The music business can be cutthroat, and in order to increase one’s chances at success, it’s best to stay versatile.
Adryon de León is a performer who has found success thanks to her versatility. For the last nine years, she’s split time between solo shows with a backing band, and performing as a lead vocalist for the unapologetically funky band Orgone. Check out “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who to Sock It to)” to hear de León’s vocal power on funky display—and to hear her as a solo performer, catch her performance at Desert Blues Revival at Agua Caliente Palm Springs at 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 20.
During a recent phone interview, de León discussed how she got into music.
“In school, I was into a lot of musical theater and choral, and I was kind of a big-band nerd,” de León said. “I joined a nonprofit performance organization called Young Americans, and that exposed me to a lot of different genres and styles. I toured with them for a while, and once I settled back here in Long Beach, I started really finding my stride in soul and R&B. It’s kind of my wheelhouse, so the next event is going to feature more of the soul and R&B side of things.”
Blues, R&B and funk all have similarities—yet can sound wildly different. De León explained how she approaches an Orgone show versus a solo show.
“With Orgone, it’s kind of in-your-face, raw—a little bit more direct, and a little heavier,” de León said. “It takes up a different center of my brain. Even though the music is in the same umbrella, the soul umbrella, it’s a different part of my brain. It’s a little bit more nuanced. One really lends to the other, so when I’m singing the Orgone stuff, or a heavier funk set, there are still elements of that I would use in a more laid-back set, and vice-versa. They kind of trickle into each other, because, in me, one can’t exist without the other.”
An Adryon de León solo show consists of covers—but that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily recognize them.
“They’re curated in a way that I kind of go into, and I share why they are important to me,” de León said. “Also, we kind of arrange the tunes so they’re a little bit different from how they were recorded. Personally, I don’t have a solo track yet; I’m working on that. I’ve been putting a lot of creative energy for the past nine years into Orgone, and I kind of just put my solo stuff on the backburner, but I’m slowly working with producers and stuff to get more material, and put out something on my own.”
De León has performed at the Agua Caliente Palm Springs before, as part of the Jazzville series, which has the same producers as the Desert Blues series. De León said she prides herself on the concoction of genres she can perform—but while she can sing the blues, “it’s not my main thing,” she said.
“When I was initially talking to Barry (Martin, who does booking for Jazzville and Desert Blues) about it, he said, ‘We built it as a blues night, but I know what you do,’ so I felt a little pressure come off, because I’m not a blues singer, and I made that very clear,” de León said. “When I’m approached for different gigs, I like to make it very clear what I do. There’s nothing worse than showing up to a gig and doing a certain set, and then on a set break hearing, ‘Do you mind if you do a little bit more of this?’ I’ve had it happen to me before, so through trial and error, I really learned to be very clear up front.”
Because she performs a blend of genres, de León has to do some research before each show.
“Over my 20 years of putting together sets and arrangements, I’ve figured it out on the fly—but now I can apply all those lessons when I’m putting together a set for an evening,” de León said. “I know what questions to ask: ‘Where’s this crowd coming from? What previous acts have been there?’ etcetera. The set coming up in July, I’ll definitely incorporate some blues-ier tunes, but it’s going to be in the style of Aretha Franklin, or other artists like that, just to kind of make sure everybody’s pleased. I’m a Libra; I’m a pleaser.”
De León said enjoys the flexibility her solo performances give her.
“The Orgone stuff is mostly originals, and the covers that we do are heavily arranged for the band,” de León said. “I’d have to say I am more invested when I’m performing my own lyrics and melody. Having been in the studio, seeing a song to fruition, there’s just this different feeling. On the other side of it, when I do my own stuff with my cover groups, we have our own little arrangements of things. I hate using this term, but we just love to vibe on stuff and create onstage. It’s a completely different journey. I don’t have that flexibility with Orgone, because all of our stuff is arranged down to the dot. With this particular show that we’re doing, I have more freedom, because I call the shots.”
And as for the future of her music career, de León is looking forward to spending more time pursuing her solo work.
“They’re kind of hitting their stride as a studio band right now,” de León said about Orgone. “They started as a rhythm section, and they’re always going to be a rhythm section with special guests, myself included. Their direction right now is kind of slowing down on the touring, (instead) working with other vocalists and perhaps getting in with major artists and being their studio band. That said, that allows me a lot more time and creative energy for my own projects. I’ll be working Orgone when I can—but I think the focus really needs to be on my solo work.”
Adryon de León will perform as part of the Desert Blues Revival series at 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 20, at the Agua Caliente Palm Springs, 401 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $10 to $65. For tickets or more information, visit www.eventspalmsprings.com/blues.