Adalita: “I thought the songs were just too good to not release”

(Image credit: Lisa Businovski)

A lot has happened in the nine years since Magic Dirt frontwoman Adalita dropped her second solo album, All Day Venus, in September of 2013 – not the least of which being her iconic alt-rock outfit’s 2018 reunion. Adalita kept working through it all, though, chipping away on her most ambitious record yet: Inland. It brought the Geelong-native iconoclast a punishing amount of stress, but it also proved to be her most gratifying project, described as “a celebration of an inward journey”. 

On the album’s labyrinthine genesis, Adalita said: “It’s been a really intense and enlightening few years of exploration into these universal themes of obsessive love, the inner void and reclaiming of the self. I knew when I was writing the songs that they were BIG songs. But it didn’t become apparent until I was well into the recording that it was going to be a mammoth task and there were moments when I thought about giving up. I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. I also feel an immense sense of relief that it’s finally finished.”

Ahead of the album’s release on December 2nd, Australian Guitar caught up with Adalita to explore the storied journey she went on in crafting Inland (and, of course, what Magic Dirt are up to).

It’s wild to think that it’s almost been a decade since you dropped All Day Venus! When did you start working on Inland?
I pretty much went straight into the songwriting after I [released] All Day Venus. Most of the songs were written by the end of 2015 – there were a couple that came a few years later, but the songwriting was all done within in a couple of months. It was really quick!

So what drew it out into the 2020s?
It was mostly the recording process. I had problems with things like mapping the tempos – the songs were pretty epic and complex in some ways, so it was just a bit hard to nail them down in the recording. I tried different players, different studios, different methods... So that took up the bulk of the time. And then I was touring and doing all of that stuff in-between; managing the day-to-day takes up a fair bit of time, so there wasn’t always a lot of time to work on the record. 

Things have changed in the industry, where a lot of artists now have to put on different hats and do a lot of the work themselves, which they didn’t have to do before. And you know, budget stuff… There’s a whole bunch of stuff that kind of drew it out. I definitely wasn’t expecting it to take as long as it did – I was pretty shocked and panicked over that. When I did the first batch of recording, I got the songs back and I went, ‘What the f*** am I going to do? I don’t have the songs.’

I’d never experienced that in such a big way before, so I had to work really hard [to push through that]. And there were a lot of points where I was thinking of different ways to do the record: “Do I just do an EP? Do I just do it as singles? Do I can the whole thing? Do I start again?” There were a lot of decisions to make along the way, and the decision-making takes up so much time. 

Did your vision for the record stay consistent, or did it kind of evolve in the same way that a person would over a decade?
It stayed true to my vision for the most part, which I’m glad for – I wasn’t sure whether it would. There were a couple of songs that really shape-shifted, though, and that happened when I brought Marty Brown in to produce some of the songs. That was when I was really struggling – I’d tried everything I could think of to get these two songs in the bag, and I thought, “Okay, well, I’m just going to have to run with what I’ve got.” But I wasn’t entirely happy. 

And then Marty came in and said, “Oh, I’ve got an idea!” So I just said, “Take it. Just take it, do what you want to do with it.” And he did! It was jarring at first because it was quite different to how I would have produced the song, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to fit with the rest of the record. But he shifted it into a different form, where it still fit in with everything else, and I was happy with the final result. I resisted at first, but it sort of grew on me. And now it’s like… That’s how it was always meant to be.

What was that song?
The two that Marty worked on were ‘Equations’ and ‘Dazzling’. ‘Dazzling’ was hard because it’s very ballad-y – a lot more ballad-y than I’m used to – and the tempo wasn’t sitting right. The original version was quite downbeat and much slower, and I was wavering between, “Should it go much slower, or should it go much faster?” Because the tempo can really determine the mood of the song. But then when Marty took it away, he put a bit more pep into it. And that’s when the penny dropped – it was like, “Oh, that’s how it’s meant to be!”

So you’ve noted in the past that, over the last nine years, there were some times where you came pretty close to giving up. What kept the fire burning?
Well, I hate giving up, and I was like, “These songs need to be heard.” I knew that if I did shelve it, I’d always come back to it going, “I wish I’d put this out.” I thought [the songs] were just too good to not release. And I could have done them as singles or a little EP, but I guess I am a bit of an “album artist” – I like a good album, and I’d gone so far with it all and invested so much time and so much energy that, yeah, I guess that’s what kept me going.

There’d be breakthrough moments, too, and a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel that strung me along – even though it was a lot of false hope along the way. It was a pretty interesting process. It’s definitely given me a bit more resilience [as an artist] – I feel like I’ve got another layer to myself because [making this record] really toughened me up. I’m glad I persevered. 

Did you ever think about reworking the songs into a new Magic Dirt record?
No, but it’s funny you say that – there are some songs I’ve written, that I thought might be solo songs and I’ve not thought of Magic Dirt, but very recently, someone brought it up [that those songs could work for Magic Dirt] and I was like, “Oh my god, you are so right!” Like, there are some solo songs I’m writing that don’t really suit this thing, and they should be for something else – perhaps they’re Magic Dirt songs! So yeah, it’s very recently that the light bulb went off there. But no, not this album.

Has the idea of a seventh Magic Dirt album come up since you reunited?
It’s something we’ve spoken about, but moreso in the sense that we’ve acknowledged that people have brought it up. We’ve got a lot of people asking, “Are you doing a new record?” But we’d never thought about it. I guess it’s something that is just now floating around in our periphery. We’ve not spoken about any recording or writing or anything like that, but it definitely is this little “thing” that’s just sitting over there…

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…