By Renee Lorenz Special to Published May 14, 2012 at 2:59 PM

It's been a busy year for Milwaukee native and "American Idol" alum Naima Adedapo.

Since becoming a finalist in the show's 10th season, Adedapo has signed with Peak Records/eOne Music and is finalizing her first solo album. She's also been performing and creating new music with her Milwaukee reggae group, R.A.S. Movement, which is set to perform Summerfest June 29. Add her roles as wife and mother, and it's a surprise she even has time to sleep.

Nevertheless, Adedapo graciously took some time from her hectic schedule and, jetlagged from her recent "Idolpalooza" show in Australia and assisted by occasional side commentary from her two little girls, answered a few questions for I know you were just in Australia and you have a lot of other things in the works. What have you been up to for the past year?

Naima Adedapo: As you know already, I was signed by Peak Records by Andi Howard and I've been recording in L.A. I also did a track with Jamie Jones, who is a member of All-4-One. I have been literally just working on the album. We finally are going to be releasing the single, "Free Your Mind," on May 15. It kept being pushed back because we wanted to make sure it was the right time. I'm really excited about that.

I've been performing a lot with R.A.S. Movement, my reggae band here in Milwaukee. My husband and I have been working on music for an album for R.A.S. Movement as well. Like you said, I just recently came back from Australia with different members of the Top 24 from Season 10 of "American Idol." We went to go sing to the U.S. troops over there in Alice Springs, Australia, and in the meantime got to have a really great time. We got to go to the outback and see kangaroos, dingos ... it was really awesome.

I'm just really enjoying some of downtown with my family, taking the girls out to the park, the museum and whatnot and really trying to enjoy this time, because I know it's probably going to get really crazy again after the single is released. I'll have to do some radio touring, things of that nature.

OMC: Do you enjoy returning to more local performances?

NA: I really have enjoyed that. You know, the TV thing is cool, you have millions of people watching and all that, but what's great about the local performances and the smaller venues is the intimacy, and the fact that I can see who I'm singing to and I can talk to who I'm singing to. There's nothing like live performance. The energy comes across entirely differently than it would a TV screen. [The local performances] have been packed with people coming out to support.

The "Idol" time really has created big buzz for our reggae band as well, just having people come out based on the fact that I was on "Idol," and them falling in love with R.A.S. Movement by the end of the night. I've had a really, really awesome experience coming back to my roots, so to speak.

OMC: Tell me more about the album. What kind of sound can fans expect?

NA: It's going to be a lot of different sounds. I'm pretty diverse; I like to just call it "Naima Swag." There's some neo-soul in there, there's a little bit of R&B, reggae; there's even some hip-hop elements, as well as hints of jazz. What I hope is that it really just sounds like me, that it sounds like Naima. At this point I feel like I can't even put it into a specific genre, because there are going to be so many different elements.

I'm really happy with a lot of it and I've really been enjoying the recording process. I feel like I've been finding new things in my voice. I feel like real growth has come from being in the studio and experimenting with my vocal cords, and being able to work alongside and sort of exclusively with amazing people, professionals that really know how to bring specific sounds out of me. It's been really awesome recording with Juan Winans and Warryn Campbell. I feel like they understand me and who I am as an artist.

Overall, I'm looking to release feel-good music – something you can pop into your car stereo and roll down the street and enjoy, and give you a good vibe and kind of a happy feeling, a joyful feeling. I always used to see these documentaries of third world countries and slums in Jamaica or Africa, and these people who have nothing but they have this one small radio, and they have Bob Marley or something playing, and it just lightens their whole day and helps them get through it. That's the kind of music I want to release.

OMC: What has the recording experience been like? How does it feel to get something of your own put together?

NA: Man, It has been awesome. It definitely is entirely different from going into the studios when I was on "Idol." That was a really rushed process. We would have three to four hours to record a track that was going to be released on iTunes the next day, even if you didn't feel like it was your best performance. But what's been cool about my experience in the studio so far is that it has been perfecting things – trying to really work on projecting a good sound and making sure that you're using the right words when you're writing and that you're not making it too complicated, but that you still have a message inside of the music.

It really has been a great experience. Working alongside Juan Winans and Warryn Campbell, I feel I have gotten to know them as they have gotten to know me. They kind of understand what it is I want to sing, even when I can't sing it sometimes. They understand what kind of sound I have and they've been able to build around it, so it's been an amazing experience in that way.

Some of my other "Idol" friends have told me that their experience going into writing sessions has been kind of difficult because they feel like there's no consistency, that every time they go into a writing session they're with a different writer. It's almost like being on a first date. You have to sort of feel the person out, get to know them. I've had a valuable experience recording in L.A. with [Winans and Campbell], because we've had time to just relax in the studio, and have some conversations about who we are as people and what our beliefs are, and then out of that comes music. We've had an opportunity to kind of grow together. It's been an extremely big learning experience.

OMC: With everything you have going on, how have you been balancing your work with your family life?

NA: It's been difficult. What I've tried to do is make sure that I'm not away from my family for super long periods of time. If I do have to work out in L.A., then I try to take my family with me. The time before last when I first began recording, I was going to be out there for about a month. For me, that was too long, especially because my children are so young – they're 2 and 4. Basically what we did was we all piled into a car and we drove to L.A. Instead of having to buy four expensive plane tickets and not being able to get around out there, we just literally took a road trip out to L.A., and we lived out there for a month.

For me, it's been hard. I spent two weeks away from them the last time I was in L.A. because I went from there directly to Australia. Skype makes things better, because you can kind of see them and talk to them. When I can, and when I can afford it, I try to bring them with me. It's a hard balancing act, but truly I feel like I've been blessed because it hasn't been too much time away from them.

OMC: So, do your kids kind of understand that their mom is famous?

NA: I don't think they get it, honestly. They're really young, and they just know me as yeye, as mom. Even if they see me on TV, they're just like, "Yeye, there's yeye!" TV is not something that has been a staple in their lives. I don't watch TV outside of "Idol," because I have a couple of friends competing right now. Outside of that, the TV isn't on. We're outside playing or we're reading books.

As much as TV has kind of helped me, I don't really believe in it. (laughs) Especially with young children, I feel like the interpersonal experience is more important than a television experience. It took my child until 4 years old to know who Dora the Explorer even is. I know that as they get older it's going to be something that they use, however I think that it's really important to go outside and play games and use your own creativity, and stay physical and active.

OMC: Do you yourself get recognized when you're out and about in Milwaukee?

NA: I do. It's crazy, because I didn't know how big "American Idol" was prior to getting on it. It wasn't until I got outside the bubble that I really realized how big the show is and how much people actually know me. I'll be walking down the street and somebody will go, "Naima!" and yell across the street. Usually when somebody yells your name, it's somebody that you know. So, I'll look and I'm like, "Hey!" and I'll wave, thinking, "Where do I know this person from?"

There are people that will still be like, "I voted for you over and over again!" and that kind of thing. I was driving with a friend of mine from Nashville to Memphis and we stopped in a small town, it was like the middle of nowhere. We got out to get gas, and three or four of the people at the gas station recognized me!

In Milwaukee, I get a little more just because it's my hometown and there's been news coverage, or I came and performed. A lot of people know my name or know who I am. Before "American Idol" I was teaching African dance and hip-hop dance in schools and outreach centers. As much as they made it seem like I was only a janitor on the show, I am a college graduate – I have a BFA in Dance from UWM. I was teaching a lot in the Milwaukee community, so I'll have a lot of kids run up to me like, "Miss Naima! I saw you on TV!" That kind of thing. It's definitely been a life-changing experience as far as exposure goes.

OMC: What's next for you, and what's next for the album?

NA: The single will be coming out May 15, and it will be available on iTunes. The album will probably be released later this year. If not, I'll probably put another single out, just because I don't feel like it's the wisest thing to do to release my album in the fourth quarter of the year. It's the holidays, and everybody in the world is going to be releasing Christmas and holiday songs. If the album is not done by the summer or early fall I'll probably be releasing it early next year.

However, people can follow me on Twitter @Naima_Adedapo and they can follow me on Facebook. My website is going to be launching – it's called – and all of my performances will be up. People will be able to find out what's happening and when the album will be dropping and everything. I'm just doing what everybody else is and trying to strive toward longevity in this music industry, and keep recording music that I feel will touch people.

Renee Lorenz Special to

Contrary to her natural state of being, Renee Lorenz is a total optimist when it comes to Milwaukee. Since beginning her career with, her occasional forays into the awesomeness that is the Brew City have turned into an overwhelming desire to discover anything and everything that's new, fun or just ... "different."

Expect her random musings to cover both the new and "new-to-her" aspects of Miltown goings-on, in addition to periodically straying completely off-topic, which usually manifests itself in the form of an obscure movie reference.