The last time we spoke to Anna Rose, she was on the verge of releasing her debut album “Nomad.” With that accomplishment in her rear-view mirror, the stunning 26-year-old is reinventing herself. The evolved Anna Rose is more true to herself, an artist influenced by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Backed by a strong band and an even stronger attitude, Anna is well on her way to becoming a full-fledged rock star. Prepare yourselves! Anna Rose is coming to punch you in the face with her fierce new style. Steve Johnson of Icon vs. Icon recently sat down with Anna to discuss the response to her debut album “Nomad,” her cover of Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage,” the potential of working with her Oscar winning father Alan Menken, and her upcoming sophomore album “Behold A Pale Horse.”
The last time we spoke, your debut album “Nomad” was about to drop. How was the album received and are you happy with it as a whole?
Yeah! That was a long time ago. I’ll always be happy with “Nomad.” It definitely represents a time in my life and it represents me growing up in a way. It was my first album. I hope people will look back on it and say there were a lot of great songs on that record and I love that record. It was received very warmly from the press. By the time it was released I almost felt a little bit beyond the songs because it took a long time to get the album out. I’ll always love it. It didn’t get exactly the response I hoped for, but it’s a completely changed industry at this point. When I released that album I still had hopes of eventually being on a major label and all of that stuff. The world is completely different now.
What was your most memorable experience with “Nomad” as a whole?
Oh man! I have to say finishing that record. The day that I finished the basic tracks for that album, I went and got my first tattoo. It was North Hollywood. It was the sketchiest tattoo shop ever. That was pretty memorable. Other than that, I guess while I was promoting “Nomad.” It was actually the coolest thing that has ever happened, period. I got to play with The Stooges at The Roxy in L.A.
You mentioned that the last time I spoke with you.
Yeah! It’s still high up there on my list of cool shit I’ve been able to do. I love music and I have such an appreciation for The Stooges. That was really cool and kind of mind blowing. So, those are definitely two memorable ones.
You recently covered Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage.” I take it you are a fan of the band?
Yeah. I love that band. When I’m writing I mess around with other people’s songs. Sometimes I try to put my own spin on their songs just because it helps expand the song writing process for me, to try to get into the heads of other song writers. I’d been messing around with “My Body is a Cage” for a while. When I was in the studio doing the first batch of songs for the new record, my producer Kevin Salem heard me messing around a bit and said, “Let’s get this right now!” It was good. Kevin is really, really talented at picking up the little things that I am doing and capitalizing on them. I’m totally introverted that way. I don’t think about something as a real moment for myself. Does that make sense?
Yeah! The next logical question would be, have The Arcade Fire heard your rendition of their song? If so, how did they respond?
I think they have heard it. They did give me permission to the music video we did for the song. They approved me to do the video, which I assume means that they liked it. When I went up to play in Montreal for the Pop Montreal Festival, I heard rumors from a couple of people in the audience saying that one or two of the guys from The Arcade Fire were actually in the audience. I don’t really know if that’s true or not. I know that they gave me approval to do the song and that to me is such a blessing. I think artists appreciating artists is a rare thing nowadays. People used to do covers all of the time. Covers used to come out on the radio. People would cover each others songs all the time and work with each other. That’s something that’s kind of gone out of fashion. I thought it was really cool that they gave me their blessing to do my version of that song.
Speaking of covers, do you have any favorites that stick out in your mind as some of the best made?
Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” That to me is a cover that took a really incredible song and totally made it his own. Current covers … Let me think. I have so many on different playlists. What covers come to mind? I did a really badass cover of “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders. It is pretty awesome, but that hasn’t come out yet.
I was actually going to ask you about that. Someone recorded you playing it live and put it on YouTube.
Oh yeah! There’s a live version of it up. I was so excited. My bass player and one of my guitarists are now singing backup for me a little bit too. We’re getting some harmonies in there. It’s a good time! I love being up on stage, so anyway it works I’m good.
Has your band changed any since the last album?
I’ve been with my band for about four years. It’s been the same guys.
How’s the new material coming along so far?
We’re pretty much done. We’re going into the studio for a last session of three or four songs. The album is actually done, we’re just getting these three or four down to see if we can almost out-write ourselves. It’s really exciting. It’s a very different record. People who haven’t seen any of my shows, and then listen to “Nomad,” and then listen to this new album — which will be called “Behold a Pale Horse” — people who listen to those two records back to back and haven’t seen me live will think that it’s a jarring transformation. If you look at a lot of the YouTube videos and stuff, you kind of see where it comes from. We were playing all of the songs from “Nomad” heavier the second we came out of the gate. Things began to develop before the album was even written. It might be jarring for people who have just heard the two records, but it’s a logical transformation for me. I’m just really excited to get this out there. I feel more genuine in who I am as an artist. I think when I released “Nomad” I felt that the only way I would succeed is if I allowed the singer-songwriter term to be applied to me all the time. There’s a lot of freedom for me in this next record. I sort of just said fuck it. I released a singer-songwriter album and it’s just not who I am. I just wanted a continuation in my development. I’m really, really excited about this record.
I was kind of blown away. I was watching the YouTube videos and I saw you had a megaphone on stage. I was like wow! Where did that come from?
It’s cool right?
Yeah! It’s totally different from what I was expecting.
I’ve always said that I’ve idolized Jimmy Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Those are the people that I look to for inspiration. In “Nomad” you hear little licks of that, but it doesn’t come all of the way through. I think maybe it almost wasn’t fully digested. All of the influences hadn’t fully digested to the point where they could come out in my own songs. Now I feel like everything is really flowing out. After “Nomad” came out I definitely experienced a little bit of writers block, which is a first for me. Then all of this stuff sort of just flowed out. It all came from the phrase “behold a pale horse.” In a way it actually started as a concept album for me and then I developed it from there.
It definitely sounds different musically. Did you take a different approach to the song writing process for the record?
I did. This is the first time that I have ever co-written with anyone. I’ve always been a writer who’s by herself in a very isolated form. It took a lot of pushing and people trying to convince me that co-writing with people may help me with my writers block. I experienced a couple of months where I was just really frustrated every time I picked up a guitar. I was just so irritated. I hated everything that I was writing. So, I finally gave in and started writing with other people. It’s really been the best thing that I could have done. My dad was one of the people who’s been saying to me from day one that co-writing is a really great thing. Once I caved a lot of really great stuff came out of it. That process was completely different for me.
You mentioned your father. Do you ever see yourself collaborating with him?
You know, we’ve talked about it. I’ve sung demos for him a lot, since I was a little girl. My side job was singing demos for him for songs that would go into different shows and stuff like that. When they needed a female voice, I would just do it. My dad and I have always had somewhat of a professional relationship where I can sit down and play a song for him and I can bounce ideas off of him and he can do the same with me. Writing with him would be a very interesting and possibly frustrating process because at the same time there is that element that he is my father. He writes from a different perspective as well. My dad’s bread and butter, so to speak, is his writing for characters and writing for shows and writing within a storyline. For me, I’m pulling lyrically from a very different place. I also don’t have constraints. Within a film he is trying to stick with one musical theme, one style of music. For me, I can go all over the place. We haven’t tried it, but I think it would probably be a cool thing to do.
It just seems like it would be a very interesting collaboration.
It would either end in something really genius or with our family’s house being burned down.
That’s true. I guess if I did something with my father we would probably burn the house down too. [laughs]
It’s interesting because we have differing opinions on the recording process too. My dad’s very proud of me, of course, but he’s my dad. A lot of the separation between us musically comes from the fact that I approach the songwriting craft differently and I’m a performer. I have to think about things as a performer too. How something is going to look for me on stage. I’m writing for me and not for a character. So, we might try it one of these days. We’ve talked about it.
I’ll keep listening!
You’ll be the first to know! I promise!
Back to the new album. Do you have a favorite song from the new material?
Oh man! It’s interesting because I don’t like to pick favorites really. I go through periods where I’ll be listening to the songs that I have written and I go, “Shit! That’s a really good song! Go me!” [laughs] I’m really proud of the album as a whole. I’m excited to see if any of these last songs that we are about to record will end up making the record or we decide for them to be b-sides. We’ve starting making the trial sequences. Looking through all of the different songs, I’m proud of the album as a whole. I feel like each song is individually a really great song and as a full album it feels really good to me.
I should know better than to ask you favorites. During my last interview you almost had an anxiety attack when I asked you if you were stranded on a desert island what three albums would you want. [laughs]
Oh my god! I do know! I take medicine for such things! [laughs] Those are hard choices for me! Before I got on the phone with you, I listed out some of the more direct influences for this record so that I actually wouldn’t have an anxiety attack if you asked me. I did my back research!
Well go ahead. Who would you consider the influences for this album?
Vocally I think there’s a lot of Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde. What I was going for as a vocalist was to really find my particular voice. If you listen to Stevie Nicks or Chrissie Hynde, you know it’s them. It’s not just for females. If you listen to Jack White, you know it’s Jack White on the record. You know it’s Robert Plant. I’m listening to a lot of Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac and Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. Listening to the choices they made vocally. I kind of digested that and brought that out on my own as well. There’s a lot of Zeppelin. There’s a couple of tracks that have a definite Zeppelin and Jimi feel to them. More modern would be The Dead Weather and The Kills. I’ve loved The Kills for years and years. Alison Mosshart is just fantastic. Obviously Alison Mosshart and Jack White together as The Dead Weather just destroy me. They’re incredible. The Black Keys too. There’s definitely some Muddy Waters kind of blues. Some Neil Young. Some Tom Petty. Some John Lennon.
That’s good company!
Yeah! Those are the people that I idolize a lot. I don’t know if I sound like them, but those are the people I am pulling from. The stuff that we are doing now that will possibly be on the record have a little of The Beach Boys and Beatles harmonies to them, which is something that I love and I haven’t approached in my own music. I’ve approached doing harmonies with other people as a backing vocalist, but not on my own stuff. So, that’s really exciting.
So other than working on material for your next album, what can we expect from you?
Well the album is probably going to come out in late spring or early summer. I’m probably going to be doing an east coast tour and a west coast tour. I’m hoping we can do a full national tour, but we’ll see. We’re not sure what the distribution situation is going to be yet. It’s very exciting! [laughs] A lot of this stuff depends on that. Once that is settled I’ll be out on the road for a long time. There will be some more videos coming out. There’s a lot of good stuff to check out on YouTube right now. There’s so many live videos of me and of the band. There’s a ton of them. A friend of mine has sort of been doing videography for me for years and it’s cool to look back at all of that stuff now. My goal as an artist when this album is released is to get out on the road more. I’d love to do a national tour. Maybe get over to the U.K. as well. We’ll see what happens. I try not to have any expectations because it never works out.
I was actually going to ask you about touring and expanding your live performances beyond the New York area.
I really want to. I think it’s definitely going to happen for this album. When “Nomad” came out, that was my first real step into the industry at all. I learned a lot of things through releasing “Nomad.” I completely admit that I made a couple of mistakes. This time around, it’s not that I want to do things differently. I want to do things completely my way and in a way that feels comfortable to me. A lot of that for me is touring. I like feeding off an audience. It might be a singular experience to listen to the music on your own. It’s always subjective when you’re hearing the music and when it’s moving through you. Coming to a live show and seeing a band live, and having the artist feed off the audience, and having the audience feeding off of the artist. I think that’s something that never changes. All of the technology in the world can’t change that feeling. That, to me, is still the basis of what I do and the surprise of playing live. Bands can change live. You can hear a song played live and never hear it that way again. That’s my main thing right now. Getting on tour and hopefully getting my music heard a little more too. That would be very, very nice.
I’m hoping you get down this way to the DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia area.
I definitely want to! These songs are meant to be played live. My band kicks ass. They’re so good. People should see them, not even me. [laughs] In the late spring or early summer you will definitely be seeing me tour around DC. DC, Philly, Boston, New York. Probably Hartford. Then going up into Canada and stuff. That will be one big tour. Then probably a west coast tour as well.
Awesome. I will keep my eye out.
Yeah! You’ll definitely be hearing about it.
You haven’t had anymore fights about who the greatest guitar player is, have you?
I’m pretty feisty about music, but I’ve kind of learned my lesson. I think you can have those arguments about really great musicians like Jimi, Clapton, and stuff like that. I can have that argument with someone all day and at the end of the day they are both still great musicians. I’ve kind of learned that I probably shouldn’t do the same thing with current artists. That’s more of what gets me riled up right now. I am not supposed to name names. [laughs]
I had to bring that up because that was one of the funniest stories I’ve heard in an interview.
Oh my god! Shit like that happens to me all of the time! I have a Twitter account now. I use my Twitter account. When I type things out I can kind of censor myself. When I’m talking it doesn’t happen. The shit that I say is really inappropriate, but in a funny way. I have done stupid things on stage. I definitely played an entire show with my fly down. When I was notified about it, oddly enough it didn’t embarrass me. I feel like it would take a lot to embarrass me. On stage you are playing for friends in a way. I kind of get more open on stage than I am in my daily life. You’re hearing my songs and my lyrics and you’re sort of allowing me to cut myself open and bleed all over the stage for you guys. My fly being down is not that big of a deal. Other dumb shit that I have done? I get in fights still, but I do boxing now. My New Year’s resolution is to not hit anyone in the face and also to cook at home more. Boxing is a very nice stress relief for me.
You can hit bags instead of people in the face when they diss Jimi Hendrix.
Yeah! I just worry that I should probably control it. [laughs]
Maybe I should take it up! [laughs]
I’ll always love that story. That story is classic me. It represents a lot of how I act. I try not to hit people in the face. That’s definitely a goal this year. [laughs]
Well that’s a great way to end it! [laughs]
I guess so! [laughs]
I’ll let you run Anna! It’s been a pleasure and I look forward to the new album!
Awesome! I’m excited to hear what you think about it!