With Adele from left: Doug Morris (Sony Music Entertainment CEO), Steve Barnett (Columbia Records Chairman/COO), Rob Stringer (Columbia Chairman/CEO) and manager Jonathan Dickins. (Photo: Sony Music)
Adele was the obvious frontrunner for virtually all of her nominated categories at Sunday's Grammy Awards, and sure enough, she won all six. But her manager, Jonathan Dickins, refused to let the hype feel like a guarantee.
"I would hate to be presumptuous, thinking we were going into the night a sure bet," he told Billboard the day after this year's ceremony. "In a weird way, I was slightly more superstitious about it, really. I was out and about and lots of people were telling me how well we were going to do, and I tried, really, to not take any notice of them. What you're asking them to do is have everybody tell you you're going to do well. Because if you don't do well you'll reach some disappointment if everybody expected you to win."
To Dickins, and everyone on Adele's teams at Columbia, XL and Dickins' September management, the real victory was Adele's full recovery from vocal-cord surgery in November, which sidelined the singer from performing publicly for over five months. Her triumphant comeback performance of "Rolling In The Deep" prompted a rousing standing ovation and instantly became one of the most memorable moments in recent Grammy history. But although Adele is also scheduled to perform at next week's Brit Awards in London, Dickins says plans for a 2012 tour have yet to be properly discussed.
"We have to ease her back," he says. "While she's fully recovered, like any injury you need to build your strength back up. I'm mindful of that. I'm gonna let her enjoy this moment and not drive her mad. We'll sit down and work out what we're doing going forward. It's a long-term thing. Everybody's delighted with the recovery; we've been seeing Steven Zeitels, her doctor, and she's singing better than ever. We all believe in that she's an artist who will be around for a long time. There's absolutely no short-term approach to her recovery."
Billboard.biz also chatted with Dickins about Adele's nerves and celebratory plans on Grammy night, selecting "Rumour Has It" as "21"'s fourth and final single and why he will never say never to a potential endorsement deal (though he's said "no" to plenty of opportunities already.)
Billboard.biz: As Adele told Anderson Cooper during her "60 Minutes" interview, she still gets stage fright before a show. How were her nerves on Sunday?
Jonathan Dickins: She was obviously nervous - talk about going into the deep end. That's a testament to Adele, that her first singing performance public in over five months was the biggest music awards show in the world. You know, that alone -- you've gotta be a pretty remarkable character to take that on in the first place, and she actually did.
BBB: How did it feel to see the standing ovation she received afterward?
JD: That was fantastic - it was great to see her like that. That to me was the most nerve-racking thing of the night. I wanted her to feel relaxed about that. So to see the reception and see how happy she looked afterward, that was like an extra win.
BBB: Where were you watching the performance?
JD: I was in the audience - I watched the show pretty much last night. I was in front, in the row behind her. In my row I was next to Vince Gill…he seems like a nice dude.
BBB: How did you celebrate?
JD: We went to Sony for a bit, it was good and hectic. Then we came back to the hotel and a few of us had a few drinks here. It wasn't a ridiculously crazy night, actually. I think it was still sinking in at that stage, you know. I'm blessed, it's a generational thing and I'm happy to be a part of it. To then win six awards and the three biggest awards of the night and the major categories was like a fairy tale - something you dream about.
BBB: Aside from "60 Minutes," posing on the red carpet and speaking backstage briefly after the show, Adele didn't really do much press last night. Was that a strategic decision?
JD: We have a strategy with Adele and just how or what we expose artists to. Last night there was no agenda, she hadn't performed in five months. I wanted it to be about that, I wanted her to enjoy the night. There was [enough] pressure, without having the added pressures of having to speak to a ton of people.
BBB: "Rumour Has It" was just confirmed as the next single from "21." Will there be a music video as well?
JD: We're looking into maybe doing an official video, looking at somebody. It's the fourth and last single form this record.
BBB: Did the synch on "Glee" have any bearing on your decision to release "Rumour Has It" as a single in the states?
JD: That was brilliant, so creative. I don't really know the show, but obviously I'm aware of the show. When they sent that through I was really impressed by what they'd done. I thought it was really creative.
BBB: Aside from "Glee," a Target commercial last night and an early synch for "Rolling In The Deep" during the movie "I Am Number Four," you've kept the commercial licensing at a relative minimum. Is it in Adele's nature to one day endorse a cosmetics brand or something?
JD: Probably not, but I don't know yet. [Endorsements are] a case-by-case basis and I don't want to be in the situation of yes or no. You name an opportunity and it's been presented to us, and so far we've said no to everything. If we do something, it'll be in a way to be very careful about what it is. We make everything about the artist and everything about he music. That's directly from her, that's how this campaign was born out from the beginning. Nothing will change there. The money doesn't come first. In terms of these situations, if something fits great, I would never say a blanket no. This record is a big record globally - not just in US, just globally. There's lots of things in South America, for example. We get opportunities pretty much on a daily, weekly basis.
BBB: It was nice to see Adele be generous about giving credit where it was due to people like [producer] Paul Epworth and [songwriter] Dan Wilson during her acceptance speeches.
JD: Do you know why? I've never met anybody feel as comfortable in their creative skin. She knows how good she is in a very non-arrogant, honest, open way. She's so, so thankful and very, very open. Everyone she mentioned played a role. The thing that's very, very important is she never ever made this campaign about her. I don't really think "us and them" situations work in the music business. We're very much a team. All this kind of "I hate the record company," banging-the-desk old-school management style doesn't work in the modern era. I wanna go in to the record company and feel from all the people in the record company that it was nice they all felt part of it. When everyone feels part of the project, everybody just works a little bit harder for you.