A Spotlight Interview with Ann-Marita
A gorgeous new album from Ann-Marits brings a refreshing and still classic Americana undertone that comes with passionately performed vocals and vivid stories told as the album unravels.
The Geography album is lush and full bodied with an array of natural instrumentation from acoustic guitars to violins, electric guitars laying down smooth hooks and it all comes together with those alluring vocals to portray quite a cinematic soundscape.
This record is woven with attention to detail but never loses its natural dynamic and emotional undertone and soul most of all. This record has a ton of soul and it's amazing because the band gives an almost live performance feel. It's like the players are feeding off of each other's energies the entire time.
You get this southern twang riddled ballads with vocal melodies that stick with you for days on end when you don't realize it. All of a sudden, you're singing or humming those melodies.
This album has chapters, almost like a concept album would but it's different. Each song has a set of descriptive lyrics that paint pictures, or they have these classic country lyrics that beckon you to hold on through the struggles of life at times.
It's all moving and impactful either way and it's all performed with such a gracefulness that it's alluring.
A wonderfully woven album from beginning to end, Geography has it all and with it's release, we wanted to have a talk with Ann-Marita about the record to find out where all fo this actually came from.
Here's what happened.
RAG: Okay so let's start with Geography album. This record has a real southern undertone to it! Where did this record come from?
I've recorded several albums of my own original music before, but I've never been the sole producer for a whole album yet. I needed to do just that, produce the whole thing myself. The musicians gave me great input, but at the end of the day, it was up to me what went on the record.
I had been writing lots of songs while going through some huge changes in my life. Some songs that were straight up country, some that were more bluesy, some more Americana, folk, and folk rock.
Through the years, the jury's been out on whether or not I can be classified as country. Country is probably the closest fitting genre, but since I grew up in Scandinavia and didn't move to the US until many years later, I've been influenced by a number of other things, like Norwegian folk music. For this particular album, I think I brought out a little piece of everything and mashed it all together. There is everything from heartbreak to tongue-in-cheek, ghosts, crooks, and lost souls on this album. RAG: So how did this all begin for you? When did you fall in love with music really?
I can't remember a time when I didn't love music. I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Norway, and I had to keep myself entertained there somehow. I would sing to the cows or to imaginary friends or whatever, and write silly songs. The only musical instrument we had on the farm was an antique pump organ, and I wrote my first few little ditties on that. Later, as a teenager, I came to the US as a foreign exchange student, and received a lot of support for my singing in the small town in Iowa where I lived. I started realizing this was something I could maybe do for real. RAG: Who is in your headphones right now?
I'll be honest: Podcasts. Sometimes I need a break from listening to lots of music. As musicians, we tend to analyze all the music that we hear, it's an occupational hazard, so it's not always as relaxing or energizing as we might like it to be. So sometimes, I need something completely different. I've been listening to a variety of podcasts lately; on business, entrepreneurship, health, spirituality, self-development...even the odd true crime story. Then I'll put on a very eclectic mix of female artists when I'm back to listening to music again. RAG: What inspires you to write a song?
I do it a little bit backwards compared to a lot of people I know. Usually, the first thing that comes to my mind is a theme, subject, or a title. A single line or title will pop into my head as a response to something I've heard or experienced, and the idea will begin to spread, like rings on water. I'm not one of those songwriters who'll sit down immediately and finish a song in one sitting—I have to ruminate on the idea for a while, let it mature. But the inspiration can really come from anywhere. Like hearing other musicians playing live. Listening to a great album. Overhearing a conversation. Having some kind of mental revelation of my own. Hearing about a fascinating life story or a historical moment. Sometimes a song might come to me in a dream. In those cases though, I gotta be real careful. Those songs aren't always that great. But sometimes, sometimes there are little nuggets there. RAG: I'm hearing some great styles on this song. Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Thank you! Yeah, I draw my inspiration from a variety of genres and artists. Too many to mention, but some of my biggest influences are Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt, Eagles, Shelby Lynne, Etta James, Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Joni Mitchell, Gretchen Peters, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald...I mentioned my taste was eclectic, right? When people tell me which singers I sound like, I get Trisha Yearwood and Jewel more often than anything else. That's cool. RAG: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
I'm an avid yogi, and a bookworm. If I get to bury myself in a great book with a huge cup of tea for an entire afternoon, I'm in my happy place. I'm also a writer, so I love delving into a writing project as well. I love hiking, traveling, exploring new places, spending time with those I love the most. I'm also a sucker for a day off bingeing a great TV-series. RAG: Would you say live performances are a big part of what you do?
Absolutely. A huge part of what I do is storytelling. There's a story behind every song I write, and I need that live connection with people so I can give them context for the song. During the pandemic, I did tons of live-streaming, but live gigs are slowly but surely also coming back now, and it's like finally getting a vital piece of yourself back. I prefer those real intimate shows for the most part, where you feel like you can have a real conversation with the audience. There's nothing like it. I've already done a small tour of the Midwest this summer, and I'll be back on the road in California in October. If you follow me on social media, you'll see me get dressed up in my Norwegian bunad and perform solo shows for the Scandinavian-American community around the US. This has been a huge game-changer for me, it has taken me to so many cool places, from Alaska to New Jersey, and many places in between. I get to sing my own songs, some Scandinavian songs, and tell all the stories. RAG: This album feels like a big undertaking, is there any advice you'd give to other up and coming artists out there?
Oooh. Lots. First of all, make sure there's no worldwide pandemic in the middle of recording the album! Just kidding. But yeah, that sent everything way off schedule. If you're going to record a full album—which many artists don't do these days—have a plan, and try to stick to it. I recorded this album in patches, and released some singles before the full album was done. That's fine, but just make sure you at least try to stay on track so that the whole thing doesn't take years. It will always take a lot longer than you'd initially thought anyway, but make sure it gets finished eventually.
Also, find the best people. Some singer/songwriters are loners and wanna do it all themselves. Don't worry, you will end up wearing way more hats than you'd ever want to anyway, you don't need to take on every single thing. Find some great musicians who will help you bring your songs to life. Find your tribe. Pick some brains. No matter how long you're at this, there's always more to learn. Never stop learning. Have fun, enjoy the process, it's not always about the end goal. Oh, and above all, even though it might sound trite; trust your gut. Don't let other people's voices overpower your own. (And I'm not just talking about the mixing process here.) RAG: What can your fans expect from you in the near future?
I'm full of new song ideas now, time to get back to writing again! And like I said before, there are shows coming up later in the year, but if you can't get to those, I will be doing some more live-streams, so please follow me on socials to see when all that's happening. One thing that's for sure, I don't stop. I've been at this too long to stop now.
RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
Thank you. I mean...! Thank you. Fans are everything. People who will hear your stuff, look you up, buy the things, let you know that they dig what you do—it's everything. And it puts a huge smile on my face every time I get a message from a fan saying they enjoy my tunes. So... a humble thank you!