Sitting across from her at the Sutton Place Hotel restaurant in downtown Toronto, I notice that Anna Nalick looks a little bit out of her element. She’s poised, but a little nervous, and doesn’t look quite at ease sitting down with a complete stranger to discuss herself, her music, her life.
I can’t say that I blame her. But as we ease into the interview, Anna becomes noticeably more animated and I find myself captivated by her story-telling. It suddenly makes sense that she’s a song-writer; she’s passionate and articulate and has an obvious love of music.
At the tender age of 20, Anna (who hails from California) is well on her way to realizing her biggest dreams. Her debut album Wreck of the Day has been released to rave reviews and it seems everyone’s poised to see what she’ll do next. Her appeal lies in the purity of her talent and the wondrous resonance of her voice. With talent like hers, there’s no doubt she’ll go far. I sat down with her to talk about her blossoming success:
NB: Congratulations on your first album! You must be very excited.
AN: Very excited. I didn’t expect it to go as far as it has already. I initially just wanted to be a songwriter, so to make an album with my voice on it is every exciting and people have just responded very nicely to it, so. It’s incredible.
NB: How would you describe the album?
AN: I know it’s very personal, that’s the only way that I know how to write — based on what I feel and what I’m thinking. I can’t half-ass it. I have to put my heart and soul into it, so to finally sing the songs, that’s a little nerve wracking because I know that I’m giving a lot of myself away, but in the meantime I recognize that people are going to take my lyrics however they want. It’s not me telling people what to think but really using metaphor and allowing folks who listen to come up with their own meanings and apply the songs to their own life.
NB: I listened to your album and I really enjoyed it. You sound little bit like Jewel – has anyone ever told you that before?
AN: I’ve heard that I sound like a lot of different people. I’ve been compared to Fiona Apple. My writing’s been compared to Paul Simon, which was a huge compliment. So it doesn’t offend me that I get compared to other people because I am the new kid so I know that that’s the only way that folks can describe what I sound like, you know, “she actually sort of sounds like Jewel, or Fiona Apple, or Tori Amos or whatever.”
NB: When was your first big break?
AN: I wasn’t really looking for a break. I’ve never really fit in with all the other people in LA that are looking for their chance and that one single moment that’s going to bring them all their dreams come true, I kind of I just wanted to write music, I didn’t even know I was a singer, I didn’t think that I was very good. I still don’t view myself as a singer as much as I do a songwriter, so definitely things have come step by step.
NB: How do you feel about the teen pop idols that are out there – how do you set yourself apart from Britney Spears?
AN: I never got any pressure to be like them, because I think by the time I signed with Columbia, they realized that those types of people, those artists had already established their careers and they had already established their place. I didn’t belong with them. And I would say that probably the difference between myself and some of the artists that do the Britney Spears thing is that they’re performers — they are absolutely 100 per cent performers. They are singers, they are dancers, they are multimedia. I’m not. And that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with either one of our methods of going about our careers, but I’m a songwriter. Thank God I’m not a total pop artist because I can’t dance to save my life!
NB: What instruments do you play?
AN: I play guitar and piano.
NB: How long have you been playing those?
AN: I kind of made up my own way of playing, I never took lessons, so I sort of learned just based on what I needed from the melody when I was writing a song. Onstage I play guitar, but not through the whole set. I like to move around a bit more and but I use the piano to write with. In fact I’m thinking the next album will probably be more piano-based. The last album I wrote most of the songs on guitar.
NB: Which do you prefer, guitar or piano?
AN: Lately I have preferred the piano, also probably because that’s what is available to me. I have a keyboard on the back of the bus and being on the road it gets loud, I can’t always hear the guitar, so I put the headphones on and play piano and use the cathedral organ sounds, and that’s fun too. So piano is my instrument now.
NB: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
AN: Tori Amos is very captivating onstage because she looks like she’s in her own little world, she kind of takes you in. My favourite singer is Jeff Buckley. I love what he did with melody. I like that he could take anybody’s song, or his own, and make it fit his emotions. He did covers of songs that I wouldn’t be brave enough to cover like the Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah.
NB: What are your markers for success, personally? What means success to you?
AN: Going by my own merit of success, I’m already successful, because I’m still just a kid, but I have a career that I’m happy with, I’m working in a job that I really like, and it is the most challenging thing that I’ve ever done, in every aspect. But it’s very rewarding, very fulfilling and I have that at a young age. I know that some people spend their whole lives working in jobs that they don’t like. So I feel like I’m already successful in that respect. I do have little goals along the way, like being on The Tonight Show was a goal of mine, and there are a few bands that I wanted to open for that I’ve opened for now and that was very exciting. But those are not the ends of my goals. I certainly want to stick in music but I also want to get married and have kids; I was raised in a very loving household; my mom is my best girlfriend, so I want to be a mom and I think that that’ll be another success in my life. But not soon, I don’t want to do that anytime soon.
NB: So what’s next for you? After all of this, do you have plans for a new album?
AN: I never stopped writing after the first album. In fact I had to stop telling people about my songs or else I would have had like 50 songs on my album. I decided 11 was the cutoff, but I have a lot of songs that I’ve written. I look forward to making a new album. I had so much fun in the studio before and I have lots of ideas now, things that I’ve learned along the way, things that I want to incorporate into the next album.
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