Adrienne Cowan has just finished the first leg of the ongoing Avantasia tour when PowerMetal.no caught up with her to talk about her career, the tour and the upcoming album with Sascha Paeth’s Masters Of Ceremony.
Hi! And thanks for taking the time to answer my questions during, what I guess, is quite a busy period in your life touring the world with Avantasia!
Adrienne: Hello! It’s my pleasure, of course!
Before we dig into that, I want to talk about what you have been up to – before entering the European metal scene as the new singer for Sascha Paeth’s new project and of course the tour with Avantasia. So, who is Adrienne Cowan?
Adrienne: I was born in Houston, TX, and have been playing music for all of my life! After two years of studying at the Academy of Contemporary Music in the UK, I met my bandmates in Seven Spires while we were all studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Spires is my main band, where I write alone and with Jack Kosto, the guitar player. The band has been grinding in the US for some years now, playing ProgPower, 70,000 Tons of Metal, and some other festivals, so I guess you could say that’s where I really started to get somewhere in the music scene. Outside of the US, I think there is a group of people that found me via YouTube, where I used to post covers for fun.
Besides music, I enjoy homemaking and video games, especially Skyrim and the entire Zelda franchise. I also love spending time in nature and playing with animals.
Seven Spires debuted in 2017 with the album Solveig. First off all: why did you name the album Solveig? That is very common Scandinavian name!
Adrienne: I was searching for a name that was somehow related to celestial bodies and Carl Jung’s «Night Sea Journey» archetype — which, as you probably know, comes from the perceived path of the Sun. The name Solveig was one of the results of this search, and it tugged the string on my heart that is attached to Edvard Grieg and other Romantic composers, so, there you go.
What are the status of Seven Spires at the moment; are the band still active, or is it put on hold since you are busy with other things?
Adrienne: Still active! Summer tour, music video shoos, and a new album ahoy!
You are quite versatile, both vocal wise but also genre wise? From symphonic metal in Seven Spires, to melodic metal in Avantasia, and you are also active in the symphonic deathcore band Winds Of Plague. Is that just random, so to say, or is that important for you – to have an open mind and be able to, not just sing, but to enjoy different types of
Adrienne: I prefer to have an open mind while creating and consuming. Music has always been my favourite outlet for my demons, and while some of them have horns and rule the depths of hell with an angry iron fist, some of them are melancholic, melodic, stargazing poets. It is difficult for me to be 100% authentic when creating within a single genre. I never want to be limited, and this is a trait that all of us in Spires share. I think it’s a big part of why we love to play together.
I have mentioned Winds Of Plague, but there is also another band that caught my attention. A band that I was unaware of: Light & Shade. A German/Italian/American Power Metal band, with members know from bands such as Temperance, Kamelot, Secret Sphere and of course Avantasia. What’s the story here; how did that band got founded?
Adrienne: Marco Pastorino [guitarist] found a Seven Spires track on the ProgPower compilation CD some years ago, and contacted me about making a record together. Over the following Spring, he sent me instrumentals to work with, some with vocal suggestions and some without. We wrote the whole record this way, and I recorded my parts in a studio in Milan with them after meeting them for the first time that summer.
Light & Shade have released one album, The Essence Of Everything (2016). Are you planning on releasing another album?
Adrienne: Eventually, probably! We are all very busy at the moment, though.
How do you combine being involved in all those bands and projects; you mentioned that Seven Spires is your main band?
Adrienne: Seven Spires is my #1, always. Somehow it has worked out that there have been very few scheduling conflicts between all of the projects. I don’t know how, honestly, but in general everything has worked out exactly the way it should have. Sometimes it feels like fate or the Universe (or however you want to call it) is guiding me.
Sascha Paeth is a legend within the (power) metal scene, both as a musician and a producer. When/how did you first meet him?
Adrienne: I cold-emailed him when I was 18 and asked him to mix and master the first Seven Spires EP. We only met in person years later when Avantasia played in NYC in 2016. What a trip. We sat at a hotel bar and talked about lyrics and life and sadness. In almost every positive experience in my career so far, one aspect or another can be traced back to him. I am thankful we met, and I feel very lucky to consider him a friend.
What was your initially reaction when he first asked you to do the vocals for his new project, and how did he describe the project/music for you?
Adrienne: I was surprised that he wanted me, an angry, yelly American — especially given that he works/worked with such refined and talented vocalists like Tommy Karevik, Jennifer Harben, Simone Simmons, well, practically everyone in the melodic metal scene, really. Later I found out he picked me because he wanted someone a little more raw and rough, since the music would be like this, too. A mix of old and new school, nothing that would require an extra backing track to pull off live, everything organic and honest.
How has the recording been like? Is the album finished by now?
Adrienne: The recording was great! And yes, the album is complete. We finished the playbacks and vocals in pretty much one month while I was in Germany this past winter.
Can you give us a inside glimpse of what to expect from the upcoming Masters of Ceremony album?
Adrienne: Earworm-choruses, a lot of feelings, some very classic Sascha P moments. Vocally it’s very different to my usual approach to singing — still with stratospherically high notes and raging screaming, but I would say it’s similar to seeing someone without makeup for the first time.
Do you think or hope/believe that there will be more albums? I believe Sascha described this as a band and not a project? I even think he called it a family?
Adrienne: It is a band, a family, and there will be more albums 🙂 We have already planned some writing sessions for the next one!
Was it through Sascha that you got to know Tobias Sammet and that you ended up on the Avantasia tour, or how did that happen?
Adrienne: It is indeed because of Sascha! I was at a friend’s wedding reception in Massachusetts when he called me about it. «What are you doing this summer? Avantasia needs a new female backing singer…». I had just been wondering what I was going to do for the summer. Once I had all the dates solidified, I was even able to plan a summer tour with Spires before the festivals. Everything worked out great. Tobi is a joy to watch and learn from on stage, and I’m so happy to be on tour with this strange and wonderful family.
What was your relationship to Avantasia before the tour? Have you been a fan since the first album?
Adrienne: When I was studying at ACM in England, there was an after-school metal club run by Nic Meier (who plays with Jeff Beck) where all the metal musicians at the school would get together to learn and play a song. We did all kinds of stuff, including Arch Enemy, Annihilator, Rammstein, Iron Maiden, Amaranthe, Coroner, Deicide, Helloween, and one day he brought in «Wastelands». I was 16 and it was my first exposure to power metal vocals. It was a challenge and I loved it.
What are your favorite Avantasia album? Some prefer the earlier albums, while other prefer the latest ones. Where do you stand?
Adrienne: I love The Wicked Symphony, but Ghostlights is a close second. My opinion: every album has gems that move my soul, it’s hard to pick one!
How was the preparation for the tour? Did you all meet up and rehearsed together, or how did you do it?
Adrienne: The band rehearsed a lot instrumentally — I showed up for a lot of these days, too, and Herbie [Langhaus] and Ina [Morgan] joined for some too. Later, we all went to a big studio and practiced with the set and lights etc.
As I’m writing this you are now on a break from the tour (3 days, if I’m correct). How has the first leg been? What have been most surprising?
Adrienne: The first leg has been incredible, a huge joy. Two big surprises: Firstly, the set is three and a half hours long, and although in the first shows I was exhausted, it stopped feeling so impossibly long. Secondly, and I hope saying this doesn’t jinx it, but I really thought more people would hate me for not being Amanda [Sommerville]. I’m always happy to read or hear «I’m a big Amanda fan, AND I also loved your contributions…» or something like that!
Apart from sharing the same stage I know that you all spend some time together also off the stage. What is a «normal» day on tour for you. Do you have time to be a tourist also?
Adrienne: There isn’t always time to be a tourist, and actually I have to say I stay in my room/bunk a lot to make sure I am rested enough to give the best show I can. A normal day means waking up in time for hotel breakfast, groggily putting coffee and some kind of mortal nutrition in my system, going back to bed for a little bit, writing music or exploring the city for a few hours, and then heading to the venue for soundcheck, dinner, and showtime. We usually all have some drinks together at the end of the night, and travel overnight or in the morning.
And as a Norwegian I must ask a question about the Viking himself; Jørn Lande. How will you describe him, both as a vocalist but also as a person?
Adrienne: I love Jørn. As a vocalist, I am happy to sing with someone who enjoys grit and ferocity as I do. He is a force of nature, a character unlike anyone I’ve heard or met. As a person, he is hilarious, and always has a story to tell. It’s impossible to be bored when he is around — I’m always laughing when he is in the room.
There are still a lot more shows left; what are you most looking forward to? Is there a particularly country you looking forward seeing?
Adrienne: I have been dying to go to Sweden ever since I got into metal. Finally I will go in just a few days!! And Japan, I have wanted to visit for so long, too. Honestly, I am excited about every place we are going to on this second leg.
What are the plans after the Avantasia tour is over? Will you focus on Masters Of Ceremony, or do you have other projects planned out?
Adrienne: After this tour, I will go home and see my loved ones, film some music videos for Spires and Masters of Ceremony, tour the US with Seven Spires, and probably work on our third album. After the summer festivals, I guess more of my focus will go to Masters, for the release of the album 🙂
Thank you so much for taking time to do this interview, and good luck with rest of the tour!