How Adele's breakout hit 'Rolling in the Deep' was inspired by a US bus driver

Adele performs
Adele performs 'Rolling in the Deep' at the 54th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California, on 12 February, 2012. (Reuters)

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One of the reasons behind the popularity of Adele, along with her great voice and stirring songs, is that she puts so much of herself into her music.

But she owes some part of her success to someone who inspired her to dramatically change her sound early in her career... her bus driver.

Read more: Adele convinces Spotify to remove shuffle button on album pages

While promoting her debut album, 19, released in 2008, in the US, Adele's tour bus would pump to music genres that weren't yet in her wheelhouse - country, gospel and the blues.

The source of these new sounds was her tour bus driver, who exposed Adele to classic American sounds and inspired her huge breakout hit, Rolling in the Deep.

Watch: Adele releases her first new music in six years

It is 11 years since the track was released, on 29 November 2010, the lead single from her second album, 21, which followed two months later.

The song would be her first number one hit in the US and propel her to global fame.

It is one of the best-selling digital singles of all time, racking up more than 20 million downloads.

FRANKLIN, TN - NOVEMBER 30: Adele attends CMT Artists of the Year at Liberty Hall on November 30, 2010 in Franklin, Tennessee. (Photo by Ed Rode/Getty Images)
Adele at an awards show in Tennessee on 30 November, 2010, the day after 'Rolling in the Deep' was released. (Getty Images)

Written by Adele and Paul Epworth in one afternoon after she broke up with her boyfriend, Rolling in the Deep is one of those powerhouses that doesn’t leave your brain once you’ve heard it, a driving mix of old and new, the spirit of the blues melding with the modern.

Its sound, and that of 21, an album that is the best-selling of the 21st century, shifting more than 31 million copies, was Adele's take on the classic tracks played on her tour bus.


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"He would be rocking out to all this amazing country and blues and gospel and bluegrass, and I was constantly like, 'Who's this? Where's this from?’,” she told The Sun.

"I was a bit worried about going down the blues route. I only got exposed to blues and country when I was in America because of my bus driver. He used to radio to all the other bus drivers, 'Can you pick your favourite country and blues songs and send them to me?' I've got thousands and thousands of them. Then my tour manager started doing it as well.

"All sorts - Wanda Jackson, Garth Brooks, early Johnny Cash, early Dolly Parton, the Carter Family. They were all-round entertainers and fun, especially June Carter."

She told Spin magazine at the time that Rolling in the Deep was “gospel disco” about defiance after a break-up.

She said: “It’s me saying, ‘Get out of my house instead of me begging him to come back.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12:  Singer Adele, winner of the GRAMMYs for Record of the Year for
Adele won three Grammy Awards in 2012 for 'Rolling in the Deep'. (Getty Images)
Adele closing heading on the Pyramid stage on Day 2 of the 2016 Glastonbury Festival on Worthy Farm in Somerset
Adele on the Pyramid stage on Day 2 of the 2016 Glastonbury Festival on Worthy Farm in Somerset. (PA)

Adele said she was introduced to contemporary Nashville music by her tour bus driver while travelling through the US southern states.

“He listened to all this amazing country music and we’d rock out late at night, chain smoking and listening to Rascall Flatts,” she said.

A member of staff sorts copies of the new album from British singer-songwriter Adele,
Adele's new album, '30', was released this month. (AFP via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 24: CBS revealed an extended preview and first look of the exclusive Oprah interview in ADELE ONE NIGHT ONLY, a new primetime special that will be broadcast Sunday, Nov. 14 (8:30-10:31 PM, ET/8:00-10:01 PM, PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)
Adele performing in Los Angeles last month. (Getty Images)

“It was really exciting for me because I never grew up around that music.”

At the 2012 Grammy Awards, Rolling in the Deep won gongs for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video.

Read more: Adele in tears after teacher surprised her at London Palladium

In the ultimate tribute, Rolling in the Deep was later covered by the “Queen of Soul” herself, Aretha Franklin.

The song propelled Adele to global stardom, cemented by the release of her third album, 25, which has sold more than 22 million copies, in 2015, and 30, her fourth album, released earlier this month.

And it was a bus driver's record collection that helped her on her way.

Watch: Adele on her new track and her son's reaction to her stardom