Her latest album showcases her inspired new stylistic identity with a whole bag of grooves to match
Adi Oasis has gone through a transformation. Not in the casual sense of attending a meditation retreat or changing to a drastic new hairstyle; this metamorphosis for the French-Caribbean-turned-New Yorker became all-encompassing. It started with her name: She was born Adeline (“Ad-eh-leen”), but I accidentally stumbled upon the main reason for her moniker shift when I asked why she departed from “Ad-eh-line.” “You kind of just answered the question right there,” she laughed. “Being an immigrant from France, it was hard to teach people the pronunciation of my name, and I wasn’t finding myself whenever people would talk to me. I wasn’t excited to see my name in places, and that’s not okay. Adi Oasis feels right and like a true representation of my spirit and sound.”
Her next change came about when she began writing her latest album, Lotus Glow. Taking on production duties and enlisting a band that she trusted in guitarist Jaleel Bunton and drummer Caito Sanchez, Adi was ready to define her own style and step away from the supporting role. On the bass front, this meant silky grooves laced with envelope-filter funk over shades of neo-soul and vintage R&B. Songs like “Get It Got It,” “Serena,” and “Sidonie” cop throwback Motown feels with backbeat grooves. “Naked,” “Bird Machine,” and “Adonis” embrace more modern feels, but like the entire album, they are all centered around Adi’s soulful vocals and bass.
With a new name and new music, her progression continued and pieces began to fall into place. After the album’s release, she was asked to perform bass with Lenny Kravitz at the iHeart Radio Awards, she announced that she is pregnant with her first child, and she set off for a world tour in support of Lotus Glow. Poised for the big year ahead and riding the wave of her rebirth, Adi’s rise toward stardom feels as natural as all of the other changes she’s embraced.
What was the writing process like for Lotus Glow?
It was the culmination of many factors, from the evolution of my bass sound to my name change. Everything felt like it was clicking. I knew that I could finally make the music in my head a reality. Having the opportunity to play a lot with my band before and during the recording was key, as well, because most of the album is cut live. It’s just us playing off each other and keeping the best takes. The writing flowed naturally. I was ready to tell my story, having found myself in the crossroads of the end and the beginning of something. With all the pieces in place, I feel like now is the time to share the results of this process.
Your bass plays a pivotal role on every song. How early in the process did you come up with your parts?
Very early. Most of the time, a song would start with drums, or a drum loop or a tempo, and then I’d work on the bass part. I’d sit there and find a groove. Sometimes there would be some harmony or a keyboard part in place, but the bass was either second or third.
How did you dial in your sound?
A big part of it was using flatwound strings. I tried six of my basses, including my very cool Sadowsky Jazz Bass that has elaborate tone options, but on almost all of the tracks I ended playing a flatwound-strung Fender Precision they had at the studio. No matter what bass I would try on a song, it always sounded better on the studio’s P-Bass. Crazy, right?
“Get It Got It” has a cool groove.
That’s an example of jamming with the band in the studio and having a song come out of it. I think I had a demo of the bass line over a programmed beat beforehand, as an idea. I played it for Jaleel and Caito, and we worked it into shape. Once we were ready to track it, we got it in one take.
“Serena” has an old-school feel. What was your inspiration?
I worked on that song with [producer/drummer] Homer Steinweiss, so it has more of a Daptone approach. I was at their studio, Diamond Mine, with Homer and [guitarist] Paul Springs. It was a dream come true to work with Homer. The three of us jammed over a few sessions. I used one of [Daptone house bassist] Nick Movshon’s basses; he has an insane collection of about 50 instruments. I grabbed a vintage Fender Precision, and you can hear it. The bass is actually out of tune, and I was like, Screw it, we’re keeping it. The song is special because I was jamming with one of the best drummers in the business, and we had a great time doing it.
“Adonis” is another great grooving track.
I love talking about that song, especially with musicians, because it was super organic and a total band effort. Jaleel started playing the main guitar riff in rehearsals, and we were like, “Wait, what is that? We have to use it!” The four of us sat in the studio and came up with a chord progression, and we recorded it live, in one take. It’s the only song on the album that’s “off the grid” — no click track.
What effects are you using on “Multiply,” “U Make Me Want It,” and “Naked”?
That’s the reissue of the Mu-Tron Envelope Filter. I’ve always wanted the original Mu-tron, but those are hard to find, so when I heard they reissued the Mu-tron, I got one and it sounds great. With me being the album producer, I dialed it in to make sure it was heavy in the mix and had a lot of body. It was a lot of fun to write with that effect.
How does being a producer inform how you play bass?
I love being in the background and playing the bass player role, which is to make people sound good. That’s my same approach as a producer. I learned that from being a bass player — just having that perception of my role. I’m always looking for how I can service the song. As a singer, the song is for me, like it should service me. As a bass player and producer, it’s kind of the opposite.
Which songs have you been enjoying playing live the most?
“Multiply” has been fun because it’s the big finish at the end of the show. “Surprise” has a big bass solo in it, and I usually don’t take bass solos. I made it a Bootsy type of solo, and it has a guitar solo vibe because I play in the upper register. It’s a challenge for me because I’m a little insecure with that part of my bass playing. But I like that the song forces me to stretch that way.
How do you approach soloing?
My mentality is to keep it simple and trust myself. That’s important. I didn’t go to music school, and I’m slightly limited compared to people who have unreal amounts of theory knowledge. But in a way, I feel like it’s an advantage because it forces me to play simply. I’ve always believed your weaknesses can be your strengths, and I think this is one of those situations.
How and when did you first start playing bass?
I started on guitar when I was 16, to write songs. I did one year of college in Paris, where I was born and raised. After that one year, I moved to New York City, at 19. Two years later I had my first band. I started playing bass at 22 or 23. I had a trio at the time, and we each played all the instruments. I was mainly on guitar, but at one of our shows the bass player we hired cancelled. The guys were like, “Hey Adi, you play guitar — why don’t you just play bass?” They put a bass in my hand, and I was like, Oh! This is sort of like a guitar, but you play the lower notes. I was already a huge fan of bass and the sound and culture of it. I had so many friends who were bass players. Anyway, I fell in love with the instrument right then and there, and it changed everything for me.
So the bass resonates with your personality.
For sure. I’ve always absolutely loved the sound of bass and its role in the song. But it’s interesting because I’m also a front person. Luckily, there are so many pioneer bass players who have proven you can be both. I’m thinking of Bootsy, Larry Graham, and Jaco. Jaco is on another level in terms of what he was doing, but it’s about the confidence each of them had. I think my personality matches the role of the bass in many ways. I like surrounding myself with a lot of friends, I like to be helpful, and I truly care about people — that’s what the bass player does in the band. It’s what facilitates the other players and all the sounds around them. –BM
Hear Her On: Lotus Glow, Adi Oasis 
Basses Moollon P-Classic, Fender American Professional
Rig Aguilar Tone Hammer 500, Aguilar SL 410 & SL 810
Effects Mu-Tron III Envelope Filter, Aguilar Filter Twin, DigiTech Bass Whammy, Boss Super Octave
Strings D’Addario Mediums (flatwounds and roundwounds)
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