“TO FEEL LIKE OTHER PEOPLE KNOW MY NAME OR MY VOICE, WITHOUT ACTUALLY KNOWING ME, IS REALLY COOL.”For Nashville-based artist Anna-Mae, you could say music and songwriting come pretty easily. Given her outstanding vocal talents, bubbly personality and an ability to capture emotion in a song with words and melodies alike, people like her style and want to work with her. That’s why you’ve probably heard her music without even knowing it. She’s had song placements in HBO trailers, major network shows like CBS’s Survivor, NBC’s The Voice, HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, and many others. On top of her work with Prescription (Rx) Songs in Nashville, she’s climbing her way up through the pop world on her own, too, in impressive fashion (pun fully intended). In February she released her first song of 2018, “Single-Minded”, a tune about the joys of being unencumbered by a relationship and living your best single-life. Most recently, she released “Can’t Knock Me Down”, a single that’s featured in the trailer for the upcoming biographical drama film “On the Basis of Sex”, detailing the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While those two songs have set her up well so far this year, she’s got bigger plans, and I wanted to hear more about what Anna Mae’s got left in the tank for 2018. I caught up with Anna Mae last week to learn more plans and how she’s able to flip the switch between multiple musical identities balancing work as a songwriter and performer in her own right. Read our interview below. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
EB: Anna Mae! I’ve been a huge fan since I heard “Single-Minded” and went back through your discography, and fell in love with all of your music. I wanted to catch UP to ask you a little about what you’re up to, and the different aspects of your career.
AM: Thank you so much! I’m glad that you like all of it. That’s so fun – I’m still getting used to people being like “I heard your music on something,” and I’m like, that’s so cool!
EB: Has it ever really sunk in that you’ve had to sort of separate yourself as a person from your career as a musician now?
AM: I think it’s definitely sinking in more and more, because in the past it definitely felt so connected, I guess. And it still is, but to feel like other people might know my name or my voice, without actually knowing me, is really cool. And obviously, not something that I had experienced before.
EB: And you’re also a songwriter on the side as well, correct? You’re writing for Prescription Songs under a publishing deal?
AM: Yes. Yep, I’ve been writing with them for a little over a year now. A lot of that is writing songs for my own artist stuff, or specifically for film and TV, or writing for other artists that are either in the room or maybe we’ll get a brief, and it’s like, “Work on this kind of pop song because we’re pitching it to these different artists.” I’m writing all of those different things right now.
EB: When you’re not in the room with them, is it difficult to create a song without having had a conversation with them, or heard about their background?
AM: It definitely is somewhat. Depending on the artist, sometimes it’s a bigger name artist, and so you’re like oh well I kind of have a feel for the kind of songs they sing or some of their life because of public knowledge. But also, a lot of times it’s for newer artists where you’re just hearing their name and a song of theirs for the first time that day. So, it is interesting writing for them without personally knowing them, but it’s also cool to tap into the “Well we know these few things, so what is an emotion or sound that they’re feeling or want to hear?”
EB: your music spans a lot of different emotions and vibes, from “single-minded”, to “Savages” and “Just Watch” – and even early on, like “Honey, I Need You”, the spectrum is really wide.
AM: Yeah, kind of. When I started writing, I was writing on my acoustic guitar, and it was just me and my guitar, doing that for a few years before really collaborating with anyone else. “Honey, I Need You” comes from that stage where it’s just me and my guitar. And then after that is when I was really put in the room with different producers for the first time. They’re pulling out different emotions from you, or they have an idea, like, “We think your voice could sound really cool on this. Let’s go after this kind of idea.” Depending on who I worked with, or how far into my career I’ve been has definitely made the sound, or the vibe of what I’m writing change.
EB: When you’re writing for film and television, and you’re given a brief or told they want you to make a song for a certain placement, are you creating the full song first, or are you coming up with the chorus and then filling around it?
AM: It depends. Sometimes we’ll just focus on the chorus first, if we know the overall is this, and maybe me or someone else in the room will have a title that fits that. Maybe, if we’re starting with the title, we’ll dive in on the chorus first. But sometimes we’ll just start right from the verse and then work our way through the whole song.
EB: You released “Single-Minded” in February and re-released it when you joined your new record label, Snafu Records. Tell me more about your decision to join Snafu and how that developed.
AM: I was on a writing trip in LA in March, and the guys running Snafu randomly reached out to me. So I met up with them and they were super awesome. I got good vibes from them right away, and they talked about how passionate they were about “Single-Minded”, and about what I was doing as an artist. So we kinda talked about what it would look like to work together.
I love Nashville, but it can also be really refreshing to work with people outside of Nashville. Snafu is located between Stockholm and LA. I ended up signing a singles deal with them, which is kind of what a lot of newer labels are doing, rather than a full-on record deal – just based off of streaming and all of that. I decided to work with them to take things to the next level, so it’s been cool to see what they were able to do with the re-release (of “Single-Minded”) and talking to them about what we’re going to be gearing up for with the next song.
EB: “Single-Minded” is really different from everything you’ve released – it’s a lot more poppy. You’re now engaged, but was it written before then?AM: It was written before I was engaged. It was written while I was dating him, but before that I had been single for seven years or something. I always loved being single, but would have so many friends who hated being single, or said they hated feeling so lonely. One day, I was reading and saw the word single-minded and I thought it would be cool to write a song about how great being single is. So I did write it while I was in a relationship, but I loved my time being single, so it kind of worked anyways.
EB: Moving forward with your music, do you think you’re going to fall more into the “Single-Minded” mold, or keep it broad like the music you’ve done to this point, which could go in any direction?
AM: I think it will be somewhat broad, but a little bit more pop-centered than it has been in the past. With some of the more TV-and-film sounding songs, that’s kind of transitioning into whatever producer I’m working with. Or, if I’m working with another band, it’s a lot of them featuring Anna Mae. So a lot of the songs will still be released, but more where I’m the feature on the song, and then my own songs that I’ll be releasing will be more pop.
EB: Do you plan to space out your releases so that each song can breath and live on its own for a while? Or do you plan to release an EP or a couple of songs at a time?
AM: I’m planning on doing a few singles, and then an EP. Right now, I have a handful of songs that I love, so we’re narrowing down which of those we want to be on the EP. Once we have that figured out, we’ll get a couple singles rolled out. But we’ll definitely leave a little bit of space between them. It’s going to be mainly new music, pop music, on the EP.