20 year old Anna Straker is an old soul. Anna's teenage freedom enriches her spirit for music and for life, but she sentimentalizes youth in a way that feels like she's looking back. With only two decades under her belt, this London firecracker has already hit many benchmarks of a young artist's career including a slot at the infamous Glastonbury festival. Straker also produces her own music and draws inspiration across genre lines from 90's hip hop to disco to soul. Her spoken word track "Ignite Me" caught our eye, and we couldn't wait to her more about what Anna has in store.
The un-glamorous, modest "Ignite Me" video dropped last week and further accentuates Anna's storytelling abilities. Anna explains the music video on her YouTube page, "Ignite Me is the story that you tell your friends the morning after a night out. I wanted the video to be just that: really simple, hungover and unglamorous. No makeup, no crazy set. This way it allows you to focus on the lyrics and the story that I wrote, which was inspired by The Streets." The video was directed by Liz Horsman and fulfills Anna's mission to create a clean visual to accompany the multi-sensory track.
We chatted with Anna about her roller coaster of a summer, plans for an album, and her creative process. She also sent over an exclusive influences playlist that includes all the sounds that drove "Ignite Me."
EARMILK: Are you originally from London?
ANNA STRAKER: I was born in London, but then I moved to Italy when I was six. Then we moved back to England in the northern countryside, but I hated it there. I never felt at home there at all so as soon I was in my seventeen I moved back to London with my grandmother to make music. It was literally like a movie. London felt like my home. When I moved back, I found such a good group of friends and we started going out and that's how I got into electronic and dance music. It's had a massive impact on my sound - the music influences and the city itself as well.
EM: How was playing shows in Japan?
AS: Honestly crazy because I've never played a show outside of England. When I got the email, I couldn't believe it, and when we went I kept calling it "holiday" that's how excited I was. My team had to keep reminding me that I was working. Tokyo was one of the most aesthetically beautiful cities, I could definitely live there. Also the Japanese audiences love to get involved with what you're doing. Yeah, it was such a good trip. It was so tiring, but so worth it. I actually went the day after I got back from Glastonbury.
EM: How was Glastonbury?
AS: I did the whole week at Glastonbury which was amazing, but my Glastonbury gig was so surreal. I've only really been playing since last September, and we've had a run of little gigs in London, but they've been little gigs. Now we've gone from little towns to Japan in less than a year, it's just crazy.
EM: With all of your shows, have you developed any pre-show rituals now?
AS: I've recently been listening to Childish Gambino before I play, especially if I've really nervous his new stuff calms me down. I listen to slower-tempo songs that kind of feel like meditation before I play. It's just me and my drummer when we play so sometimes before shows we are alone in big dressing rooms and we just really chill out. We always just drink a lot before the show *laughs* and chill out.
EM: I'm so happy that you're having fun with performing live. I know that you also are really involved with the production of your music. Can you tell me more about your process?
AS: Yeah everyone always asks me how did you get into production and stuff, but when I first started writing music I thought thought the way to write them was to create the music and use all the instruments around them as well. I've played piano for years so when I first start to write a song I sit down with my laptop and produce as well. Whatever I've done in my whole life, I've always wanted to do everything - I'm a bit of a control freak. That's probably why I like producing so much. I love having the freedom to write a song on the bass line of a synth or whatever I want. I'm just a bit of a nerd, so I think they go hand in hand.
EM: Any out of the box elements you include?
AS: I actually have been working on the interlude tracks for my album today and I'm experimenting with soundscapes and sound design. I've been recording footsteps and Gameboy noises. I love that about making an album, you can literally do anything. You can be really creative with it.
EM: I love when people bring real life noises into their music.
AS: Yeah like Frank Ocean's Channel ORANGE that inspired me so much. The whole tv idea and switching through channels. He even has that whole jingle part on it. It's genius, I love it.
EM: Yeah I agree. You also sent me your influences playlist and it was very 90's hip-hop. But it sounds like you're very inspired by contemporary artists like electronic and techno influences. How has it been for you trying to fuse your varied influences into one sound?
AS: Yeah like you said I love a very broad spectrum of music and I struggled for a bit because every song I wrote would fit in a different genre. I tried at first to find one sound that glued it together, but I can be inspired by anything. I really love R&B, soulful melodies but mixing it with electronic synths. That's honestly my favorite thing. It's a cool era of music to be a part of.
EM: A lot of your songs about being young and that freedom. I think that really comes out in "Ignite Me." Do you want to talk more about that inspiration?
AS: I remember being in my first writing session and I couldn't really write alot of songs. Then my manager told me to write about what my life was about, so then all of my songs started being about being a teenager because that's all I knew. Everyone always says these are the best years. They look back and there are such good memories when you're this age because you don't belong to anyone. You just belong to yourself and that's what unifies all young people. I just love that and think it's so beautiful.
EM: And finally a fun question. If you could live in any time period for the music scene, what time period would you want to live in and why?
AS: Ah this is so hard, and I want to say the 90's. It was so clubby with underground scenes. Radiohead and all these amazing bands, but also there were experimental artists like Bjork. Also the 70's because I love disco and I would love to go party then.
Check out Anna's exclusive influences playlist for "Ignite Me" below: