True Colours

SIAN DOLDING talks to student Adele Pope about being the talk of the town with charity single “True Colours” out this week…

Burns Victims Charity Single music

Adele Pope, a Natural Sciences finalist from Hild Bede is just like every other Durham student; the dissertation is looming, as are the many career decisions and exams to fret about, oh and there’s also the small matter of her Christmas charity single “True Colours” which was released this week.

An aspiring ballet dancer and musical theatre actress, Adele’s performance dreams were disrupted when she had an epileptic fit in the shower which left her with severe third-degree burns when she slipped and turned on the hot tap.
It’s been a busy year for Adele; appearing on the Channel 4 documentary “Katie: My Beautiful Friends” and becoming an ambassador for Katie’s charity, performing in a sell-out Edinburgh fringe show, numerous musicals, juggling a science degree and finally, releasing this week’s charity single “True Colours”.

I caught up with Adele to get the inside scoop on being a Durham celebrity, meeting Simon Cowell and possibly the most inappropriate anniversary ever.

For those who don’t already know, how did the opportunity for a charity single come about?

Basically, one of my singing teachers from school, Jai Ramage, saw me in the documentary earlier this year and called me up asking me to sing in a charity single with Eden Voices which she’s involved in. She said that when she was teaching me at school the staff were always encouraged not to ask questions about my burns. It wasn’t in a “let’s keep it hush hush” just in a “this is a very huge thing, we don’t want to probe if it’s going to hurt her feelings” way. She had no idea I’d be appearing on the show or about a lot of the issues I spoke about during the episode and felt like she should do something for the Katie Piper Foundation. As it happens, not long after she saw Katie herself walking past her on the street outside Costa and decided to ask me if I'd be interested in doing a single with Eden Voices.

Who are Eden Voices?

They're a group of professionally trained singers who are coached by Jai. There's a whole range of singers in Eden Voices; from opera to West End, there's even a CBeebies presenter. When I was asked to sing I just assumed I’d be in with the chorus, a mezzo-soprano in the background somewhere, but then I was given the lead vocals. I was terrified. All of those girls are intimidatingly good singers, one was even in Wicked. When I heard that my eyes went massive, like a kid in a sweet shop, I mean that’s one of my favourite musicals and I get to sing with you?

What’s the reception been like for the single so far?

I think it’s been pretty good as far as I’m aware, Wicked are promoting it on Twitter which has been amazing and we were supposed to be doing some TV promotion but it’s been tough because I’m up here studying which makes it hard to get down to London!

Is “True Colours” your typical style of music? It’s quite a sad number…

No, not at all! I listen to the most bizarre combination of music. I like everything, I’m a big fan of Matthew and the Atlas and Ray LaMontagne. I like lots of folksy country music, I’m a bit of a country bumpkin at heart! I also listen to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, I love jazz and now I’m singing with the University Big Band too. Overall I’d say my taste is pretty eclectic.

How important was music as a coping mechanism for you during the recovery period after your burns happened?

After my burns happened I was left in intensive care on life support and then in hospital for five weeks, stuck in a room for that long there wasn’t an awful lot to do so I definitely turned to music. I got given a lot of stuff to listen to, I have songs for every mood really, I remember my angry songduring the hospital times being My Chemical Romances’ “Helena”.

You once famously referred to the burns on your finger as looking like a chicken drumstick on This Morning, do you use humour to deal with your burns a lot?

Absolutely. Every year I have what I like to call a “Burniversary”, I play stuff like "Disco Inferno" and "Relight My Fire", sometimes I even roast marshmallows on the fire. Maybe one day I'll even have a fireworks display. Mum really doesn’t find it funny though, understandably, because she was there through the hardest moments, like when I was on life support. But just because I often turn to humour doesn’t mean that I never have bad days, and sometimes people don’t get that it had a hugely negative impact upon my life. I don’t let people see it most of the time, but with this single I get the chance to put forward my sensitive side I guess!

What was it like meeting Simon Cowell (an ambassador for the Katie Piper Foundation) earlier this year?

Not as intimidating as you’d think, he’s shorter than you’d expect and has very square hair. He’s got a bad rep for being a meanie, but he does a lot for charity, especially the Katie Piper Foundation. He's obviously very busy so I don’t even know if he’s had a listen yet or not.

Do you ever get recognised around Durham?

Not one person has recognised me so far actually! I mean, there was a lot of hype when the documentary came out on Facebook but I’ve only actually been approached by one guy and he was drunk and didn’t really know what he was saying. I have no idea how much Durham students know about the whole thing.

Have you ever succumbed to a “diva moment”?

Well I’m not proud of it…but I did banish a stagehand, who will remain unnamed, from backstage during a stressful costume change in a musical I was in last year. But other than that I’m definitely not a diva, I’m pretty chilled out.

What are your plans after uni?

I’d love to be a singer and get an agent really, but I’m taking a year out to get a job and raise money to see if I can do that. Although there are lots of paths I’m considering, the scientist in me would quite like to do a Masters in conservation work too. This single’s been a great opportunity for me though, because now I’ve got something I can actually show to prospective agents. From a musical theatre point of view, I know that my scars might hold me back, but as a recording artist you can be yourself so that might be an option for me.

Now that you’re an ambassador for the Katie Piper Foundation what sort of duties do you have?

Well I go on the advice pages of the website and get to give guidance to burns victims, although I often don’t really feel qualified to give advice. For all I know the way I cope with my scars might just be me burying emotions that might come bursting out one day in a massive rage, but all I can do is use my own experience to help others. I think the thing to remember is that everyone needs time to be a mess before getting themselves together.

And now for the quick fire round:

Biggest vocal influences/heroes: I’ve never thought about that really, Ella Fitzgerald?

All-time favourite Christmas single: Got to be “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues.

Next challenge: climbing Kilimanjaro for charity next summer.

Finally, rumours abound that you’re in talks to appear on X-Factor, can you tell us anything?! Well if I told you that I’d have to kill you…

To download Adele’s single go to: