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After a Decade in Gestation, D.C.’s own Kemi Adegoroye is Set to Release EP ‘For the Record’

by Eric Althoff

Editor’s Note * Since this article was published, the release date for the album-release party has been rescheduled for Friday, February 26, 2021. Tickets are available here.

Kemi Adegoroye dreamt her entire life of having her own album-release party.  It will finally happen on Jan. 29, but thanks to the coronavirus, it won’t be quite as she imagined.  Absent from the event, to be broadcast online from Crescendo Studios in D.C., will be a live audience, though several of her bandmates will be present to share her music with the DMV—and the world.   
“It’ll be full lights, five cameras, a full production.  And people will be able to watch it safely and comfortably from their homes,” Adegoroye said this month, adding that the song arrangements will be slightly different from what will be heard on the EP, also recorded at Crescendo.  “I love that it’s full circle.  So to be able to come back [to Crescendo] for the release out into the world is a really special thing.” 

When we spoke to Adegoroye last spring, she had just released her first song in a decade, “The Man Who Stole the Moon,” and teased that the EP would be released sometime soon.  She wrote, by her estimate, some 300 songs before whittling them down to five for the EP, called “For the Record.”  (“The Man Who Stole the Moon” is among them.) 
Aside from the task of choosing those five winners, the EP was so long in gestation due to Adegoroye wanting the record to authentically reflect who she sees herself as an artist.  The songs, she says, recall the jazz and R&B sounds she grew up hearing—and which are evident on “It Wasn’t Right” and “In the Silence of Your Love.”  Gospel influence is readily discernible on “Rock Steady (Be My Rock),” and the bluesy signature of angsty love is all over “Drinking Poison.”  And since Adegoroye comes from a stage background, the DNA of musical theater is also present on “For the Record.”   
Whatever the music’s source code, the importance, she maintains, was emotional authenticity.   
“The experiences [I sing about] are based on things that I did go through or things I observed and was intrigued by in other people’s lives,” she said.   

Adegoroye says that after years of believing that perhaps her own compositions wouldn’t stack up against the likes of superstars like Adele, she finally gave herself license to conjure new music, so long as it accurately reflected her artistic voice and no one else’s. 

“I had these ideas kind of swirling in the background, but I kept ignoring them because I assumed they’re going to be terrible and there’s not going to be value to them,” Adegoroye said.  “I think that’s what gave me permission: No one has to know if I write a bad song.” 

That storm of creativity gathered in the first years of the last decade.  Adegoroye wrote “The Man Who Stole the Moon” in 2013 before releasing it publicly last year.  She continued to compose songs, tossing a great many in the trash along the way.  She wanted a certain point of view in her songs, even if she herself perhaps hadn’t been as unfortunate as her avatar narrator.   

“I didn’t have certain experiences, whether it’s realy traumatic [memories] when it comes to love and life and all the things that make up a lot of really great songs,” she said.  “So thinking that if I couldn’t write like that that I couldn’t be a songwriter was a viewpoint I had for so long.   

“Because if those aren’t my experiences, what are [mine] and what do they sound like?” 

Love, perhaps the subject of more songs than any other, was Adegoroye’s muse.  She grew up on the optimism of Disney movies and the songs of passion endemic to musical theater.   

“I’ve always been obsessed with love, but also seeing what it’s like in the real world—when it works, which is amazing, and when it doesn’t work, which is a struggle,” she said.  “The way I framed the EP was the the first song [‘Rock Steady’] and the last song [‘In the Silence of Your Love’] talk about the types of love and life experiences that are successful.   

“And when I talk about ‘love,’ I don’t just mean romantic love.  I mean familial love and love between friends and love for yourself and various shades and degrees of love.” 

Sandwiched in between the album’s bookends, the central section of “For the Record” deals with those times when perhaps love doesn’t work out as hoped, whether “you should feel a certain way about somebody and not…or being tired of feeling a certain way about someone and wanting to get over that as soon as possible because it’s just not helping you anymore.” 
Among Adegoroye’s influences are Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin, the latter among her first concerts ever—at the Wolf Trap no less.  She also drew inspiration from soul, particularly with album-opener “Rock Steady (Be My Rock).”  Among her more contemporary inspirations are Broadway actresses Shoshana Bean and Morgan James, as well as the soul/rock group Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.   
Recording “For the Record” at Crescendo Studios during shutdown posed logistical challenges for Adegoroye and her band.  The last time she met with her arrangers in person was February, just before lockdown commenced.  For the remainder of the recording, only a few musicians were allowed in the studio at one time, though technology allowed her to confer with her bandmates virtually and to record their parts remotely. 
“We didn’t get to rehearse as much as in other circumstances, but when we did we were able to work through everything,” she said, adding that her group’s internal familiarity with one another facilitated the creative enterprise.  “It was a multi-layered effort by so many people to make sure we were all staying safe, following the necessary protocols and rules, and we were still having fun and making something that we can stand behind so passionately.” 
Adegoroye has been working on “For the Record” for seven years, and will finally debut the result on Jan. 29 for the world to behold.  She says there will be special “magic” to the event, even without an appreciative audience in attendance at Crescendo Studios.   
“It might not be what I imagined, but for years I’ve been waiting for this moment and the music came out exactly the way we wanted it to,” she said.  “It’s going to be me hanging out with my friends and playing music we love.” 
While satisfied with that digital premiere, she still dreams of the day when she can perform those songs before an audience, perhaps with people singing along.  
“To learn the melody and lyrics to somebody’s else’s songs well enough that you can sing it back to them takes time.  So someone [taking] the time to learn and sing them back to me will be a really special moment,” she said. 
Tickets to Kemi Adegoroye’s “For the Record” show are $10 and available at   
Follow Kemi online at: 

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Eric Althoff

A native of New Jersey, Eric Althoff has published articles in “The Washington Post,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Napa Valley Register,” “Black Belt,” DCist, and Luxe Getaways. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary, “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” and has covered the Oscars live at the Dolby Theater. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his fiancee, Victoria.

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