Anna Nalick Interview

April 24, 2014
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Interview by: Lindsay Corry

Photos by: Samantha Ward

Anna Nalick, known for her hit song, “Breathe (2 AM),” is a talented singer-songwriter who began writing songs at only age 10. She tells The Cut about her songwriting process, high school bands, and what it’s like to go on a four-year tour while still in your teens.

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The Cut: Where do you think you gained the ability of storytelling in your lyrics?

Anna Nalick: I don’t know. I think probably combination of that’s the way I think, more trying to explain things to myself, and then maybe I can articulate it. That might be it, but I don’t know where the ability came from. It’s just there I guess.

The Cut: Did you notice this ability at a younger age? I read that at 15 you were writing lyrics for other musicians.

AN: Yeah, I started writing songs when I was about 10. So by the time I was in high school I was writing for a lot of the local bands—both music and lyrics. I like to listen to people’s stories; when I was writing for other people I’d get to know them and then put them into music. I journal a lot and have since I was old enough to write—as soon as I learned how to write I started keeping a journal. So I guess I am always telling my stories to try to better understand myself, and the things I am taking in from around me.

The Cut: You wrote lyrics for other artists at age 15 and then released your first album at 21. What made you want to perform your own music?

AN: Well, I have been writing songs for other bands—I actually wrote full songs, not just the lyrics, already all through high school. And then I had a lot of songs that didn’t fit any of the bands I wrote for or my own band. I had already been performing with a rock band for a few years, and then I had these songs that needed to go somewhere. I decided to play at little places in L.A.—and that was age 17—so I actually wrote Wreck of the Day, my first album, when I was 17 and 18 years old. It officially came out when I was 21. It’s been a while.

The Cut: Where do you get your inspiration for your lyrics?

AN: That just comes from everyday life: the things that are around me and anything that makes enough of an impact that I am thinking about for more than a couple minutes ends up translating into a song, a rhythm, whatever. I’m not much of a concept person—that’s very secondary. I don’t really go in with the idea that I’m going to write a song on a scene, I just write down what I’m feeling and sometimes an analogy comes along with it that helps me better understand it.

The Cut: How was going on a four year tour around the world after <ital>Wreck of the Day<ital> was released?

AN: That was incredible. I never thought that I would get to see and experience so much in such a short amount of time. It was strange because, not unlike going on vacation, you leave and you go to…wherever, Hawaii for a couple of weeks, and you come home and everything is exactly the way that it was when you left, but you’ve changed and you’ve seen things, and had experiences. Except that that happened for four and a half years, and that was all my formative years. There was a lot of trauma and a lot of excitement, and some of the most fun I have ever had in my life. Then I just came back home to my small town and no one had changed, and I felt pretty weird, pretty different.

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The Cut: In your album Broken Doll & Odds & Ends there is the use of unusual instruments (like sitar, glockenspiel, mandocello), what made you want to do this, or use those instruments?

AN: Initially that was supposed to be an acoustic album, but my friends who played on that album are such talented musicians that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to let them explore whatever sound they wanted to put on the album. The overall vibe of each song is my idea, but they had freedom to play whatever they thought would fit, which I think is a healthy way to work with a studio if you are working with talented and intuitive players. I’m still working with those people, and I try to give them some freedom.

The Cut: Your album Wreck of the Day is pop, and in Broken Doll & Odds & Ends there is more of an acoustic feel, and then your next album is going to be more electric.Why do you take a different direction with each album?

AN: So the first album—that wasn’t entirely in my hands. I had a great production team, but I was also with a major label, with Sony, and they had a lot of ideas for what would benefit us in trying to sell the record. So the sounds that we have on that one was based a lot on what was popular at the time and how to fit me in that market. Broken Doll & Odds & Ends was completely independent, and it was going to be acoustic because it was an inbetween project. It was just after I left the company and a lot of it was the songs that were still in my control when I left. It was the first time I was in control of producing an album. I worked on it with producer Chris Rondinella, and we had a guitar, so we decided we should probably use it. So we picked a Stevie Ray Vaughan song so we could have a guitar in a song we could cover. I don’t actually go in with a whole plan; I sort of go into the studio, work with people I trust, and do what is best for the song. For the next album, I don’t know if I will be leaning on electric, but I do know that I love drums and I love a strong sense of drive in a song. I’d like to try things with making sounds and using different kinds of compression and definitely drums, which I didn’t have a lot of on Broken Doll & Odds & Ends. I don’t know exactly what that will be yet; part of this chore is figuring that out, getting used to the songs, and getting to know them.

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