Growing up with creative minds all around her, it was no surprise that Anna Atkinson is a singer-songwriter. For the past decade she put pen to paper and comprised a cascade of songs that culminated in a release, Sky Stacked Full. This week we caught up with Toronto native to talk about her new album, her family and more…
Kendra: This month saw the release of Sky Stacked Full. Now the writing process took a decade. With that, did a lot of earlier songs make the cut?
Anna Atkinson: The opening track, “Snowshoe,” is the oldest song on the record. But I wrote “Winter Wind” and “When The Night Is Passed” in 2014. The bulk of the songs were written in the past five years. I recorded the album over a course of five months in 2015.
Kendra: One that did was your single “When We Were Young.” It had a lot of low key drama to it, sounding like something you’d hear during a solo in a musical. Have you ever written for the stage…or thought about it?
Anna: I have definitely had a deep love of art song and musical theatre for most of my life (Weill! Bernstein! Schubert! Debussy!), and though its influence isn’t always apparent, it definitely asserts itself pretty strongly at times. I’ve often thought of writing a piece of musical theatre and it’s been suggested to me numerous times. I think I will someday.
These days, I’ve been dreaming up a sort of hybrid of musical theatre and traditional singer songwriter performance – something like a staged song cycle, with lighting and movement and costume – a sort of heightened sense of drama throughout, but not necessarily with a clear narrative or distinct plot line. I still have a lot more dreaming to do, but I’m chipping away at it.
Kendra: You say you come from a line of makers. So do you feel creating was always what you’d wind up doing in life?
Anna: I’ve certainly always known that I needed to be a singer and musician. I started writing songs when I was very young. It was second nature, and very encouraged in my house growing up. Pretty much everyone in my family had some sort of creative pursuit. Journaling and songwriting quickly became how I interfaced with the world, how I processed difficult emotions or experiences. It was cathartic. I needed it. I had no idea if I’d ever be any good at it, or if anyone would want to listen to it. But that seemed beside the point, at least when I started out. It feels like the most natural thing – to write and sing. And it’s mysterious. I still don’t quite know how it happens or where any of it comes from. I suppose everyone in my family has felt that pull.
Kendra: What’s to come in the new year? Touring?
Anna: I do hope to do some touring in the new year. However, I’m mostly focused on creating new work and acquiring some new skills. I’ve been very “laptoppy” lately, exploring recording and electronics. I want to explore writing for choir more. A couple years ago, I was asked to write a piece for men’s chorus. It was one of the most exhilarating projects I’ve ever done.
I also have a new pop trio called Mahsayakaree that will be playing around more, and probably doing some recording at some point. It’s fun. I sing and play viola, and then there is acoustic bass and electronic drums.
Kendra: Lastly, usually I have people make a mixtape but since this is a mini chat, we’ll stick with one song. If you were asked to contribute one song from another artist that represented when you were young to a mixtape, which song would it be and why?
Anna: The first song that comes to mind is “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel. For some reason, everytime I hear that song, it reminds me of being a little kid in my living room in Windsor. I remember my older brother playing the main lick on guitar, and I remember it being on the radio all the time. And it is a song that never loses its greatness for me. I actually got to play in an orchestra accompanying Peter Gabriel once and when we played that song, I was so overcome with this wave of nostalgia and a need to dance really hard. Unfortunately, I was sitting in a string section and had to kind of stay put. But it really brought me back.
Now for this week’s tour news update. Peaer will start their November tour right at the start on the 1st in New Jersey, and they’ll end a few weeks later in New York. Animal Noise will start their tour on November 17th and go through early December. As for Muncie Girls, they’ll start heading out and around the UK at the end of the month. You can check out where they’ll be above, and this week’s video picks below.
Roo Panes “Lullaby Love”
Arrow “The Maze”
Tele Novella “Even Steven”
Lost Animal “Too Late To Die Young”
Love Zombies “Birthday”