When you first hear Cameo Adele sing, it’s almost impossible to imagine such a talented neo-soul singer coming out of OC. Her music sounds like it belongs on the radio instead of behind the Orange Curtain and yet there’s still a rawness to her sound which might make the airwaves unworthy. The 24-year-old connects to her listeners through a sonic honesty you can find everywhere from the love in her singing to her ability to make the words “bitches and hoes” sound soothing on the song B&H. There’s a happiness to her music, best heard in her song “Indigo” and almost every track is perfect to vibe out to. She doesn’t just have music in her soul; she has it in her genes.
She was born Cameo Adele Smith in Sylmar, California April 21, 1993 to her singer/musician father Smitty of United World Orchestra (best known for singing a hook for The Game‘s song Dreams) and her singer mother Dui formerly of United World Orchestra. She describes her childhood as a “a little rocky” due to her parents divorcing when she was 4-years-old but she “always had presents at Christmas.” Her family moved to Anaheim while she was in kindergarten and she recalls singing at a young age whenever her mom would DJ a karaoke event. Growing up, her parents were always supportive of her and her eight siblings pursuing creative endeavors with her brother Justice Smith (star of Netflix’s show The Get Down) pursuing acting and Cameo choosing to follow her passion for music.
“When I was 12 I started writing poetry, making it into melodies and turning it into songs,” Adele says. “Then when I was 14, me and my mom were watching The Voice or American Idol and I just started crying to my mom ‘mom, I just realized that I want to do this thing and nobody knows who I am, nobody knows I exist’ [I thought] I need to actually do something, I need to actually put effort towards actually doing this instead of just singing around my house.”
She began writing and recording music at home at 14 while her mom started teaching her vocals and helping her master her voice. After hearing Amy Winehouse for the first time, Adele resonated with soul music and transitioned out of an alternative rock style towards singing traits found in artists like Winehouse, Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott. She started her career performing hooks, verses and bridges on hip-hop tracks for San Fernando Valley’s The First Class in 2012 and later for LA/OC’s Deadwest in 2013. Meanwhile, her and her mother were cast for the TV show The X Factor in 2013 but the episodes were never aired. She’s happy though The X Factor didn’t pan out because she feels it would’ve confined her as an artist and for similar reasons she decided to break away from the collectives she considers family. She still has love for both groups and credits them for helping her network but as a member she “still felt limited.”
“I knew I wasn’t hip-hop, I’m a vocalist and I definitely consider my music soul music,” Adele says. “[Rap producers] know how to rap, they know how to stay in time, they don’t understand octave switches or harmonies or things like that…I was definitely at a point in my life where I needed to grow, I needed someone else who understood music the way I aspired to understand music to mentor me a little bit.”
She found what she sought in Long Beach producers Ujah and Andrew David V. of VXV who she teamed with to create her 2014 EP The Queen’s Letters where she finally had the chance to shine on her own. The EP is build around Adele feeling all women are queens and essentially the EP is her diary. She then joined on as 1/3rd of the all-female jazz acapella group Bedlam Lullaby which she credits as helping her master the technical aspects of singing like pitch, melodies and notes. She continued to work on music with VXV into 2015, dropping her single On My Mind and a cover of Tweet’s Oops (Oh My) in 2016 but her album remained unfinished until a party changed the course of her career.
“I had gone to New York to visit Justice for the premiere of The Get Down,” Adele says. “We’re at the after party and there’s all these people…I’m meeting Nas, I’m meeting Grandmaster Flash, I’m meeting Baz Luhrmann…I thought ‘This is doable,’ she says. “I was working at Domino’s at the time and I’m thinking am I really about to go back to California to working at Domino’s? Is that what I want to do? I want to do music full time.”
When she came back in August 2016, she made the decision to stop working to pursue music and her family fully backed her decision. While she says not working comes with it’s sacrifices, almost every successful person had to make sacrifices to get where they want to be and she’s not afraid to make hers. She jumped into the studio to pump out her debut album To You From Venus, released October 31, 2016 and available on iTunes. The album speaks on her sense of spirituality and also follows a love story from the point of falling hopelessly in love with someone to realizing you’re a person outside of your relationship. Since her album debuted, audience response is strong with her CD sales, Spotify and iTunes numbers growing and she recently headlined a sold-out show at the Whisky A Go-Go.
Adele has her eyes set on the future, currently working on her next album with a release date yet to be announced and she’s going to school for psychology at Cypress College. Her strongest trait as an artist is her willingness to work continuously on mastering her voice, constantly revising her music for what’s best for the song and not letting ego get in the way of following up each project with even greater music than before. Despite a visibly kind soul and a big smile, you can sense her determination and willingness burning just as bright as it did 10 years ago when she first started pursuing music.
“I think where there’s a willing, there’s a way,” Adele says. “And if you want it bad enough you’re going to get there, you’re going to work until you get there…expect me to evolve and grow with me.”