Not going to lie…I didn’t know who Anya Marina was until recently. Well actually, I did. I had heard her music but didn’t know it was her’s. After scoping her out on MySpace and doing some research, it became apparent that though we may not recognize her name, you’ve probably heard her music via Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, or the Twilight Saga: New Moon. I got the chance to talk to her the other day about having her music on said shows, her latest release, and the importance of staying grounded in the music industry.
First things first, do you ever get a break? From the looks of it, you guys are touring every day!
Anya Marina: Yeah, today is our one day off! It’s pretty crazy. I thought I would have lots of time to myself but you find that while on a bus with so many people it’s fun and you actually develop this pack mentality where you all sort of move together or you have this unspoken language if someone needs alone time.
Despite the fun, are you craving being back home, having alone time?
Anya Marina: I’m looking forward to getting back home and finishing a couple mixes for my full length album, I was almost done before this tour came along. I’m really enjoying myself on the road. It takes a few days to get into tour mode but once you get used to it you think, I always want to be touring. Then when you get home and have been there for a few days you think, I want to stay home!
So let’s talk about your music. Can you tell me about your album?
Anya Marina: It came out of a lot of feverish writing that started about a year and a half ago. I wrote about 35 songs and paired it down to 12. Once I paired it down I realized that the themes that were coming through were about moving, transition, drugs, and the darker places in America and life. It’s a little bit darker than the last album but I’m really proud of it because I stretched my song writing muscles. It’s also name after Felony Flats, which is an inner city neighborhood in Portland where I live.
I read that you wanted to be an actress but ended up in music. How did that happen?
Anya Marina: I think I found my way into the performing arts really early on as a kid. I always wanted to act and I was in musical theatre growing up. As a young adult I went to acting school and lived in LA but it quickly became apparent to me that I wasn’t really cut out for that at that time in my life. I wanted to finish college and I wasn’t getting a lot of acting work. When I went back to school, I fell into radio, and I really found myself through that medium. As a byproduct of radio I really got into music as well. In college I was also in bands and I had a guitar so I experimented with music. When I moved to San Diego to be a DJ, that’s when I started pursuing music full-time, playing gigs on weekends and touring during my vacation time.
How do you think you’ve evolved musically over the years?
Anya Marina: I started out in coffee shops with an acoustic guitar. My first record is an indication of that: singer-songwriter, soft, pretty. On my second record I feel like I got to incorporate a lot of the elements that I love about the music I listened to. I didn’t really listen to acoustic based music but that’s what I was making. So on my second album, I got to work with people whose music I love. Our tastes intermingled. That record is a lot more electric. On my latest album, you can hear me playing the piano, which I started playing in the last year. I also produced the album myself; it’s really the most me that all three releases have been.
What was it like producing your own record?
Anya Marina: It was daunting at first. I wasn’t sure if I could do it but my record label proposed the idea to me because I had already been submitting demos which I had produced by myself. I wasn’t convinced. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. But then I teamed up with Greg Williams, a fantastic engineer, he promised that he would help me see my vision through. I got to call all the shots and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner or band. I was so happy with the result.
Do you have a favourite track off your latest release?
Anya Marina: I’m really proud of “Heart Stop”. It sounds like an old Russian funeral song. It has a great intro which I kept hearing in my mind. It was supposed to be a string section but instead Cody learnt it on guitar and it sounds like this dark Mars Volta-esque evil strings part which is really a guitar part. That song has the most different elements. It took the longest to write.
What is it about?
Anya Marina: At first the melody came to me and I couldn’t figure out what it was about. I thought it had to be a dramatic heart breaking love song.
What kinds of music do you listen to?
Anya Marina: Everything. This week I’ve been listening to a lot of Josh Radin… we’re on tour together. I also just bought the new Kanye West album. Sometimes I listen to a lot of old stuff, like and old Sheryl Crow album I just bought. I was listening to Sam Cook the other day and that was a lot of fun. I love Telekinesis. Their new album, 12 Separate Straight Lines, is coming out in a few months and it’s so good. Love love love LCD Sound System’s latest record. I love stuff that has great rhythm and melody. And I love that Kanye West track with Bon Iver.
I love that track! It’s my go to Monday morning song. It’s got the perfect wake up pace. I start drinking my coffee during the slow intro and by the time the upbeat rhythm starts, I’m ready to tackle some work!
Anya Marina: Yes! It makes me cry it’s so good!
How does it feel to have your music played on so many shows?
Anya Marina: It’s really cool seeing something you wrote be superimposed on someone else’s story. I think its special for the people watching it because they remember your song with that particular scene. People come up to me and say I loved your T.I. cover of “Whatever You Like” which I saw on Gossip Girl which was the scene with Hilary Duff and the three way kiss…or something like that. It’s fun because it’s an extra way for your music to get into someone’s mind.
What do you think is your biggest barrier or the most difficult part of your career?
Anya Marina: It can be tough to stay healthy on the road, not just physically but mentally as well. I think people who want to do this as a career have to find a recipe for long term contentment on the road. There are a lot of easy pitfalls and slippery slopes. You have to have fun in ways which aren’t cliché, like getting fucked up every night, not sleeping, and buying into all the ego stroking. It’s really important to stay grounded and healthy!
So what do you do outside of music to stay grounded, healthy, and happy?
Anya Marina: I spend time with friends and family, plan trips, have dinner parties, watch movies, walk around, go to bookstores. I like to stay creative. I’m in a poetry and song writing groups. I love Bikhram yoga.
Well, good luck on the rest of your tour, I hope you get some down time here and there. Thanks for your time and feel free to swing by Vancouver on your next tour!
Anya Marina: I would love to, I love Vancouver! Thanks!