Anna Nalick Interview

Anna Nalick: Rising Not Wrecked

Before her opening slot for Rob Thomas on December 3 at the Uptown Theater, I sat down with up-and-coming singer-songwriter Anna Nalick. The 21 year old’s debut album “Wreck of the Day” has recently gone Gold. On her bus, she took some time out to discuss Japanese fans, Fiona Apple and having a high school class taught about her lyrics.

You have been touring a lot since your album came out. What’s been your most embarrassing moment onstage?
Well, I try my best not to get embarrassed. I really try not to get embarrassed by whatever happens onstage. But of course, nightly there is something. I’ll miss a note or I will have a wardrobe malfunction or my band members will make fun of me.

What’s the worst thing your band has done to you?
We’ll surprise each other. We’ll turn around and be making a face or somebody will have something written on my set list. I’ll look down on my set list to see what the next song is and there will be some terrible gross thing written on there.

You write all of your own songs. Do you follow a certain process when you’re writing?
Not really. I write down whatever inspires me. Sometimes, somebody will say something and I’ll write it down or a melody line will be stuck in my head and I’ll just get down whatever comes to me.

Do you remember what you wrote your first song about?
No I don’t. I would imagine that it was about the things that were going on at the time, typical fifth grader stuff. Like somebody didn’t want to be my friend, that somebody didn’t have a crush on me back or that all my teachers hated me.

Do you have a favorite track off of “Wreck of the Day?”
Yeah, my favorite is “Wreck of the Day.” It’s the most fun to play, it took me two months to write it. Most of my songs take twenty minutes to an hour to a couple of days. This one (“Wreck of the Day”) took me two months before I finally had it the way I wanted it.

Do you start off with the lyrics first or the melody?
I start off with whatever comes to me. I wish that I could say that I had a routine for it, but it just comes out the way that is does sometimes. Sometimes the words come out first, and sometimes the melody comes out first. For “Wreck of the Day,” I had a melody and I knew what I felt about what the melody was saying, but I wasn’t sure how to put it into words.

So you struggled the most with the lyrics to that song?
I don’t know if it was a struggle. I never feel like I have writer’s block because if I’m not immediately coming up with something I just leave it alone. It comes to me when it does. I don’t ever feel like I’m forcing it.

That’s interesting that you never feel blocked by anything.
I let the song go where it wants to and sometimes it takes awhile. I don’t let myself get to a point where I’m struggling or frustrated with it because then it’s not fun anymore.

If you are feeling tired with a song, do you move on to another song and then come back?
No, I’ll fall asleep with my journal next to me. My notebook is next to my bed. I’ll leave my light on and wake up at different times during the night and continue working on the song. If I fall asleep with the song in my head then I wake up with new fragments to write down. That’s why it usually only takes me a couple of days to write a song. I don’t sit down and try to force it all out at once, but I’ll just let the song leisurely let the song float through my head. Sometimes you’ll get a song stuck in your head and it will get stuck in there for a couple of days; different parts but same song. It’s like that with writing for me.

Do you write while you’re on tour?
Yeah, I have my keyboard on the bus and my guitar on the bus. I write songs on the bus. I sit up here in the front lounge while the boys are sleeping in the back. I just sit in here and write. If I forget my tape recorder, I record it on my cell phone or whatever I have.

What are some of your hobbies outside of music?
It’s funny to have that question asked because my only hobbies ever was music. Now that it’s my job, it’s funny that it’s still my hobby too. I love reading. I wish I could exercise more because I like keeping active. There’s not always a gym at the hotel, and there’s not always time anyway. I like writing little stories and poetry. I’m in the middle of the Harry Potter series right now. I’d never thought I’d read it, but I was in Japan and somebody said, “you have to read these books.” I picked up the first one and I’ve been hooked. I’ve just started book number 5 and I won’t let myself see the movies until I read all of the books. It will be more exciting to read all of the books and then go back and watch all of the movies together. I wanted to do that with Star Wars too, starting with the prequels and going all of the way through, so I can get the story straight.

Traveling internationally, do you find crowd reaction to be different? You were just talking about being in Japan?
In Japan, they’re very quiet during the songs. They’ll be completely silent and then as I finish the song, they are standing up, screaming and yelling. During the song, you can hear a pin drop. In-between, I’ll sit and will be thinking, “Gosh, what if they don’t like me? Oh God, they hate me! Everybody in Japan hates me!” And then all of the sudden, my song will end and they will go crazy. They follow me down the street. It’s different the way fans are there too. Here, they’ll see you at the meet and greet or people will call out great show from the street if they see me walking on the bus. Every once and a while, there will be somebody who will follow me around. I’ll finally be like, “Ok, I have to go now.” In Japan, it’s funny, they’ll follow you down the street and they’ll take pictures. They want a picture with you and a picture of you. They don’t want to always be in the picture. When they take a picture of you, they kneel down and they take the picture up at you.

That’s really funny.
Yeah, I’d never seen that before. That’s how they do it in Japan. I spent a little bit of time in London, but we weren’t there for very long. I did mostly promotional stuff, so I didn’t really get to see who the audience was. In Canada, everybody’s really, really polite. They tend to be a little quieter. In the US, people are nuts and they scream and yell throughout the entire show. That also depends on where you are. From West Coast to East Coast, it’s different. I’m from California and in California, people are either really, really excited, especially if they feel like they discovered you. Or sometimes if you’re not on MTV, they don’t even know who you are. On the East Coast, people watch really carefully. I don’t know why, I guess it’s mainly cause my record label’s out there. Then it’s a different atmosphere in the South, where everyone is hooting and hollering. In the Midwest, it seems that for the most part it’s a family-oriented show a lot of times. People of all ages are there. It’s a different vibe wherever you go.

Do you see a wide age range in the crowd?
Yeah, actually I do. It seems to go from about 6 years old to 60 years old.

You were saying earlier that music is your main hobby. Who do you feel is one of the most underrated artists in music today?
That’s a good question. I’m not sure how everybody else thinks on this. Lately, I’ve been listening to the new Fiona Apple album. I know that she’s not a big MTV act and she’s just strictly music. She doesn’t have a fashion line, she doesn’t have a perfume. She’s a writer first and foremost and I don’t think she gets enough credit, although she does have a really big cult following. I think she’s a really, really talented artist and even though her songs aren’t necessarily pop-oriented or marketable she’s still a great writer.

She really does her own thing. It’s all about the music when it comes down to it.
Yeah, she almost lost big time because she didn’t want to change her style. She didn’t want to write a song just for radio. I can appreciate that.

As an artist, what do you want to be remembered for?
I remember that my aunt once told me that when she was in college, she took a class that studied Joni Mitchell’s lyrics. I thought, “Wow, what an honor.” I would like to be remembered for my lyrics. I hope that in the albums to come, I develop into a more mature artist and continue to have people of all ages listen. My lyrics are my favorite part. In my old high school, there is a literature class that studies my lyrics; which is an honor.

That’s really interesting.
Yeah, and since I’m only 21, I was only in high school three or four years ago. Some of kids that are now seniors and studying my lyrics were freshmen when I was at school. They remember me, it’s kind of weird.

Were you writing all throughout high school?
I started writing when I was in the fifth grade. By the time I was in seventh and eighth grade, I was writing full songs. I had a list and notebooks filled with music. In high school, I started bands. I was in a metal band, a rock band, I was in a Rush cover band. That one was later in high school and that was only for the propuse of these guys seeing if I was good enough to be in a band. They gave me Rush music to learn, which is really hard. Now I go crazy everytime I hear it. It just reminds me of high school. It’s terrible. I also wrote for other bands in the area. I wrote music for a local ska band, a local rock band, and this girl who was working out a demo. She wanted to be a solo singer, but she couldn’t write music, so I wrote some sort of “chick pop” stuff too. In the meantime, I was writing different things; like the kind of stuff that’s on my album now.

Did writing for other genres help you to grow as an artist?
I enjoyed it. I listen to all genres of music. It was a challenge to write the kind of music I would never sing. I had to put myself in the mindset of the girl who was totally different from me. She was spiky hair, the plaid clothes and was really into slam dancing. I listened to a little bit of old, old No Doubt and I was like, “Ok, I can do that.” I just had to put myself in the mindset. I love music and I love every genre.

Is this your first time in Kansas City?
No. I’ve been touring for over a year. I started with doing radio promotion. I met with all of the radio stations all over the place. From there I went on tour with Ari Hest, who is also on my record label. I did a lot of shows with different artists. I’ve opened for Five for Fighting, Tears for Fears, Everclear, Aaron Carter and Cypress Hill. Yeah, those were the two. It’s for college gigs or for radio. Stasions will call us and say, “You are on are station and so is this other act.” That’s quite something isn’t it? Opening for Aaron Carter and Cypress Hill. I just don’t fit in. I’ve been here a few times, but this is my first really big gig.

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