Growing up in a military family, Michaela Anne was no stranger to frequent relocations. Recently, the Americana singer songwriter made another move: this time from NYC to Nashville. With the release of her well received 2014 album Ease My Mind, as well as the recent video for her song “The Haunting,” Michaela Anne is settling into her place as an individualistic, truthful and thoughtful artist. Michaela Anne graciously took the time to talk about the move, inspiration and writing, and what lies ahead.
You had a very nomadic childhood. Was music something that always interested you?
Yes, it did; growing up, music was always there. I thought though that being a professional musician only meant that you had to be a big pop star like Brittany Spears, and I knew I did not want to do that. It took me awhile to realize that I could have this as a career in a way that was different than that.
Initially you studied jazz. What spurred the interest and transition to Country/Americana/Folk?
I went to jazz school, but felt unhappy in that music environment. Meeting bluegrass guitarist Michael Daves was what really opened me up to the roots, bluegrass, and traditional country music scene in NYC. The experiences that I had in that environment were natural and authentic and they made me feel comfortable and confident.
Ease My Mind, your most recent album, was released last year. It's songs are very introspective and deal with topics such as relationships and maturing.Talk a little about the record and what inspired your writing for it.
I was able record the album using a Pledge campaign, which was more than 100% funded. That was such a wonderful gift to me because I was able to have a budget and record what I wanted. I recorded the album in a Manhattan studio, in Brooklyn and in my producer’s apartment. Near the end of the campaign, I signed with Kingswood Records and they did a re-release of the record.
When I was writing for the record, I was in my early 20's in NYC trying to figure out what’s next. My parents prepared me well for adulthood, but at the same time it was hard realizing that life isn’t a steady climb that always gets better. I came to the realization that it’s up to me to figure life out and sometimes it’s going to be hard. In addition to that, much of my music deals with me grappling with not being completely happy living in NYC.
Ease My Mind was praised by many outlets including the New York Times, the Village Voice and Rolling Stone. You were also named "Austin 100" top bands at SXSW in 2014 by NPR. Is there any particular highlight of 2014 for you?
I think opening for Brandy Clark at the Highline Ballroom in NYC was big highlight. Brandy is a huge inspiration, she sticks to her own way of writing songs and is finding success as an artist doing so. Meeting her producer, Dave Brainard, has been really vital for me. Since I moved to Nashville in August, Dave has been working and writing with me a lot.
Another highlight was touring, which I have been doing so much more since the release of the record. As tiring as that can be, it is also very rewarding. It’s very fulfilling to feel things growing, connect with the fans and have people respond to songs that started out as me alone in my room working out personal feelings.
Rolling Stone recently premiered the video for “The Haunting,” which is a very emotional song. Were you involved with deciding on the concept for the video?
The director who made the video actually approached me about making a video for “Ease My Mind” well before I started recording the album. I had thought that was really cool, but I had never made a video before and really didn’t have the money. We stayed in touch and after about a year, I asked him if we could do a video for "The Haunting" instead. He came up with the treatment for the video and I'm really happy with the way it turned out.
It’s funny because a lot of people have been saying how brave and bold the song and video are, which is something I never even thought about. It’s more like after the fact, I’m thinking ‘oh, I should feel vulnerable with this song and video.’
The song is an important one for me because writing it was when I stopped worrying about what people would think of me when they listened to the lyrics. Prior to that, I was concerned if people would wonder if the song was from personal experience, but I have gotten to the point where I just have to write what comes out and can’t worry about how it’s going to be received. In doing so, I have found that the more honest you are, the more the listener connects with the music.
Recently you relocated to Nashville. What was the impetus for the move?
I moved to NYC when I was eighteen. I never thought of myself as a big city person and from the start I had a conflicted relationship with the city. I loved it, yet found it stressful and too loud. I craved more open space and a calmer lifestyle. It finally got to the point where I felt like I was ready for a change and Nashville was the obvious fit because the music industry is there as well as musicians I love and admire. It’s an inspiring environment that also allows me to have a house and a driveway!
You have said that the chaotic pace of living in NYC contributed to your songwriting. Now that you moved to Nashville, has your writing changed?
Well, I haven’t been in Nashville a ton since I moved here, but I have found that in the few months that I have been living here I wrote more songs than I wrote in the past year in NYC-I think because I have more time. In NYC you spend a lot of time just getting places, which is not the case in Nashville. I think too that maybe in NYC I felt the need to write certain types of songs, while in Nashville I have the time to be creative with my writing, so the songs aren’t so emotional, if that makes sense. I have the space to have a little more fun with it.
Co-writing is very popular in Nashville. Is that something you have started to do?
I didn’t co-write when I lived in NYC and it was one of the things that I was really excited about when I moved to Nashville. I have written with some people including Dave, who has become one of my favorite co-writers. We have written a handful of songs together, which has been such a rewarding experience for me. Co-writing produces different material than what I would write on my own. It’s fun to learn other people’s perspective and process. Co-writers can really push you to dig deeper and peel back layers when dissecting songs more than you might when you’re writing alone.
Do you think co-writing and the move to Nashville will affect your unique sound?
I don’t know, although I have thought about it. I know on the next record I want to include some songs that I co-wrote with Dave. In fact, he said to me that even as I co-write I need to preserve my specific sound. So we’ll see. I won’t know until the songs are recorded and in a collection.
What are your professional plans for the first half of the year?
Working on the album and touring pretty much sums up life right now. In March, I will be home in Nashville writing. We have plans to record a new album this Spring, in April, for a possible late 2015/early 2016 release.
May and June will be for touring. I have toured in the East, South and a bit of the Midwest, but in May we will tour the West Coast through Montana and Colorado for the first time. I will be headlining small clubs with my band, which is something I am very much looking forward to.
Finally, I always like to know if there is one recently released record that you cannot stop listening to?
Oh that’s really hard! I’m really stuck on old records right now and not even that aware of recent records. I’m listening to Lucinda Williams' self titled release from the 80’s. I listen to that one every other day.
Michaela Anne plays two shows in NYC this week. She will be at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 on February 19th and at the Skinny Dennis on February 22nd.
Watch the video for "The Haunting" here
For more information visit her official website
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