Via BlackPandaPR

Notes on Anna Rose’s Return to Form

By plucking the strings of her own heart, this singer-songwriter creates a dynamic sort of intimacy through her artwork… louder, prouder, and with more love and integrity than ever.

Last Girl of the Rodeo, the forthcoming concept record from Anna Rose, might not be her first time around the block in regard to releasing an album, but it sure as heck feels like it with the songs having an overwhelming sense of rebirth to them.

For a gentle spirit, Anna Rose Menken has a bit of a hardened exterior – decades of experiences (creative or otherwise) taught her how to wear many hats in many different settings. She has been made strong, versatile, vocally distinct, and artistically determined. Songwriting is where she escapes, where she lets down her guard to tell her own story, and where she expresses herself fully. Little is off the table when it comes to the music she is making at this point in her life. Guitars loop, narratives expand, emotions swirl, and melodies stick… and it’s all under her control with a soft touch, a myriad of sonic influences, and a heart on her sleeve.

With the release of her new single right around the corner, we caught up with the performer. Here are our biggest takeaways and favorite quotes from a spirited 45-minute-long conversation.

“I think those words [vulnerable, autobiographical, passionate genre, defying, precocious and warm] are amazing touchstones to put on this,” Anna Rose says of describing the sound and style of her art right now. “For me, I would put the word brave in there. […] Everyone is different when they come into the business. They have a reason why they’re here. For me, I always wanted to tell the truth. I always wanted to tell my experience. I always wanted to connect with people. That remains true. I think the thing that I had to leave behind in order to make this record was pleasing the people around me. I never tried to fit into a genre per sé, but I would carry things into the studio like, ‘Well, if I lean a little bit this direction, then maybe these people will like it.’ It’s the people pleaser in me that really wanted so much to be heard. This record was basically me saying, ‘I don’t care who hears this, I have to say it.’ That’s brave, and that’s always the place to make art from.”

On the lesson she learned making this record, as well as going into it: “I had to leave what management wanted at the door. I had to leave what agents wanted at the door. I had to leave what would get on the radio at the door. It was basically myself and Paul Moak, my producer, and also the co-writer on the song, ‘Whatever Gets You Through the Night,’ in the room pushing me to make the absolute best music that I could make without compromising to try to fit into a box. That’s why this record is so exciting to me.”

“It’s really scary to be vulnerable, and this record is very vulnerable for me. It’s really about moving past certain relationships, moving onto a different phase in your life. It’s about a lot of things in my life that have happened in the last four-ish to five years that effectively killed my ego. This makes you make music from a different place. It’s about feeling like, at the end of that, ‘I’m still standing. I’m still here. I’m still an artist.’ I am very grateful to still be an artist, but I am also a songwriter. I’m also a producer. I’m a lot of things – not just an artist. The way that I identify myself has changed a lot and this record is a bit about that, too… about getting older as a woman in the music industry. I don’t think I’m old by any means, but there’s a huge piece to that in here, too.”

“I think we all come into this kind of as know-it-alls,” she explains about starting out in music. “Saying, ‘I know who I am and I know what kind of music I wanna make!’ Really, I think you don’t. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I came into it being like, ‘Yeah, I know who I am and I know the kind of music I want to make and I know what I feel like my truth is.’ This record is the first time I’ve actually gotten close to the truth, sonically and musically, and as a songwriter, and also as an artist with the image that I wanted to put out into the world. Music is so visual, as well, and for me, there’s an element to this record that is also me playing a character. It’s conceptual and it’s autobiographical – I think that’s what feels really exciting to me about it. This record is all of these years of work – all of it culminated into me making this record where I feel like I’m finally sitting in a place that feels like everything I want to represent. It feels like all of my musical influences that never came through in my work before are now coming through: the Nine Inch Nails references, the Radiohead references, Placebo and Tricky, a lot more of the industrial rock elements that you could hear a little bit of it in my last EP from 2015 or 2016. You could hear some of that stuff, but it feels fully formed in this record. It’s just cool that I had such a good, honest time making this record. I just listened to it and I’m just really excited ’cause I had such a blast making it.”

On writing for other people and other projects outside of herself and Last Girl of the Rodeo: “When I’m in a writing session for something that is not for me, I don’t feel personally precious about it. I can fit into the genre that that song needs to be in, or the style it needs to be in, when it’s not meant for me as an artist. I think there’s a time and a place for you to feel like your art is sacred. For me, those moments when I am the artist, that’s really sacred. I put a lot of weight into that. When I’m working as a songwriter for film or television or commercial use or other artists or for musical theater or anything else, that is about serving that project. It is completely not about me, and, actually, I really enjoy working like that; my image is taken away, my voice is taken away from that, and I get to purely work as a songwriter. There’s something really freeing about that. I find a lot of freedom in those constraints, even in the creative constraints of, ‘Ok, we’re writing for a commercial for a truck today.’ To me, those boundaries can sometimes make me think more creatively. I like to think that the fact that I have kind of a rainbow of creative outlets makes me a better artist because I don’t have all my eggs in one basket anymore. I’m a better artist for myself when I am working elsewhere, too.”

More about Last Girl of the Rodeo, coming soon: “This is a record. This is a fully realized conceptual project. It fits in between all of these things: it’s not really country, it’s not really Americana, it’s not really rock, it’s not really pop, it’s not really singer-songwriter. It’s not really a full-length record. It’s not really an EP. All of those things, to me, mean that I did the right thing, because I made a singular project that goes against a lot of the boundaries of what we’ve created in music that I think are limiting the creativity of so many brilliant people who are creating in this world. As a music collective, we’re kind of limiting ourselves in order to fit into what’s going to end up on a playlist and what might be good on the radio and what might win us a Grammy. I think that when you make art from that place, you’re letting something into the room that takes away from what you’re trying to say. I want to be recognized for what I am saying. I want to be the one to connect with you. I have something to say that I think is valuable as a part of the conversation about what’s happening in our world. When you make art from that place of manipulating what you want [to say], you’re doing a disservice to yourself and to your listeners. […] The sequencing of this record was a huge part of me saying those things. I don’t have any expectations for what this music will do commercially in the world. I feel a lot of catharsis in simply getting this out and allowing people to hear this music that I think is deeply truthful to myself and, therefore, I hope will resonate with other people, whether it helps them through an illness or a divorce or a changing of your career. I felt really lost for a long time and this record was me finding my way back to myself. If this music can do that for someone else, that’s the pinnacle for me. That’s it. I’ve achieved something.”