Take Paula Cole, Christina Aguilera and Reba McEntire and mix them up in a blender. The power house voice that pours out is Anna Rose. Meet the vivacious woman behind the amazing song, “My Body is a Cage.”
(“The video, which premiered on NME.com, was shot by famed director Moh Azima, known for his recent video work with such acclaimed bands and artists as Cold War Kids, Interpol, The Hold Steady and Chromeo. It features Anna in the midst of some serious relationship troubles and was gorgeously shot on location in Brooklyn, New York.” via TheMuseBox.net) Nicole: I have been so anxious to talk to you because I want to know the story…your voice from one song to the next…wow! Takes me different places and I can’t wait to hear what drives you and your creative process.
Anna Rose: Oh! Thank you, that’s so nice, thank you! It’s such a compliment, I really appreciate that.
Nicole: You’re welcome.
Anna Rose: What I can tell you?
Nicole: I’m listening to “Beautiful World” and I hear this country feel to it, right? Definitely rock, with a bit of country rock to it and then I hear a bold, clear voice and I’m hearing Reba McEntire. The power of your voice is insane.
Anna Rose: Wow. Thank you.
Nicole: Then I get to “My Body is a Cage” …which I’ve been listening to on repeat, it’s so good, and I’m hearing Paula Cole. Has anyone compared that song, your voice in that song, to Paula Cole before?
Anna Rose: No…Wow!
Nicole: I just, I’m blown away by the power in your voice, and I’m just wondering if you started training when you were younger. How did this develop?
Anna Rose: I was really always more involved personally with Rock n’ Roll. On a professional level, I knew I wanted to sing. I wanted to be a songwriter, I was playing guitar, I knew I wanted to be a musician. I was going to do that any way that I could and get experience any place that I could. For people that really gave me a chance were…with Disney they allowed me to sing the demos for some songs, for my Dad. His studio was at my parents’ house so I would just go up to my Dad’s office and sing a little and you know, go on my merry way which was pretty cool.
Nicole: Ya think!?
Anna Rose: I mean, it was such an interesting experience because I think I made it known that that was what I wanted to do. Thankfully, my dad took me seriously and really allowed me to explore all the avenues besides performance from a really early age. I’ve kind of known what I’m getting into for a while. It’s not the easiest of businesses.
Nicole: You might have jumped on the Disney bandwagon and gone aggressively that route, likely with your Dad’s connections, you could have pushed through that way. Was there a reason that you didn’t go that way? Was it not your interest or what he thought was good for you?
Anna Rose: I love Disney and I love what they do, I kind of knew it was never going to be for me, I’m a different animal. I knew I was going to be involved in Rock n’ Roll, I also didn’t want my father’s name to have an influence, as much as possible, I didn’t want it to have an influence over what people thought of me. His music is very different from mine and while I love my Dad dearly and have so much respect for him, I have a very different musical aesthetic and I think, I wanted to remove myself as much as possible from any comparison that could come.
Nicole: You said that you’ve been influenced by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin. What’s on your playlist now?
Anna Rose: Right now? Let’s see, I was actually just looking at this before I got on the phone with you because every time someone asks me what I’m listening to. I listen to a lot of different stuff and I find influences in a lot of different areas. I love R&B and old Soul and Heavy Metal even. I run the gamut, but right now my playlist definitely has a lot of Tom Waits, the new Jack White record, the solo record, Blunderbuss…there’s always some Kills on there. Then Hunters and the band Jeff the Brotherhood. Both of those bands I’ve seen live and they’re unreal, they’re really good.
Nicole: Do you listen to full albums or do you skip around song to song?
Anna Rose: I have different ways of listening to music: I will listen to an album all the way through…with Blunderbuss that’s an album all the way through for me. Then I’ll pick and choose… It’s a great record and there’s so much diversity in it. I mean, it’s really, it takes, you actually understand so much about his different bands through the slow record and I find it really interesting to dive into an artist like that. On the other side of things, I really do like making playlists for myself. I’ll pick and choose what songs I’m sort of responding to from a record or I’ll go through Spotify and I’ll let Spotify kind of just take me where I want it to take me. Wherever it wants to go, or Pandora or something like that, and I’ll pull songs from that and I’ll make a whole big playlist. Then I’ll start breaking down that playlist and thinking about what song I’m responding to the most, what song I can’t get out of my head and why it might be that way. For me there’s a lot of research behind it too, as a songwriter you kind of want to. I take my craft seriously in that way, but I want to know why people are responding to a certain artist or why I as a musician I am responding to a certain something and what about it is making me respond. When I went in to do this record, I had a whole list of things that I wanted to touch upon… Nicole: You mean a literal list of things that you were looking through…
Anna Rose: I have a list of artists and a list of songs because I have had, as I was writing these songs you start building the arrangements in your head. As I’m building those arrangements in my head, before I bring them to the band and before I would bring them to Kevin Salem, my producer, before I would bring them to him as well I would sort of listen to the demo or play it through and think, you know what? I hear, or think to myself, “Oh man, those drums that Fiona Apple has on “Sleep to Dream,” the song Sleep to Dream off of Title, you know the drums at the very beginning of that song, those really heavy drums?” Do you know what I’m talking about? At the very beginning of that song?
It’s the part where it goes [makes drumming sounds] and she starts singing the [sings lyrics]. Those little pieces, I’ll take a song apart and be like “Why do I love that?” Then when I’m thinking about recording I’ll sort of call upon those direct influences. When I say that an artist influences the record, I really mean that. There’s a lot of Led Zeppelin on there…it’s not an accident, a lot of that is intentional for me.
Nicole: Who do you think your listener is?
Anna Rose: Who do I think my listener is? I picture my listener a lot differently than say maybe, a marketing person would. For me, I find that actually my listener could be anybody…it’s not a specific demographic, it’s not an indie hipster kid, it’s not a middle-aged man, it’s not completely mainstream, but it’s not completely indie either. I hear the difficulty in that, in terms of the business side of the music industry and I find a lot of people say to me “There’s no direct market for you.” “How do I market you? Because you don’t just fit into one specific category.”
Nicole: I think the way has been paved for you by Christina Aguilera…she pulled out the jazz, she pulled out the blues, she pulled out so many different voices and look at her success. I think you’re right there.
Anna Rose: I completely agree with you that I think it is the genre-crossing that makes for a really popular artist. That being said, that’s not intentional on my part. I’m kind of just playing the music I love playing and I’m hoping that people listen to it.
Nicole: Okay, not intentional but you do say that your personality puts you to where--you didn’t say all over the board--you sort of said that you can play hard but you can calm down, you run the gamut, and I actually see that in your music. I see how the diversity of your personality is showing up in your music.
Anna Rose: Oh, that’s so good, I’m so glad you see that. I feel like this record, this record really feels like a solid representation of who I am as an artist. There are those different elements to me and I’ve been influenced by--it’s sounds very silly for me to say this--but I really just love music all the way around. I love …all styles of music, I find that I can really appreciate all kinds of music, and if I’m really hating something I’ll ask myself why and I’ll figure it out. I’m usually into authenticity.
Nicole: I see your face--you’re twenty seven--you definitely have a young face. But when you’re singing and I’m just listening to your voice the old soul comes through.
Anna Rose: Cool. I’m ninety-five in my own mind. In my mind, I’m a tour hag, who’s done 5000 tours and just wants to hang around with my dogs, but I haven’t done those things yet. [laughs]
Nicole: [laughs] Okay, given the biblical reference with “Behold a Pale Horse,” I’m curious are you religious or spiritual in any way?
Watch the Video “Behold a Pale Horse” Here: (“Jennifer Tzar directed this breathtaking video, which was filmed in Snowdonia, Wales in April of 2012. They decided to shoot in Snowdonia because of the unique mix of ruins, epic natural landscapes, and strong sense of history, which Anna felt very connected to.” via TheMuseBox.net) Anna Rose: I’m a spiritual person, I’m definitely not a religious person. It is a biblical reference, but what was so intriguing to me was that not only within the bible but within all these other cultures and all these other literary references and musical references, you see the pale horse. The pale horse representing death. I’m sure a lot of it does stem from the bible, for literature and for music, but throughout other cultures you see it too and that was the intrigue for me. I find symbolism to be…actual symbols to be a very powerful thing. There’s a mystery behind them for me. I find that it’s almost the way I’d like to be interpreted as an artist as well, that you do have to dive deeper into it and try to connect with the artist. I think there is a disconnect between a lot of artists, not all artists, some musicians right now, there’s really a disconnect between the artist and their listener.
Nicole: You’re talking about the pale horse representing death and you wrote the rebirth cycle is what fuels the album. I’m wondering why or who died in your life to spawn a rebirth?
Anna Rose: I think there’s a part of me, actually. I’ve been through fairly painful periods and have had to mourn the loss of friends and of family just like everyone else. What I realize at the end of making this record is that letting go of the past, letting go of the expectations of what people might think of me. I am my father’s daughter…letting go of that nervousness about what if I don’t succeed, what if I fail at this, what if I’m not successful. I think in order for me to make this record I had to let go of a lot of those expectations and those fears that I had guarded and kept really close for so long. I think I’m extremely hard on myself, I fought and I fought hard to be where I am. It was a big fight to make my first record, it was a big internal fight to make my second record, and to get the music, to get the songs I wanted out of myself. There was definitely a fight there, I wanted more from myself. I wanted to make a record that was worthy of the listener. I feel a responsibility to it, I’m not just going to make music, I’m not just going to make anything and put it out there. I’m not going to make something unless I have something to say. I think in that way, it was much more about me letting go of a very fearful part of myself. A very cautious part of myself too.
Nicole: What do you think, or what did you hope to say with this album?
Anna Rose: What I’ve been thinking about now, there’s a lot of different things in there, obviously because there is such a diversity between all the songs [and] …a lot of different things that I can take away from those songs. What ultimately came out of it for me is that as I was making this record I was thinking about death and what you leave behind and the people you leave behind. This record is a result of me asking myself, “If I could leave one album behind as my legacy, if I could leave one piece, one disc of music, one album of music, for people to listen to, for people to hold onto forever that’s my legacy and the only thing that people would remember me for, what would it be?” This is the album that came out of that.
Nicole: That’s really powerful.
Anna Rose: I think it’s an intense, powerful question and a scary question but in a world where we care so much about the things that we own and the things that we buy, such a commercial world--I’m completely affected by that, positively, and negatively--I just think the question of what do you leave behind is something that’s gotten lost in that. Storytellers used to tell stories verbally. They weren’t written down, you couldn’t just find them everywhere. I think there’s a real power to the story that you leave behind if you care enough about it.
Nicole: I’m curious, you said that you’re restlessness quiets when you’re at home in New York which is ironic for a town that never sleeps. Is that indicative of your personality, that you’re most content in a bustling city?
Anna Rose: I think I quiet, I counter wherever I am in a way. If I’m in a really quiet town I will be that asshole who is running around laughing her face off. If I’m in a big city, I find that I get quiet and I want to stay inside a lot of the time, or I find myself people-watching or quietly observing. I think it’s a little bit of, I get overstimulated to the point where I shut down a little bit and I get really quiet.
Nicole: Are you in Manhattan?
Anna Rose: Yeah, I’m in Manhattan. I was in Brooklyn for a little while, for a couple years, and I’m still close to Williamsburg and a lot of my friends live in Williamsburg so I’m in and out of that music scene and then the music scene in the East Village and the Lower East Side. I think I’m not someone who goes out and parties too much. I’m quieter and I’m more observant about things now, which is maybe not what I should tell you because I’m a super cool rock star, right? I think my restlessness quiets in New York because it is where my family is and it’s where…it does feel very much like home now. I was born in New York City so I think the noise of the city feels very common to me actually. It’s like this constant, really obnoxious lullaby.
Nicole: I like that. Have you seen any shows lately? I think you said you’re a lover of musical theatre.
Anna Rose: I love Newsies. I know, I’m hawking my father’s musical, but I’m going to put it out there. Love Newsies. I think it’s a really great…
Nicole: …you gotta do it.
Anna Rose: Yeah, it’s not even that though, it is a really great show and it’s so relevant to me right now because our youth culture has such a power and I think the show has that theme to it.
Nicole: I haven’t seen it yet but I’m hoping I can see it the next time I’m in New York City.
Anna Rose: It’s fantastic, and obviously as a musician and my father’s daughter (her father is Oscar-winning Disney composer Alan Menken), and as a writer, I love the music but the choreography is fantastic too and the staging of it is really creative. The set design is really amazing, as a show I think that’s great. What else have I seen? Humor wise, Book of Mormon is amazing. It’s fantastic, definitely really cool. This year I’ve been to more rock shows than I have Broadway shows, which is actually, I’m usually about equal with that. Because I love the theatrics…
Nicole: Were there any other concerts that stood out to you? Well, I guess you did see the Hunters, right?
Anna Rose: Yeah, actually, when I saw the Kills at Terminal 5, I saw the Hunters and Jeff the Brotherhood. That for me, seeing them live, is kind of what spawned listening to their music and stuff, which is sort of what I find to, if people come see me live. I think that’s really how you develop fans, true fans, fans that will buy every one of your records--is having them see you play live because I think if you can prove it to them why then they’ll want to come back.
Nicole: Yeah, I was writing a little about Mumford and Sons and that’s definitely how they did it.
Anna Rose: Yeah, they did and they worked their asses off.
Nicole: Do you have a charity that is near and dear to you that you work with?
Anna Rose: Absolutely, I spend some time doing stuff with the ASPCA--anything having to do with animals and the ASPCA. There’s a place upstate that I’ve been involved with for a while called Green Chimneys. They have a school and they have camps, basically combines rehabilitating animals with rehabilitating kids and younger adults, from emotional trauma or physical trauma or whatever. Taking care of an animal to rehabilitate yourself in a way, I’ve always thought that was really incredibly beautiful. They do great work, as well as my friend Kado has a summer camp that’s called OUTdoors Camp and it’s a summer camp for LGBTQ youth. It’s a leadership camp and it’s based in Arizona. Outdoors Camp is really close to my heart, I’ve done songwriting workshops there and the work that Kado’s doing there is fantastic, she’s really grooming some very powerful youth in LGBTQ communities. Really smart youth, it’s fantastic.
Then there’s the One and Ten Organization. VIA onenten.org “One n ten is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving and assisting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. We provide youth with tools to improve self esteem and acceptance of who they are.”