By Ryan Meehan
With red-hot moxie to match her crimson tresses, Anna Haas is the exemplar triple threat whose dramatic appeal scintillates on her records and especially through her live performances. Her upcoming EP, PASSION/POISON was recorded in Shreveport, Louisiana at Blade Studios with world renowned producer and drummer, Brady Blade (Dave Matthews, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Jewel, Buddy Miller) and Grammy nominated engineer Chris Bell (Erykah Badu, Destiny’s Child , U2, The Eagles). Haas moves into new territory, melding organic and electronic sounds with her signature powerhouse voice. Her sound is dynamic, with intelligent lyrics that resonate through expressive vocals and complex arrangements. Haas has reached a level of vocal and musical maturity with this sophomore release that is hard pressed to find among the up-and-coming. From orchestral to pop to blues and heart wrenching ballads, Haas’ influences span decades and genres, creating threads that tie together to make her an artist you won’t be able to forget. When not in the studio, Haas has been taking the world by storm, touring regularly and obtaining a loyal following across the country; Her roots in both Nashville and New York are apparent in her eclectic style, “A Thousand Lifetimes” and “Eyes Open” with a Nashville influence, and tracks like “Woman of the Wild” and “Game Over” resounding of New York. Anna’s full band live show, complete with horns and fiddle, is nothing short of mesmerizing, drenched with intensity and soul. She leads her band with grace and authority, commanding the stage like Janis Joplin or Freddie Mercury, using her voice, her eyes and her body to tell her stories. Simply put, she puts on a show. No Country for New Nashville says, “Anna’s powerful onstage presence and vocal prowess is undeniable, her energy is contagious.” Haas was winner of the Deli Magazine’s 2012 Best Emerging Artist of Nashville Year End Reader’s Poll; she sizzled with the release of her debut album, Crazy Is, which critics called “remarkable,” and “timeless and fascinating;” and is gearing up for the release of PASSION/POISON in Spring 2015, along with two accompanying music videos. This flaming redhead has left the ground running, turning heads and melting hearts, and doesn’t seem to have any intention of slowing down. We are very happy to have Anna Haas as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What was the first record you heard when you were younger that really got you interested in music; and how long thereafter did you have the desire to begin crafting your own compositions?
AH: I would have to say that it was probably a lot of Dolly Parton and John Prine’s music that got me into songwriting. They are both brilliant songwriters and lyricists and I’ve always admired their poignancy and simplicity. Also, the epic and iconic arrangements and vocals of Michael Jackson, Queen, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin were huge inspirations. They owned the stage. And for me, being an artist has always been about the combination of writing and performing. Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn record got me through high school. I actually got the chance to tell her that.
I wrote my first song when I was 10, but became serious about writing when I was 16. So, I guess it was Fiona’s doing.
RM: What’s the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to you during a live performance? How did you respond to that situation; and if you could go back and do it over again what would you do differently?
AH: There was a show where my microphone stopped working and the sound guy either disappeared or couldn’t figure out what was wrong. So, I went out to the front of the stage and belted the rest of the song unplugged. It was epic and was the highlight of the show, so no I wouldn’t have reacted differently. I live for those situations, having to improvise. Anything could happen and we can’t always depend on technology, so you have to think on your toes and let your talent shine regardless. It’s theater, and the show must go on.
RM: How is the material which will appear on your new record “Passion/Poison” different from the songs on “Crazy Is”? Is there anything that you specifically wanted to do differently on this album that you felt you were able to really nail down?
AH: I wanted the songs on PASSION/POISON to be a little bit more accessible and a bit simpler, without straying too far from what makes me who I am. Crazy Is was all about “OMG! This is my first record! Let’s get every instrument and everyone and their mother to be a part of it! Who cares how long the songs are! I want to be true to myself dammit!” PASSION/POISON was a much more intimate, refined and focused process. I’m obsessed with the production and the talents of Brady Blade, Chris Bell, Peter King and Gavin Lurssen, who are the biggest reason the tunes sound so amazing! This record is bigger sounding, more focused and hopefully accessible to a wide audience. It’s hard to compare two different beauties though. I love both records and the process of creating both. They are just very different and I hope I’m growing as an artist.
RM: Which two songs on the record will end up becoming videos? What’s your take on the production of video clips set to music; and why did you select those two tracks as opposed to the other material that appears on that album?
AH: There’s a video currently in the works for Woman of the Wild! I’m in talks with my director of photography for the second video, which I’ll be directing! It will either be Eyes Open or Up in the Air. I love music videos! I’m an incredibly visual person, having studied theater, dance and directing, so the visual is always an important element for me to consider. I see pictures in my mind from the beginning of the songwriting process. There are endless ways to combine music and visual, a music video just being one of them. I feel that strong visuals can lift the music up, and vice versa. The two mediums are really made for each other and it’s fun to explore the possibilities. I chose to do a video for Woman of the Wild because it’s just a ridiculously fun song that I want people to experience in as many mediums as possible! I’m leaning towards the second video being Up in the Air because I have a really strong concept for the video and some choreography that I’d like to explore.
RM: What is your favorite lyric on the new disc; and why does that particular phrase or sentence hold so much personal meaning?
AH: It’s from my song A Thousand Lifetimes. The lyric is “…and that was the end. I’m not one of those who believes in the thought that I’ll see you again, but that doesn’t change that I’ll always love you.” This is a very vulnerable lyric on the record because I’m being vocal about being an Atheist. It’s a song about losing my grandmother, my best friend, at the age of 72 to Parkinson’s Dementia. Many songs about death or losing a loved one incorporate references to god, fate or the afterlife. I wanted to write a ballad of loss for atheists because we are very underrepresented in the songwriting world, especially in regards to songs about losing a loved one. I wanted to express the experience of losing her in a way that addressed my lack of belief in an afterlife, but still shone beauty on our relationship and her time in this world. A lack of belief in the afterlife does not make life any less precious. Losing her was a tragedy and it wasn’t fair. I don’t believe that it was in god’s plan, so I expressed that. The song is a journey of anger, confusion, sadness, but ultimately acceptance that terrible things happen. People get sick and die. There is no rhyme, reason or divine plan. But love and memories are real. The impression that a loved one leaves on you carries beyond death.
RM: If you had the opportunity to master one instrument that you don’t currently play, which one would it be and why? In ten years from now do you think that you’ll be able to say that you’ve taken significant steps towards having a serious applicable understanding of that instrument?
AH: Guitar! Oh man, every time I sit down to try to learn to play the guitar I get so frustrated! As a pianist my fingers are used to very specific positioning, so the guitar is very counterintuitive to me! And just because you asked me the second question, HELL YES I will have taken significant steps towards understanding the guitar! Interview me again in 10 years, and then maybe I’ll be trying to learn the harp.
RM: Which aspect of the songwriting process to you tend to struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of writing music and lyrics would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular component of the practice?
AH: I struggle with writing happy songs! I don’t think I’ve written a legitimate love song in my life. Anger and sadness have always fueled the writing process for me, so when I’m in a happy or contented place it’s harder for me to find inspiration. I’ve taken to putting myself in other people’s shoes, or imagining myself in another situation than my own, and that really helps to get the fire going again.
My strong suits are lyrics and melodies. I’m a fan of searching for melodies that are interesting, catchy and haven’t been heard before. I love playing with interesting chord progressions that push a song away from the cliché. And my lyrics are my babies. I’ll spend months sometimes trying to finish lyrics, until they’re just right and exactly what I mean.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AH: I’m going to be touring like crazy in support of PASSION/POISON, across the south and northeast, possibly Europe! I’ve got a couple of big music video releases lined up for May and October! I’m looking to solidify my team so that my music can be heard more widely. AND, I’m recording new songs! I have a really cool new project in the works so stay tuned. Gotta keep workin’!
Official Website: http://annahaas.com/
Anna on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annahaasmusic
Anna on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/annahaasmusic
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