|Chantelle Renn and Vita Adam perform for World Vision's Girls Night Out|
It's not been an easy thing for Adam to navigate; this idea of being all you can be without stepping on toes or ruffling too many feathers, while desperately wanting to honour her God. She communicates as much in her song lyrics, which aim to empower and encourage, and in her Tweets. "I choose not to be overwhelmed", she shared with her followers recently.
Despite studying violin and piano from a young age, Adam was a relatively late-bloomer in the world of music. She completed a Chemical Science degree at La Trobe University and post-graduate studies in PR, taking jobs in fashion operations and sales (she still works in fashion for Calvin Klein). It wasn't until she broke up with a boyfriend at age 25 that she put pen to paper and found her voice, singing about her pains, joys and her journey.
"I allow people to journey with me when I'm broken," she says. "It gives others permission to be honest, which is healing. People need to get a glimpse of that. Not long after the breakup everything just snowballed. I went on the road sales repping for four years, selling textiles and bed linen, staying in hotels and B&Bs. Out in rural Victoria, people would take you into their homes and feed you. Lots of the mums and dads I met on the road could see I was just broken."
Confessing to over-investing herself in the relationship, part of her healing was enlisting the help of a mentor who could help guide her fragile spirit and negotiate new boundaries in her life and career. But at the time of the breakup, and following a shorter relationship, she lost the plot. She was leading a church youth group and part of the worship/singing team, feeling completely unworthy.
"I had the biggest meltdown," she says of turning up to practise at church one night. "I told them to get stuffed. By the grace of God, they still let me lead and loved me and didn't make me feel guilty. They knew I was broken, that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I was so foul! We giggle about it now, but it was a major diva hissyfit. My church family are a solid foundation for me."
In hindsight, all these struggles have just been part of her preparation for a public career, which can be challenging even if your upbringing is solid. "Runnin'", the single that attracted major radio play on Aussie stations after winning her the 89.9 Light FM (Melbourne) Musical Challenge in 2009, changed everything. It opened doors. "I didn't have to kick them down," she says. "God just opened them."
Since then, three more successful singles, "Turn It Up", "Hold On" and "Streetlights". But, she says, a little older and wiser, there are people in her life to ensure her musical ambitions are used for the right reasons, "that it's God and not just about getting chart-toppers." To that end, she's blessed to have mentors including Roma Waterman, a leading light on the Christian music scene, and her "big bro" musician Phil Gaudion.
"It's incredibly, when I look back, to see the quality of people who have come into my life. My manager Anton, my publicist, Wes... I have pioneers in my life: experienced, wise, solid people. Things fall into place, amazingly."
Her involvement with the Melbourne Gospel Choir has also had a considerable impact on her music and life. "I started to feel alienated in my church with the young married couples with kids," she says. "I'd been desiring [single] friends like that when they came into my life and I got ten in one hit! We're like family; it's almost disgusting how well we get along."
Indonesian born with Chinese/Dutch heritage, Vita migrated to Australia with her family – including twin sister, Vera – when she was two years old. At the time, there was considerable unrest in Indonesia, particularly the capital Jakarta where she lived with her family in the beautiful, monied part with the movie stars.
"They thought he was mad," she says of her father. "My dad was at the peak of his career in psychology and he felt God was calling him to move us to Australia."
In the early 1980s, racial tensions came to a climax and anti-Chinese riots broke out in parts of the country. "Friends of ours who were wealthy lived with a great deal of fear," she says. "I've only been back once, just before my grandfather passed away. He had multiple strokes but couldn't give up smoking. I love the smell of Indonesian cigars; they remind me of him."
She was educated at Strathcona Girls Grammar where she excelled at English and sports. "I gunned at English; I'm a talker, a verbal processor." She wanted to study to be a physiotherpist but didn't get the marks, so enrolled in her Chemical Science degree and PR studies, working for iconic Melbourne fashion house Perri Cutten when she graduated.
"I got passionate about making something of myself," she says. "I got promoted to operations and represented the business at fashion events. I was warned that fashion is like a club – that you're in or you're not. I was young and felt myself changing for the worse. My self-identity was caught up with my job. I think God saw that and thought, 'Enough is enough'. I ended up losing my job."
And yet, as Adam knows too well, it's the seemingly awful things that can force change for the good. Without shining lights like her – a woman of considerable warmth, intelligence and talent prepared to share her aches and pains, joys and triumphs – what hope for girls who might otherwise kowtow to the status quo and hide their burning desire to share something of themselves with the world?
"I still don't think I'm worthy, but it's amazing that God would choose me to do that," she says.
Girl With a Satchel