by Jeff Sawyer on Tuesday December 06 2022
The last time I sat down and interviewed local Nelson musician and independent recording artist Anna Katarina was over two years ago during the height of the pandemic.
We met at Oso Negro (September 2020), and she had just finished releasing an EP aptly titled ‘Gone With The Wine’ with Aline Daigle in the form of their duo act Rumour Mill, all in parallel to ambitiously pursuing her solo work.
Musically there were many similarities to both endeavours, but she also revealed that both projects fed her artistry in different ways. Ultimately, her solo body of work gave her a blank canvas on which she could paint herself any way she wanted.
That day we covered many other facets of her songwriting craft and discussed her musical journey thus far – her aspirations, creative inspirations, what moves her and the music industry as a whole, and of course, the current state of our world.
At the time, there were some defining moments of an uncertain period for Katrina with the music industry’s new paradigm shift and the pandemic changing everything right before her very eyes. There seemed to be a clear alteration to the fabric and essence of being an independent and emerging recording artist.
There was a touch of vulnerability and you could hear it in her voice. There were some unknowns presenting, and people’s habits were dramatically changing with the way they consumed and listened to music. It was a new beginning for music in general and a very liminal space to be working in.
After so much dedication, curation and care in her musical journey pre-pandemic, pivoting and finding new and innovative ways to engage with her fans was going to present a challenging experience and yet another hurdle she had to face in an unforgiving and historically tough industry to break into.
Daily Dose readers can view the first interview here: ‘The Stars Shine Bright on Anna Katarina”
Well….fast forward to now December 7, 2022 and what a wild ride and two years it has been. Not only has she persevered and adapted to a new musical road and landscape, she is also celebrating a triumphant return to the stage performing live again, and topping it all off, she released her debut solo album.
Daisychain dropped October 14th, 2022, and showcases Katarina’s unapologetic lyricism, distinctive and eccentric production, and a sonic scape reminiscent of Clairo, Kacey Musgraves, HAIM, Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Kathleen Edwards’ Voyager. Iconic Exclaim! Magazine critiqued the seven-song record as expertly crafted lived-in pop, and a blazing, country-flecked pop rock voyage with summery chords and swinging rhythms.
One of the lead off singles ‘Golden Days’ hit #4 on Nova Scotia's college charts and she was recently named one of the top "8 Emerging Canadian Artists You Need To Hear" in the October edition of the far reaching and popular music publication.
Click here for Exclaim! Magazine’s New Faves Roundup
Daisychain was produced by Andy Schichter (https://andyschichter.com/)and Anna Katarina, and is a collection of moments and conversations strung together with her honest and captivating narrative. The record starts off with a simple love song, “If You Were,” moving through five groovy and relatable songs that touch on heartache, celebration, mental health, and politics, concluding with a stunning lullaby, “For Ellie."
Her genre-bending pop, soul and Americana vibes create a unique repertoire and sound, and she has gone further than she has ever gone before in the last two years as a co-writer, performer, producer and mentor for fellow female artists. Earlier this year she completed a four-month performance and songwriting residency in Nashville, TN which provided even further inspiration and credo on her musical journey, and leading up to the album, she released the single, “Let You Down” in March 2022, in collaboration with Vancouver-based artist Chris Sol.
It was recorded and produced by multi-platinum, JUNO-nominated artist and Kootenay-born producer Shawn Hook (https://www.shawnhook.com/).
This past summer she conducted a busy 25-date Western Canada tour to promote the release of the new album, with significant performances that included Whitefish Songwriters Festival in Montana (Sep. 2022), Island Time Music Festival in Mexico (Oct. 2022), Panama City Songwriters Festival in Florida (Nov. 2022), along with an upcoming 3-week Northern European tour scheduled for Spring 2023.
Katarina is sponsored by Godin Guitars, Sigma Guitars and Bose, and is an alumnus of Berklee College of Music, Selkirk College, SOCAN Foundation’s TD Creative Incubator and CMI's Artist Entrepreneurship. Currently, she is undergoing a yearlong mentorship with Juno Award-winning musician, Joey Landreth of The Bros. Landreth.
In this edition of Daily Dose, former Editor Jeff Sawyer connects again with Anna Katarina to find out what has changed for her over the course of the past two years and what the future holds in her constant and enthralling musical story.
J.S.: Do you feel there are any differences in your musical journey and songwriting craft from when we first spoke during the pandemic up until now, and how have you changed you as an artist over the past two years?
A.K.: When I talked to you then, I was really just starting to pursue my solo project.
So much has expanded in my life and career. I’ve released a few singles and an album, toured all over BC, played festivals in Mexico, Florida, Texas and Montana, lived in Nashville for half a year, collaborated with musicians internationally, and learned how to play guitar… mostly amidst dealing with a pandemic too. It’s been an amazing two years and I’m glad you asked this question. I try to stay positive as much as possible, but I do get discouraged sometimes in this industry. When I feel like I’m not making any progress, I think about all that I’ve accomplished and how much I’ve grown as an artist over the past few years. I see huge momentum. It’s a really nice feeling.
J.S.: You have been really busy that's for sure - you launched your debut solo album ‘Daisychain’ which launched October 14th, and you recently finished playing the Island Time Music Festival on Isla Mujeres in Mexico, and the Panama City Songwriters Festival in Florida - I do have to ask you what do you like better, recording an album or touring?
A.K.: Honestly, I love them both, and they are equally important parts of my job…. I would answer this question differently depending on the day. Today (fighting the flu in a hotel room in Florida) I say recording. It is so creative, I get to wear my sweatpants to work, and I always leave the studio feeling inspired and positive about what I’m doing.
But I also really, really love touring – the travel, meeting new people and being on stage. It’s magic. It can be lonely and tiresome: sleeping in a different bed every night, jet lag, trying to eat healthy, always being “on” but it’s a magical experience. I got to play in a festival in the Caribbean! I have show’s booked in Italy and Austria – how amazing is that?
J.S.: Your videos are very much a part of your musical craft, and you have two videos out for singles 'Golden Days' and 'December' to coincide with your album launch. Do you feel that your videos serve a purpose and allow the listener to see you performing the song in a different light, and what mental picture do you want the listener to take away from the visual story?
A.K.: With the “Golden Days” video, in particular, I wanted to show an authentic side of myself. This is my first solo album and it came out in an age when everything has to be “branded” and curated… so it felt right to do the opposite thing. I’m a real person, I work really hard, I love my cat, I have messy hair…. I wanted to introduce myself in a less contrived, polished way. I really enjoyed taking the DIY approach: it was fun to take shots of my travels, family and friends (and save money by doing it all myself!)
“December” was a fun (collaboration) video I shot in the Okanagan with Chris Velasco (UrthMedia). This one bridges the curation gap a little: it is still me and under produced, but it’s more stylized and cohesive with my brand. I have another (top secret!) video coming out in early 2023 that features my sister, Ellie Backus-Horton, which we shot on 8mm film. It’s stunning and completely different from the other two.
Video is a terrific way to access fans that connect with music more when it’s in a visual format. I like sharing more about who I am as an artist and person. I hope people watching connect with not only my music but me as a fellow human.
I am also a big fan of live performance videos - there is a lot of popular music being made in a box these days, so it’s nice to see actual musicians playing actual instruments. I’ve got a slew of these videos in the works too.
J.S.: What was the most challenging and rewarding aspect of creating your first solo album?
A.K.: When I recorded the record, I was determined to play almost every instrument on it. It was a different way to record than I had in the past - lots of layering and playing around with different sounds, all in the moment. True to my intention, I did perform all the keys, guitar, percussion, banjo, vocals, synth bass on the record. Especially since I’d only been playing guitar for one year, it felt like a very rewarding accomplishment. Would I record an album this way in the future? Maybe not. I wanted to create something that was all mine, but now that I’ve done that, my ego is happy to have more musicians collaborate on my songs. ;)
The most challenging part was developing the marketing campaign and figuring out the best way to release the record. Over 60,000 songs are released on Spotify per day and most of them never get heard. It can feel impossible to beat the noise unless you have a big team and a lot of money. Choosing where to invest, and what kind of marketing tactics were smartest for me alongside the branding, photos, video and all things creative…. It’s so much work and decision-making to do mostly on your own.
J.S.: Do you have a favourite song / single from the album and why?
A.K.: My two favourites are “December” and “For Ellie.” “December” because lyrically it captures a significant moment in time, driving on a wintery highway in southern BC. I also just think it’s a very cool song - I love how each section flows into the next, and how the production enhanced the writing. I’m really proud of how it turned out.
“For Ellie,” I wrote when I was in high school, for my sister. When she turned 18 during the pandemic, I found it on an old iPod Mini and recorded a new version for her, adding a bunch of other instrumental elements. I had no intention of releasing it publicly, but I ended up really loving it. In the studio, we kept all my production and the original vocals and guitar, just cleaned it up a bit and added Jon Perry on pedal steel who tied the song together beautifully.
J.S.: I know you have many musical influences, and your music has been described to the likes of Maggie Rogers, Taylor Swift and Lucy Dacus, but if you were to imagine yourself as a modern version of a 20th century artist who would that be?
A.K.: Alanis Morissette + Sheryl Crow + Joni Mitchell (Two different people said this exact combo last week).
Over the years artists from the likes of Frazey Ford, Keisza and Shawn Hook have all heralded from the Kootenay region, and are alums of the Selkirk College Music program. Then finding success and moving on and into the International arena. With that said, being in the Kootenays doesn't have the business resources of an L.A, Nashville, Austin, or New York which are considered the major music markets in North America, along with Toronto and the more self-contained musical environment of Vancouver. A recent New Faves album review from Exclaim! Magazine doesn't isolate your music in any genre, but describes your sound as blazing, country-flecked pop rock.
J.S.: Considering all the cities mentioned above, which market do you feel complements your music and personality the most and why?
A.K.: This is the question I ask myself every day. I’ve been on the lookout for a new place to move to, one that supports the kind of lifestyle I want and contributes to the growth of my music career. I’ve lived in Vancouver, Nashville, Nelson, Alberta, Boston, and Victoria, and traveled to many places beyond and in between. My music really takes influence from all of those areas, so I can’t say I’ve found it to resonate with any one place. The deeper I get into this industry, the more I realize how important it is to musically lean into my natural instincts and not conform. When you make music from a place that’s truly you, I think it ends up being an amalgamation of all your experiences, homes and influences. Sometimes I wonder if I write sad or heavy songs more because BC is overcast for much of the year…… the weather affects my mood a lot and I’m sure it has the same effect on my writing!
J.S.: What can people expect from your upcoming shows?
A.K.: I’ve been mainly touring as a solo or duo act which has been a lot of fun and allowed me to be more flexible with the gigs I take. But my focus now is on my five-piece band and really bringing my songs to life in a big way. The songs and vocals are always the acmes of my shows, but I want to provide a more dynamic experience for my audience. So people can expect a full band, stellar musicianship, all the songs of the album plus some new ones, and a whole new level of energy!
J.S.: Can you envision yourself exploring new styles of musical genres in your next album?
A.K.: Absolutely. I have my fingers in a lot of pots, genre-wise, and I love incorporating new sounds and ideas into my music. Sometimes I write very intentionally, like “I want to write a song that fits in this box” but lately I’ve been trying to listen to what’s coming out naturally and I’m finding my songs have a lot more influence from the music I grew up listening to (Alanis, Sheryl, Shania, Ella) and studying (classical, baroque, jazz). I’m really excited to keep growing and developing my sound.
J.S.: The last 50 days have been a total whirlwind - You slept in 13 different beds, played in three different countries, got rear-ended in one golf cart, released an album, recorded an album, met countless wonderful souls, and lost one suitcase. How does it all feel?
A.K.: It feels amazing - I’m doing the thing! I love music and adventure, so even when it feels tough and I’m exhausted, I look around and think…. Wow, I’m truly living my dream. I got to swim in the Caribbean and share the stage with Grammy-winning songwriters on the same day. I won’t sugarcoat it; ’s a lot of work: there are so many logistical details, I’m dealing with burnout and I feel emotionally strained in many ways, but it’s all about finding that work-life balance. I think it can be more challenging to maintain when your job is also your passion, but I’m realizing more and more how important it is to take time off even though I love what I do. It’s worth it, I am also so inspired and proud (and I got my suitcase back!).
J.S.: Your debut album Daisychain has been out for over a month now, how does that feel, and how’s the reception been?
A.K.: The reception has been amazing and it feels so good to finally have a body of work out that really encompasses me as a solo creative. Putting out an album is a weird and very vulnerable thing - it’s so climactic and anticlimactic at the same time. My favourite part is seeing which songs resonate with people the most, and why. I love when people reach out and tell me (if you are reading this and feel connected to my music - let me know!) I also feel a lot of relief to finally have this album released. Before, it belonged to me, and now it belongs to everyone else too.
Daily Dose readers can view the links below for more about Anna Katarina.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS NELSON!