Adrian Eagle waited until the day before his 26th birthday to share his passion for singing with the world.
The Adelaide-born singer uploaded to Facebook a Bob Marley cover which was later shared by prominent Australian rapper 360 and his millions of fans.
“It was definitely just instinct pulling my fingers and my hands to upload that,” Eagle tells InDaily, reflecting on his humble beginnings.
“The rapper 2Pac died at 25 and that must have got it into my head.
“I remember that’s when I was like, ‘You know what? I’m actually here on extra life and I’ve just got to cut the fear out and upload this’.”
Since then, Eagle has become a household name within Australian hip-hop circles, having collaborated and toured with well-known artists including the Hilltop Hoods and Thundamentals.
His 2017 single, “17 Again”, has racked up more than 100,000 views on YouTube, helping him land the accolade of Best New Artist at last year’s SA Music Awards.
On the day InDaily speaks to Eagle he has just returned from mastering his first EP – a collection of seven original tracks he has collectively titled “MAMA EP”.
“I mention my mum and my background quite a lot through my EP,” he says.
“When I was a kid, me and my mum moved around all these different housing trust homes around Adelaide.
“I went through trauma as a child just from things that had happened at home and I didn’t know how to express that pain that I was holding.”
Eagle initially sought an escape through music, with Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley featuring as his early role models. His interest in hip-hop and rap came during his teenage years.
“I think the reason why I liked hip-hop growing up is because a lot of artists I was listening to were raised by single mums and they came from nothing – they came from housing trust or government housing like me, but they used their background to turn it into a positive,” he says.
“During that time I would listen to people like Biggie, Jay Z or Nas and I could relate to them; it was like, if they can do this it’s possible for me, too.”
But Eagle says his ambitions were put on hold because of what he describes as a crippling lack of self-confidence, which arose when he was a teenager dealing with mental health problems.
“I was suppressing my feelings and I was filling that void with toxic foods that I knew were killing me,” he says.
Weighing 270kg at age 17, Eagle says he lived in constant fear of judgment.
His single “17 Again” explores his mindset at the time, with the lyrics calling on listeners to “spread the peace and love and health” to kids “from the orange brick housing flats”.
“It was really just a change in mindset that changed it for me.
“I had enough of the fear and just decided that life is short and I have to listen to what my instinct was telling me to do and that is, close your eyes and sing it out and release the fear.
“Now that I’m in my late 20s I can really just look back and feel grateful that I’m still here.”
Eagle says despite his early setbacks, he is glad it took him until his late 20s to release his first original song.
He is proud to have won last year’s SA Music Best New Artist award as a 28-year-old, saying it proves “it’s never too late to follow what you want to be”.
“If I had released something when I was younger I wouldn’t have learnt about the things I’m singing about today,” he says.
“To be a singer in this climate is just a blessing, so with this platform I want to make sure that I’m actually doing something positive for the community.
“I want to share my story with people and sing about the true things that happened to me, to tell the youth that they should keep on living because it’s going to get better.”
The 2019 WOMADelaide Festival will take place in Botanic Park from March 8-11, with Adrian Eagle performing on the Sunday night. Read more about this year’s line-up here. Eagle’s debut EP “MAMA EP” is expected to drop around the middle of this year.