NEW YORK -- Sade Adu may have appeared confident when she hit the stage on her massive U.S. tour last year in her all-black ensemble, svelte look, high heels and red lips.
But the 53-year-old singer was nervous. So nervous, she gave someone backstage a tattoo.
"It was giving me something to divert me from the chaos of getting ready psychologically to go out there," Adu said recently. "I think I was more stressed about giving that tattoo than I was [doing] the show that night."
But Adu had reason to feel anxious: As the leader of the veteran group Sade, she and her band mates were riding high off their platinum-selling 2010 album, "Soldier of Love," their first release in 10 years. Sade won a Grammy a year later, and embarked on a 54-date U.S. tour.
The moment Adu gave that tattoo -- and many other moments -- are captured in the new DVD, Bring Me Home -- Live 2011, released this week.
Adu talks about the tour, maintaining her youthful look and when the group plans to release new music.
Q: You were really that stressed backstage?
A: I was so stressed. ... That impression that you give onstage is what people go away with ... and remember you, and I feel in a way that's what that tattoo was. I was going to mark him for life. I had to get it right.
Q: Have you done more tattoos?
A: That was my big tattoo moment.
Q: How have you maintained your voice over the years?
A: I've never been great with keeping up with vocal exercises. For 28 years I've been saying, 'Tomorrow I must do some scales.' But I haven't done them yet. I think just being onstage and performing, you learn technique just by being there and having to deliver. You unconsciously learn technique just to survive those two hours.
Q: What was it like performing for your feverish fans after being away for so long?
A: That's why you sort of feel like you're a gladiator going out there because even though you know most of these people have come from a good place and they love your music and they come with a feeling of love, which is what you walk away with, it's a bit like being thrown at the lions when you go out there because you have this sort of fear, even though it's irrational, [that] you're going to get torn apart, so you go out and you have to be good.
Q: You're 53, but you look 30. What are you doing to maintain your youthful look?
A: I do move a lot. I'm always doing stuff. I don't lounge around much. ... I'm always moving and I'm always active. ... I've tried things and I've tried exercise because I know it's good and I've tried to do yoga, but my life just doesn't seem to allow it.
Q: "Soldier of Love" went gold in its first week. When you're creating music, do you think about album sales?
A: I don't think, 'Are we going to be a success?' Not consciously anyway, you know. But in my subconscious I'm probably, there's probably that feeling of, 'What if it doesn't work out?' But I don't sort of actually have abstract thoughts like that. I actually don't stop and think, 'Yeah, this is going to be a great success.' By the time it happens, it's almost too late.
Q: In the 10-year break between "Lovers Rock" and "Soldier of Love," did you run into fans who asked about new music?
A: Always in the queue at the petrol station. The gas station. I'm always being asked it, and I'll always say 'it's tomorrow' and they all think I'm a liar because I always imagine it's going to be much sooner than it is. But then my life just gets in the way. I'm always asked that question. Like I said, I'm Nigerian. I'm always late.
Q: When will the band release another album?
A: I'd like it to be sooner and I always think that. It's not like I go off of music or I go off the feel of it, but there's a lot to it. I can't work unless I go and I have to find the right moment to cut off. I'm not someone who can just sit in the middle of chaos of my life and write songs. I have to go away somewhere and cut off ... I would love to make an album soon, but it just doesn't happen that way.
Q: A lot of young singers are inspired by you. Who are you listening to?
A: Somebody I recently discovered in the last couple years is Ray LaMontagne, and I love his vocals. I think he's really, really talented and exceptional. He's doing his thing. He's sort of not associated with the times. It's just his own thing. I [also] listen a lot to hip-hop because I like hip-hop lyrics; to me it's poetry.
Q: Why do you think so many fans resonate with Sade's sound?
A: The key is probably the songs -- they come from the heart, and when we're making an album, we put our whole heart in and everything we've got. And it isn't about making a hit album; it's not about second-guessing and predicting what people want to hear or what they want to buy. There's sort of integrity in that. We just get lost in the music.