Adley Stump’s ‘Like This’ Is About More Than Just Music [Exclusive Stream]
Adley Stump may be the most right-brained artist in Nashville. Her deep, resonant Oklahoma voice belts out meat and potato stories of love and purpose as effortlessly as it does less sexy words like "deliverables," "reverse engineering" and "target market." You may find her on the cover of Billboard in 10 years, but there's an equal chance it's because she's an industry leader as an executive instead of a format leader as an artist.
The story of "Stay at Home Soldier" is a perfect example. This song from the deluxe edition of Like This — available for pre-order at iTunes now, and for streaming below on Taste of Country — was co-written by Stump. It honors stateside soldiers, a group that's not forgotten about, but not celebrated as frequently as those serving overseas. Stump started the Stay at Home Soldier Project and gives a portion of proceeds from related merchandise to her cause.
“I can’t write a large check. I can’t be out there on the front lines," Stump says, "And I can’t bring someone’s husband, wife or child back. But what I can do is write a song. I can be a part of the healing, the honoring and the support.”
Outback Steakhouse heard the song through one of Stump's business partners, Little Black Dress wines. They wanted a video quickly, so the singer put one together in 48 hours. In that video she wore a Remington Outdoors ball cap, which wasn't intentional. Soon, they too were on board. Suddenly her song, her message and her purpose was reaching an exponentially larger audience.
It's not luck, or coincidence. That's how this 26-year-old former The Voice contestant thinks. She is forever on the lookout for non-traditional ways to get her music to fans.
I asked God, 'What are you doing?’ … And I felt like he smacked me upside the head and said 'Ad, I just gave you a stage and a microphone and a voice ... what do you think you're supposed to do with it?'
"I’m not going to be that girl waiting for someone to tell me I'm talented," Stump tells ToC.
Once upon a time, she was. Shortly before appearing on Team Blake during Season 2 of the NBC reality show, Stump signed an independent recording contract.
"How bad could this be?" she remembers asking herself. "I signed away rights to my name for life. Publishing for life with no draw. I signed away full control of everything.”
She also had to live in the guy's basement, under curfew, and couldn't go into Nashville without him. After filing bankruptcy, a judge dismissed the contract, but not before he said it was the worst he'd seen in 25 years.
A few years later, Stump's got 270 bottles of wine in her living room and one of the best publishing deals her lawyer has ever seen. She's "making it." The switch-flip moment came after the TV show, when she found herself struggling to find direction. The marketing major wanted to inspire in the nonprofit world while at Oklahoma State University. How was this career, this struggle, helping?
"I asked God, 'What are you doing?'" Stumps says. "I wanted to speak, encourage and inspire people. And I felt like he smacked me upside the head and said 'Ad, I just gave you a stage and a microphone and a voice ... what do you think you're supposed to do with it?'"
The business and artistic ends of Stump's career meet seamlessly somewhere in the middle, although even she admits she's probably a better businesswoman than songwriter. It certainly excites her more. There's a song on Like This called "Little Black Dress," but the country-rocker doesn't play like a three-plus-minute-long commercial. It's a female anthem, as is a song like the title track.
Elsewhere, "Never Read This" requires more attention. Stump is telling the story of a love gone wrong — it was a co-writer's story. "Hallelujah" closes the project. The acoustic hymn is one fans may have heard, or even downloaded already on iTunes. This mini-LP (available May 19) is an eclectic mix of styles and subjects. It's a Stump sampler.
Moving forward Stump will continue to create and release music in ways that make sense.
“It makes no sense to me as artists, say at my level, to do a big Kickstarter and raise $40,000 and do an album and then just be like, ‘Let’s just put it out there,'" she says, referring to a oft-used but rarely successful strategy in Nashville.
“I don’t know why we think that can work in this business."
Her goals are different from most new artists. She's a dreamer, but perhaps first, she's a worker. A hit song is a dream, while maximizing potential is a realistic goal.
“I wake up every day with a burning desire to take charge and create value and to create unique and beneficial situations for the people I work with," Stump explains.
Does this sound like your typical new artist? After listening to Stump's album, find her blog for more compelling insight on her life and songs from Like This. Then, look for her on a magazine cover one day. She may be wearing a suit instead of a sundress, but the smile with be plenty sincere.