The River Lea marks the eastern boundary between Adele's home borough of Tottenham and Walthamstow. The song is an ode to Adele's London upbringing:
When I grew up as a child I grew up on the River Lea
Now there's some of that water in me
To wit: I'll never change. Tottenham is my mind, body and soul
Adele told The New York Times: "I have very fond memories of Tottenham. There's a saying, you can take a girl out of Tottenham but you can't take Tottenham out of the girl. There's nothing wrong with being sent back to Tottenham, but sometimes it's quite unlikely that anything like this would happen to someone who comes from my background. And sometimes I get frightened that everyone's going to realize that this is the biggest blag of all time, and I'm going to be sent back to Tottenham."
Adele also blames the polluted waters of the River Lea for her feelings of now she's a famous recording artist:
It's in my blood and I stain every heart that I use to heal the pain
So, I blame it on the River Lea
"Sometimes I feel a bit bad as well. I feel a bit guilty about how well I've done," Adele admitted. "And even though I don't feel like I've changed, I don't have anything in common with who I was when I lived in Tottenham any more, other than that I'm the same person, and I feel bad about that sometimes. But I also know that anyone who is from the Tottenham that I'm from, if they had the opportunity to get out, they would." [Laughs.]
The song was produced by Gnarls Barkley's Danger Mouse, who has also worked with Gorillaz, Beck and The Black Keys. Adele told Zane Lowe of working with the American: "He's like a sponge, he just soaks everything up all around him. I went to his studio in L.A. when I was there; I just love him. Next time I'll probably spend a month to six weeks just working with him."
Adele previously sung about her home city on the 19
track "Hometown Glory