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
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'