Anna Renae - 10 Questions Music Interview
Anna Renae is a British/American singer-songwriter who gives life's experiences a musical narrative. Her songs explore life's complexities from the heart of an old soul with a wide-eyed imagination. Having graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2017 with a First Class BA (Hons) degree in Popular Music, Anna Renae's life and music have now taken flight from her hometown in Lancashire to Hampshire, where she looks upon broad new horizons. Her debut album Skin was released on Friday 20th March 2020, and is available now on all major platforms.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I wrote my first fully structured song at age 13, followed by a few others which were all primarily just initial stepping-stones into songwriting, and less based upon personal experience. It was only when I reached age 15 that the connection between my life and my musical expression was formed - this was when I fell in love for the first time, with traumatic consequences. My first love came from a religious family, whose religion required them to serve in a 'mission' for 2 years when they came of age - which, of course, happened while we were together. He was stationed abroad in Australia for this, and as a non-family member I was only allowed minimal contact with him, and so this meant an extremely abrupt and absolute loss of him. This was the moment in my life in which music became more than a pastime, and instead a way for me to channel this new kaleidoscope of emotions that I would have otherwise not known how to cope with.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
It may not sound crazy to most, but it would have to be the fact that after having only been released for just over a week, my debut album had reached people in so many different countries - and had been admired enough for people all over the world to order physical copies to be posted from my website! This album is my first ever official release, and given my genre of soft, mainly acoustic pop/folk music (and the fact that I am an unsigned artist who has only recently started pursuing this as a career), I had not even dared to imagine that it would gain much of an audience at home in the UK, let alone in other countries!
What has been the high point of your music path?
The time since my debut album release - knowing that I finally have original music out in the world is the accomplishment of a lifelong dream. The messages of support and praise that I have received have been overwhelming, and have ranged from people I haven't spoken to since school, to people from different countries that I have never met who have been touched by my music. There is no other feeling quite like that.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
It honestly differs every single time. It happens occasionally that I will write a melody, sometimes also with guitar accompaniment, but I am unsure of what I would like the song to express at the time. Therefore, these ideas are laid aside and can lie dormant for years, until one day, lyrical inspiration suddenly comes which fits perfectly with them (examples of these are 'Alaska' and 'Far From Sanity', both featured on my debut album). Most often, however, the lyrical ideas arrive first, and I will basically write a poem around which I then build the musical framework to fit the tone. Personally, lyrics are always the most integral element of my songwriting as these tell the stories of my life, and so the vocal parts of my songs often take precedence over the rest.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
Well, currently, I would have to say the Coronavirus pandemic. Every independent unsigned artist is facing a host of challenges right now due to gig/festival cancellations, and how the global lock-downs and social distancing measures directly impact the industry. Of course this is unprecedented and unavoidable at this moment in time, and so I would simply ask that the music industry continues to support independent artists through measures (that many companies have already implemented) such as hardship funds and lowered rates on promotional tools. The challenge right now is for indie artists to keep themselves present through online platforms, and to keep connecting with their fans and sharing hope and positivity through music in any way they can.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Oh gosh, unequivocally Taylor Swift. I have such a huge range of musical tastes and would love to collaborate with different artists for vastly different reasons, however my entire career is based upon my absolute adoration of Taylor Swift. From almost the very beginning of her career I have idolized her, and have since spent my life singing her songs, using them to carry me through the most definitive highs and lows of my life. I have sobbed the entire way through her concerts, simply because her impact on my life has been so ineffable. I truly don't know what I would do if I were ever to meet her, but if I could manage to hold myself together, then I would absolutely treasure any moment I got to share a stage with her.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
Rehearsals - what are those? Haha! I am truly awful at preparing for live shows, and often leave everything until the last minute, fully knowing that this will later cause me stress. Recently I have tried to improve this by making sure I have written a set list in good time and practiced any songs that I feel less confident with, for at least 15 minutes before I leave for a gig. One thing I am quite particular about is not eating before I sing - in my experience, if I eat within about an hour before I sing, then my voice will not perform at its best, and so I try to plan my meals accordingly in preparation. On the contrary, one thing I have found can improve my vocal performance is drinking a Jack Daniels and coke before I perform - I am, however, hesitant to make this too much of a tradition!
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
It would have to be 'Loving You Silently'. In my final year of my Popular Music degree at the University of Liverpool, for our Composition module, we were set the task of incorporating a classical string quartet into our final piece. Instead of using the quartet simply to enrich specific parts of my song, I decided to write my entire piece for the quartet and vocals, which was my biggest challenge to date as I am not classically trained and have honestly never been the most proficient at music theory. However, it all seemed to fall into place once the inspiration struck - I reinvented a melody and a thematic idea that I had begun years before, and built everything around this. This ended up being one of the most folk-style pieces I have ever written, giving nods to the themes found within traditional folk songs of ghosts and mourning lovers and all that wonderful stuff.
What's coming up in the future?
I already have a rough plan for my next release - a 5-song EP - which I actually recorded at the same time as my debut album. It too consists of my older songs, and so I would love to have all of these released before I can move onto my more recent material which I have written in the past few years. I don't yet have a specific timing in mind for this release, but I have the EP name and cover art all ready to go! However, for now, I am trying to simply enjoy the moment of my debut album release, and all of the excitement and joy and new opportunities that it has brought to my life. I hope that there is nothing but more of this to come!
Check out Anna's video about the album Skin.
Tell us where fans can access your music?