With roots in Michigan and a new home in Oakland, California, singer/songwriter Anna Ash has been quietly building a charming and ambitious musical and artistic vision, one that is meant to be savored and shared. In her first interview of 2011, she talks about the full-length album she is working to complete, along with a much larger community-building project that promises to be as magnificent as Anna’s voice.
I first met Anna Ash at Epicenter Cafe in San Francisco, on a night when she opened for last month’s featured artist, Ash Reiter. Anna was very charming and clearly happy to be there, exuding a contagious vibe of adventure and romance – a feeling that came across loud and clear once she started to sing and play with her band. After Anna’s set, Ash joked that “I liked Anna Ash’s set so much that I decided to steal her name. In fact, I’m going to marry her – then I’ll be Ash Ash!” The light-hearted mood continued all the way through, as Anna danced with the crowd throughout Ash’s set, changing partners and just having a great time with all of us.
Musically, my first impressions of Anna were of someone with exquisite taste. She opened her set at Epicenter with a cover of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “You Really Got A Hold On Me,” which set the hopeless romantic tone right away. With accompaniment from Shaun Lowecki on drums, Doug Stuart on upright bass and Drew Brown on guitar, Anna and her wonderfully sonorous Ella Fitzgerald-esque voice proceeded to fill her set with originals from her My Oh My EP, recorded in a church in Michigan just months before she moved to Oakland. Her fusion of folk music and pop, informed by deep roots in jazz (Anna and her band mates are all trained, road tested jazz musicians) brought a subtle new twist to a music community with folk and pop roots, and displayed one reason why Anna may feel a little “strange” in the bay area, as she put it during the interview we taped on May 12, 2011. But then, we’re all strange out here – it’s simply part of the draw.
The setting for this interview reveals the ambitious nature of Anna, someone who dreams big and then works to make it real, crazy or not. With three partners, Anna has begun renovating a former supply company building in downtown Oakland as the Starline Social Club, a future arts space that Anna hopes will contribute to the growing sense of community among artists and musicians in the East Bay. This ballroom-in-the-works has essentially become Anna’s new home, and it provided more than enough things to talk about.
About the performance:
Anna and her band – which now consists of Derek Barber on guitar along with Doug Stuart on bass and Shaun Lowecki on drums – are so tight that the three takes we recorded of a new song called “Paradise,” from Anna’s forthcoming full-length album, were nearly identical. This of course made editing the footage much easier than it could have been otherwise, but it also made me realize how much more work I need to do on my own playing (not that I needed any further reminders).
The natural reverb of the room made for a very warm sounding recording, one that has a special little spark to it that led me to play and replay it over and over again before the video was even finished. But most important is the song itself – haunting, beautiful, and one of the best examples of how Anna has brought more economy to her lyrics without sacrificing emotional depth. Listen to “Opoutere” as an example of her more verbose, poetic lyric style – equally beautiful but with a different flavor.
Anna Ash, “Paradise”
Hear even more from Anna at her official website:
Buy some music from Anna Ash!
- My Oh My (2009) – Anna’s stunning, lovingly packaged six-song EP
Keep up with Anna Ash at her Facebook page too!