How Adele's heartbreak inspired Rolling in the Deep

The day after she split with her long-term boyfriend, Adele went into the studio to write a ballad. Her biographer Caroline Sanderson explains what happened next

When she had started writing her new album in earnest in early 2009, Adele was still in her "first real relationship", with an older man, her passion for whom had caused her so much emotional turmoil the previous summer, and was at least partly responsible for her cancelled US tour.

"He made me an adult. He put me on the road that I'm travelling on," was how Adele later summarised their relationship. According to what she told Rolling Stone in 2011, they were together for something over a year, sharing Adele's flat in London when she was in town, before it all started to fall apart. "It just stopped being fun..."

***

Studio sessions with various producers over the preceding months had yielded little that Adele was happy with; not surprising given that she was in the throes of relationship problems that were looking terminal. Then, the day after the definitive break-up, she went into the studio with songwriter and producer Paul Epworth, who had worked with the likes of Kate Nash, Primal Scream, Florence and the Machine, and, most recently, Jack Peñate, with whom he had co-written and recorded Peñate's second album, Everything is New.

When Jonathan Dickins [Adele's manager] had first suggested that Adele work with Epworth too, her initial reaction – thinking of his overwhelmingly indie credentials – had been: "Well, this ain't going to work. But I thought I'd go and get a bit drunk with him, and so we went to the pub." Luckily they hit it off, and Adele changed her mind.

Another songwriter might have looked at the state Adele was in, and sent her back under the duvet with her box of Kleenex. But Epworth could see that she was fired up in a way that might produce something rather interesting. [She said:] "I never get angry, but I was ready to murder. I went in crying and stuff, and said: 'Let's write a ballad.'" And he was like: 'Absolutely not! I want to write a fierce tune.'"

Epworth exhorted Adele to, "be a bitch about it". [She continued:] "When I'm about to get angry in my heart, I can really feel my blood flowing around my body... And I kept going: 'Feel my heartbeat Paul!' And the beat of the song was my heartbeat... It just built and built." And so "Rolling In The Deep" was born.

She was obviously quite fragile and very open about what had happened. But she had fire in her belly," was how Epworth later recalled the emotionally charged day-and-a-bit it took to record the track. Adele had intended it to be just a demo, but she quickly came to realise she would struggle to recapture the "heat of the moment" emotion of that first recording. So the demo became the final track; and later one of her biggest hits worldwide; and then her first US No 1.

Reflecting on the song's origins for her own website, Adele summed up "Rolling in the Deep" as her reaction to, "being told that my life was going to be boring and lonely and rubbish, and that I was a weak person if I didn't stay in the relationship. I was very insulted, and wrote that as a sort of 'fuck you'."

With the recording of that "fuck-you" opening track, something of the steelier, more defiant character of the second album started to emerge. On tour in Canada at the beginning of May 2009, Adele told CBC Arts online that her new record wasn't "as pathetic as the first. This one is more like: 'Alright then, it's over, fuck off out my house, pack your bags, get out of my bed.'"

With a packed schedule, and an album to write, Adele was having to harden her centre. She couldn't expect much sympathy from those around her in any case, for she was the one and only person who was sad to see the back of Mr Wrong. "All my friends, everyone I worked with, no one liked him, because I acted different when I was around him."

***

In 2012, Adele will be back. Her fans hope, and trust, that her voice will be as wondrous as ever. And if she feels any pressure to deliver in future, so far Adele hasn't shown it.

"I don't really care about expectations... I'm not expecting my next record to be as big as this one," [she has said]. In the light perhaps, of what she has learned from her collaborations on [the album] 21, her own creative input will, she has said, be paramount. "I want it to be quite acoustic and piano-led. I want to write it, record it all, produce it all and master it on my own."

Why [did] she think this [was] her time, Adele was asked during an interview for the landmark 300th issue of Q, for which she also appeared on the cover, photographed by Rankin in a deep purple gown.

"Maybe people know I just like music... I think I remind people of themselves," she said.

This is an extract from Adele's new biography, Someone Like Adele, by Caroline Sanderson, published by Omnibus Press

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Arts and Entertainment
Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the Mersey
booksAn early draft of ‘Atrocities’ shows the anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication
Arts and Entertainment
Actors and technicians on the march against changes made by Hollande
theatreOpening performances of the Avignon theatre festival cancelled as actors and technicians walk out
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West performed in a chain mail mask at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park
Rapper booed at Wireless over bizarre rant
Arts and Entertainment

They're back, they're big – and they're still spectacularly boring

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil