Anna Mae is the perfect example of the modern-day DIY independent artist. She grew up on a farm, listening to the music her older siblings and dad would listen to, absorbed it and when the time came for her to take off she started taking chances and collaborating with other writers and producers until her music started popping off on all of your favorite TV-shows.
For her latest project, she mustered all the PR knowledge she gained while working in the field during college and decided to take promotional matters under her own hands and since Covid is still preventing artists from going on tour she started thinking outside of the box and took a completely different approach for her marketing.
We spoke with her about all of the above and how important it is for an independent artist to sharpen their business skills.
M: What’s your story?
ANNA: I’ve been in Nashville almost nine years. I started doing music in Minnesota which is where I’m from. In college I enrolled in a music business program because I wanted to learn that whole run of things and started co-writing a bunch until a woman in town heard one of my demos and said to me: “it sounds like your voice would work on TV!”, so she set me up on my first session with a producer. She got a placement on that first song and that kinda launched me in the sync and publishing world
M: Is there a different approach in writing music for TV & Movie versus for your own act?
ANNA: Yeah definitely. I love more detailed and intricate arrangements for my own music but a lot of times what works for TV has to be way more direct and simple. Sometimes these two aspects align but quite often you need to focus on one or the other.
M: What’s the creative process for a commercial or a placement compared to your own personal music?
ANNA: One of my favorite ways to write is going off of a title. Whether it’s for commercials or my own artist stuff. If i’m writing for my own stuff, i might go into it like “oh this is something that i’ve been thinking about or something that i’ve been going through”. However with commercials, even right now during quarantine, you need to think about what the world is going through.
In that case, I’d come up with a title that has to do with that. For instance, the world wants to hear words of encouragement or feel like we’re all in this together so I’d write music that communicates that type of feeling. Also, since that particular music is supposed to go on a Tv show, so you need to think lyrically, as in “what lyrics would help sell this show or movie’
M: How did you benefit from this exposure to this side of the industry?
ANNA: Quite a lot actually! Before walking into my first session I didn’t know how to work with a producer so I wasn’t even able to see the potential of my own songs. But getting into syncing and writing for Tv etc. got me in the room with a lot of different writers and producers that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the privilege to work with or maybe even feel comfortable working with. Now I can do a better job visualizing what the finished product can be, even for my own music.
M: it’s really interesting the blend of different sounds you put in your music. What are our influences and your favorite artists?
ANNA: My dad was always super into music. My older siblings were a few years older than me, so I was always listening to whatever they were playing. Definitely a lot of Coldplay and Deathcab For Cuties and U2.
So when I started writing, I was probably subconsciously influenced by songs like Coldplay’s “The Scientist”. Then once I started working with producers, I realized I could also write stuff that sounds more like Katy Perry.
Katy is a forever favorite of mine! That teenage dream album is pure gold. Besides that, I know my music doesn’t sound like hers but I think that Kacey Musgraves maybe is the artist that inspires me the most just because I love how unique her production and sound is as well as how cool and sophisticated her writing is.
M: What have you been listening to, during quarantine? Did you dive into something weird or peculiar? A lot of people went back to their hometown and started listening to Christmas music all of a sudden, for instance.
ANNA: That is so funny. Honestly I’ve been binge-listening to Bruce Springsteen. I remember when I was waking up on Saturdays and my dad would be blasting Bruce Springsteen through the speakers on the farm. So I was used to hearing him, I just had not actively listened to him on my own.
It’s probably because I watched “Blinded By The Light” during quarantine – which is a movie about a guy who’s obsessed with Springsteen – and I realized that all of his songs are so good! Besides it makes me feel like I’m at home with my dad.
M: Do you think it’s important for an emerging artist to have a clear eye into the business side of things?
ANNA: I think that is super helpful. I know everyone works differently. But I personally feel motivated if I know that there’s some kind of purpose behind what I’m doing. Not that writing for yourself isn’t a good enough purpose! However, for so long I felt like I was writing so much and no one was there to hear it.
So I definitely think that getting out of your comfort zone and writing with other people and for other artists or platforms helps you get unstuck. Thinking about music as a job also helps to keep you motivated!
M: Spotify CEO recently said that if independent artists want to get paid more for streams, they should release more music. Do you think nowadays musicians should put out higher amounts of music and explore different creative avenues to increase their revenue?
ANNA: I think that’s definitely something that i’ve thought about a lot and I go back and forth on it myself. Short answer I would say yes, I do think that the needle moves when things are released. So I think it is very tempting- and i don’t know if it’s just nashville- maybe everywhere- but I think it’s tempting for us to be like “oh i’m not sure if this is the perfect song so i’m just going to hold onto it and wait and see”.
Obviously, you don’t want to put something out that doesn’t reflect well on you. However, I do think that it does make sense to release more music. Especially considering how quickly we are able to make it. Here in Nashville full time writers write at least three songs a week while your previous 3 songs are being produced.
So you practically have a good amount of finished songs every week and it doesn’t take a whole lot more to take the extra step to get those songs to be fully completed and released.
M: Let’s talk about the new record!
ANNA: With this record I want people to either feel really great about themselves when they listen to it or I want them to be able to work through an emotion. While I was putting it together I was really analyzing what makes me love music the most and I realized that what my favorite songs do to me is either make me feel more confident about who I am or they help me process and feel my emotions to a deeper extent.
Besides that, I wanted the visuals to give the same kind of feel and information the way you would go about it 10 or I guess 15 years ago. A lot of the time a release would include a live video of the artist talking about the music being released, for instance. I wanted to provide that same extra content adapted for the digital era we live in.
So I made lyric sheets and a mini documentary that walked people through the songs as well as a mini music video clip for each song.
M: How are you promoting this record with Covid being a massive obstacle for touring?
ANNA: With this one I really dove fully in on doing my own PR. I actually worked at a PR firm during my last year of college and it definitely taught me a lot about how you go about doing PR.
I have hired people in the past for that but I found it was s a lot of money and not always a lot of return so with this one I said “okay i have time to do this on my own since I’m home all the time” and that has actually been really fun.
M: What was your strategy?
So since the song is called Newlyweds, I targeted a lot of different wedding outlets and had them premiere the video, post or write about it. I think that if your song has an angle that you can leverage, you should target other markets and audiences outside of the music realm and see what happens.
Besides, because these outlets are not used to getting music they were very intrigued by being a part of it. I think especially for independent artists in general, if you are marketing yourself, and can find an angle for your song or your project to better pitch it to people that aren’t just in the music industry, you should go for it.
Listen to Anna’s latest single “Dreams” here
Photography: Jonte Swoope Fashion: Mundane Clothing