South bred in her, and she’s working to take ownership of.
“I was able to find a sense of power and belonging in the blues that allows me to reclaim my southern heritage,” she says. “So much of my blood is survivor’s blood. I am forever indebted to my ancestors who found a way to survive no matter what.”
Instead of turning away from the experience of growing up as a black woman in the religious South, she’s turned toward it intentionally to write herself into the narrative of a place that’s tried to erase who she is, a black woman who is brimming with feeling. Her music is a testament to survival for her and her ancestors who lived and died there, and those who will come after her.
“My blood is in this soil, it’s where I belong, and that’s been very healing for me.”