January 16, 2009

Misquoted: w/ Anya Marina

(because of this interview, the "best of" post will show up around Sunday of next week. Thanks for the patience!)

Misquoted: w/ Anya Marina

I was lucky enough to do an e-mail correspondence interview type thing with Anya Marina, who's new album, Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II, which will be out next Tuesday, January 20th (what a big day!), is something that you absolutely need to pick up. Period. Here are my questions and her charming answers:

Luke Hunter James-Erickson: As is usually the case when I interview musicians, I'm very curious as to what made you think to yourself “yeah, yeah this is what I want to do for a living ... and I'm going to do it.” Being a musician has so infrequently shown itself to be a frugal employment choice, and there is no shortage of musicians, so it takes a brave soul to take that leap. Thankfully you're talented enough to pull it off (at least, in my opinion), but before people knew that, there must have been something that pushed you to go out and show the world what you could do. In short, why did you do it?

Anya Marina: I don’t think I ever consciously thought I would go into music and make a living at it. I knew I’d perform in some capacity but the fact that my first pursuit—acting—gave way to radio which gave way to a career in music was a pretty telling evolution. In a way, where I’ve ended up is the perfect synthesis of the last two professions. Acting satisfied my desire to perform and entertain, but it lacked consistency and the ability for me to be autonomous—I had to go out on auditions and wait for casting directors to hire me for jobs. I didn’t know what to do with myself in between auditions. I felt useless and powerless as an actor. With radio I was able to hone my skills somewhat as a communicator and entertainer, to some extent, and I was able to work more consistently and have a regular schedule, which I loved. I also got exposed to music, obviously, and that provided some kind of inspiration. But it wasn’t until I started writing and performing my songs live that I really felt like, “Hey, this is it.” Because now I wasn’t performing a script someone else had written (be it a playwright or a program director on the radio telling me what songs to play and what ads to read). Now my only job was to be authentic about performing the songs I wrote myself and to be as entertaining or engaging as I felt like being in between those songs. It’s by far the most interesting and continually challenging job I’ve had yet.

LHJE: The music I've heard from you is very eclectic, especially Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II. I could list off the many influences that I think I hear, but that doesn't matter as much as what you actually are influenced by, or, rather, what influenced the sound of this new record. Were there particular artists or albums or genres you looked towards to shape the sound, or is this album all “Anya”?

AM: I think everything I grew up with—from the Beatles to Motown and Dixieland jazz, Brazilian & all the Russian music my mom played in the house—along with Missy Elliot and Peaches and Stephen Malkmus and the Pixies all played on my subconscious to dream up the little dream that ended up Slow & Steady.

LHJE: As far as the lyrics and musical themes of Slow & Steady go, was/is there a particular message that you were trying to get across? Are the songs a collection of songs, or do they all have a little something that go toward a certain theme? Why did you choose to shape this album in such a way?

AM: If there is a governing theme it didn’t really start to take shape until halfway through the making of the record when I realized the songs were shaping up to be a series of different examinations or conversations about love or lovers. I really wanted the album art to reflect that and to take on the look of a manual of seduction, so I was thrilled when my art designer (Simone Rubi) and photographer (Autumn de Wilde) put came up with such a great result.

LHJE: How do you feel about your music being picked up and put into Grey's Anatomy? I'm sure you get asked that all the time these days, but it's interesting to hear an artist's reasons for letting their music be used in a commercial way. Granted, it's not exactly like your music is in a gas-company commercial, but it's still a little commercial.

AM: Oh, I was excited! When I first heard the show was going to use “Miss Halfway” in the season finale of the first season (I think), I thought a friend was playing a practical joke on me when I got the call. I was a fan of the show and I liked how Alexandra Patsavas (the music supervisor) and the creators of the show spotlight the music. It’s such an integral part of the show. I was regularly tuning in and getting turned on to new and old artists and bands before I was even approached by them, so I was over the moon about it when it happened.

LHJE: With your history as an actress and your growing popularity, do you think you might want to try and expand your career in the entertainment business into acting for film or television?

AM: I just finished a TV pilot where I play the bitchy sister to the lead actress—that was a lot of fun. I also just finished working on the new Kevin Spacey film Shrink in which I have a tiny scene with Kevin—like one line--so as long as acting fits around my tour schedule and as long as the project is something I’m interested in, I’d love to do more. I’m picky about what I’d like to work on. Even when I was a kid I was picky. When I was 17 I told my mother I only wanted to work with Woody Allen. I even went to his casting director’s office in New York with a headshot, I remember. Not a lot has changed. I still want to work with Woody. Woody and Wes Anderson.

LHJE: The year is wrapping up and everyone seems to be deciding on their favorite albums of the year. What were some of your favorite albums of 2008?

AM: Some of these might not be 2008, but I loved:
radiohead - in rainbows
the kills - midnight boom
louis xiv - slick dogs and ponies
the little ones - morning tide
tristan prettyman - hello
the walkmen - you & me
deerhunter - microcastles
liz phair - exile in guyville reissue with dvd
she & him - volume one
q tip -
delta spirit - ode to sunshine
conor oberst - conor oberst
randy newman - harps & angels
Department of Eagles – in ear park
Lcd soundsystem – sound of silver
Coconut records - nighttiming
Little joy – little joy

LHJE: And, because every interview needs a fully ridiculous-off-the-cuff-question: How would you feel about performing in space? How would you go about it?

AM: Well, I don’t usually wear dresses onstage, but in this case I’d make an exception and don something like Marilyn Monroe wore in that iconic picture of her standing above the subway grate. The same effect would be achieved in zero gravity, so I’d be sure to wear really cute bloomers underneath. As for sound and oxygen issues, that would have to be worked out by my team of alien handlers.

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