The daughter of composer Alan Menken and a ballet dancer, 26 year old singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist ANNA ROSE is currently busy composing the follow-up to her phenomenal 2010 debut album Nomad. First introduced to the guitar at age 5 during a family gift swap, she has proved her musical prowess time and again with her powerful voice and ability to cross the boundaries of “singer-songwriter” to create a sound fully her own. Currently ANNA ROSE is in the studio recording her second full length; she recently released a sultry, soulful cover of THE ARCADE FIRE’s “My Body Is A Cage,” which was featured on The Arcade Fire news site and the website “Cover Me.”
You picked up the guitar at 5. Did you think that even then as a young kid, that music would be something that you would ultimately want to pursue? Or was there any particular moment when you realized this?
Honestly, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to pursue music as my career. I think as soon as I opened my mouth and realized what singing felt like, I was fixated on it. Then, when I dropped piano and began playing guitar, it all started to come together. I use “come together” loosely, accounting for the fact that I was 5 years old.
Speaking of guitar – Nomad is full of it. It’s not “full on rock”, but the acoustic arrangements are quite complex. There’s also some nice bluesy fills on “Dare” and “Gillian”. Where you going for that wide-open space sound of early 70s albums?
Yes and no. I was trying to stay as authentic to myself as possible within the process, so I was initially less focused on what “sound” I was going for, but rather trying to record these songs the way I had always envisioned them in my head. I was going for that sound without really knowing it. I was frighteningly aware that this record would be my first impression and I knew I didn’t want to sound too stylized or trendy. I just wanted to sound like me, but at the same time, one of my biggest influences is the rock of the early 70’s, so that clearly came through. The bluesy stuff definitely shows where I’m heading though, because the new album has a big blues influence.
You’ve mentioned how California has a huge a huge impact on you. There’s definitely a sense of that on Nomad. How did the experience out there affect your songwriting?
I moved out there at 18 to get away from anything and everyone I knew, honestly. I wanted to wipe the slate clean. I was basically running away but I justified it with college. Then I dropped out of college. California became my mother and my best friend and my worst enemy. It bitch-slapped me with every experience I could have never asked for. Going through the process of becoming whole was what effected my writing.
You’ve stated that you like to go for “full on takes” when recording. Do you know what you’re looking for when you start, or is a lot of it by feel? (ie– you’ll know it when you hear it?)
We rehearse a lot before we record. Get every arrangement where we want it. Then perform the balls out of it. I like to capture a great performance, as if you’re at a great show. So I know what I’m looking for most of the time, but the beauty of live takes is that you get these little surprises that are so good you could have never dreamed them up ahead of time.
As a self-proclaimed guitar-head, what type of guitars do you prefer to play? Any guitar-players that inspire you both in terms of songwriting and playing?
Okay, you’re in for it now. This question could be a whole evening of conversation. We’ll start with the actual instrument. I’ll play any guitar I can get my hands on, but recently I’ve been really working with my Tele and Gretsch. Those are the two most featured on the new material so far. I played my acoustic throughout Nomad and the shows that followed, so I’m finding the excitement of changing guitars throughout a live set and loving how different each song sounds on a different guitar. Being a rhythm guitarist, that’s really important to me. As for players, I’ll just list some because I could go on forever about each: Jimi Hendrix, Lindsey Buckingham, Jack White, Jamie Hince, Chuck Berry, Arlen Roth, Son House, Keith Richards…this list could be endless. Those are just the ones on the top of my head right now.
“Wilshire Boulevard” is probably my favorite song off of Nomad. I love the jazzy feel it has to it. What’s the story behind this song?
Thank you! I’m so glad you like it! I wrote that song while I was living in East LA and I would drive up and down Wilshire to get to my gigs to avoid the freeways. I would drive home on that street after shows, thinking about what I could have done differently and which songs came off well that night. “Wilshire Blvd.” became this physical representation of the transformation I was going through.
You recently received a lot of attention for you cover of Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage”. What attracted you to that song, and were you expecting the kind of response it got?
I was definitely not expecting the response! It was so flattering and it made my heart swell knowing that people connected to it. I had been messing around with the cover just as a way to work through some personal stuff and when we were in the studio, my producer, Kevin Salem, heard me playing it and wanted to get a recording. It’s the only time I have not worked on an arrangement in advance of going into the studio. I’ve loved that song since Neon Bible came out, but it took on a new life this year when I began playing through it on my own.
Have you started working on the follow-up to Nomad? What types of sounds can we expect it on it?
Absolutely. It’s almost finished and I’m so excited about it. It’s heavier and has more of a blues influence, as well as a 90’s grunge aspect, but I’m sure you’ll find it has the basis in classic rock that Nomad has. I’m curious to see what you think! I really can’t wait to get it out into the world.