Interview Anna of the North: “I don’t have the ambition to become a pop princess”

Anna of the North A Bit of Pop Music

Credit: Michiel Vos / Myrthe Ganzeman (A Bit of Pop Music)

Anna Lotterud from Norway and Brady Daniell-Smith from New Zealand met each other in Melbourne, Australia, recorded the song ‘Sway’ together and threw it online. Next thing they knew their band Anna of the North was all over the web. Now, three years later, they released their debut record Lovers. Enough reason to have a chat with Anna about the journey so far, sticking to what you believe in as an artist and (because why not) Céline Dion!

It is over three years ago that your song ‘Sway’ went viral and changed your life. What happened!?
“The funny thing is that Anna of the North was never planned. Brady put the song online under that name when I was sleeping. When he woke me up later he told me that I would be Anna of the North from then on. Over night we had heaps of streams and people started to show interest in us, thinking that I had a whole team around me. Brady just uploaded some of my self portraits as promo pictures and I don’t really know what happened, but I guess it worked!”

How did you guys handle things from then on?
“Because we weren’t prepared for a music career at all, things took longer. We had to find our own sound and what we felt comfortable with as a band, but that all happened organically. There was a lot to learn for me. I was always interested in writing music, but I never thought about the process of releasing it or how the music industry works. I feel like I have grown as a person as well.”

How so?
“Well, even doing this interview now. I have become more confident. The first time I stepped on a stage I thought I would die. I have become more comfortable performing, doing interviews, photoshoots and all that. I have never been a person to draw much attention to myself, but in this job you have to do promo and that has become easier.”

As it all happened so suddenly for you guys, is there anything you would have done differently looking back?
“Oh definitely, but we would not have been here and I’m actually pretty happy with where we are. Of course when you look back there are things you might not be proud of, in the same way you look back at the clothes you were wearing at the age of 14, telling yourself: ‘what the fuck was I thinking!?’ Having said that, my favourite song is still our first, ‘Sway’. I love the rawness of it. That track just happened, it was supposed to be. So no regrets there!”

Interview continues under video.

You guys moved towards a more 80s inspired synth pop sound for the album. How did that happen?
“I don’t want to put Anna of the North in one genre, but I think Brady and I both just really fell in love with that sound. We are different from each other in a lot of ways, but we found each other in that specific sonic world.”

Lovers could be described as a heartbreak record. Was it tough to write songs while going through a break up?
“I just needed to talk about it and get it out of my system. Going through something like that, or even just experiencing a rough day, I have always found comfort in jamming on my guitar.”

“IF I WILL WORK WITH OTHER WRITERS AND PRODUCERS IN THE FUTURE, I WOULD HAVE TO STEP OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE AGAIN, BUT IT WILL MAKE ME GROW AS A PERSON.”

Is it hard to share those thoughts with the people you are working with in the studio?
“So far I have only worked with Brady and we have established that confidence as good friends. At first I had to learn to open up to him as well. When we started out, I didn’t dare to say anything personal when we were writing. If I will work with other writers and producers in the future, I would have to step out of my comfort zone again, but it will make me grow as a person.”

You worked with Tyler The Creator on some hiphop tracks for his album. What does this say about you as an artist?
“I don’t really see myself as a pop person. I don’t have the ambition to become a pop princess and that is why the stuff with Tyler for example, or the rawness of ‘Sway’, creates a good balance. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I will never be that girl in a bathing suit in her music videos. Well never say never… (bursts out in laughter). No, but honestly, I would not be comfortable with that and you can tell when my heart is not in it.”

Do you often have to draw a line when you feel people want to turn you into something you’re not?
“Yeah, but I grew more confident to stand my ground. I won’t wear clothes that I don’t like or do photoshoots that don’t match my personality. The same goes for social media. I don’t want to sugarcoat things or paint a perfect picture. I won’t do anything that does not feel like me. It works like that for me and Brady as a band too. Our main rule is that we will never release something that one of us doesn’t fully agree on.”

Last but not least… You keep mentioning Céline Dion as one of your favourite artists in interviews. I didn’t see that one coming. Explain yourself!
“I just love her! The first record I owned was one of hers and I kept listening to her music all the way through school. Did you know that her songs are the perfect soundtrack to a day of cleaning? You just power through it. It’s power music! (bursts out in a passionate rendition of ‘The Power of Love’). I have never been a proper fan girl of anyone, but Céline is a queen!”

What would a Céline and Anna collaboration sound like?
“I guess I will just stick to the backing vocals to not ruin whatever she is doing, haha!”

Oh so modest! thank you so much Anna!

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