Anna Straker Interview – Right now, it can be a difficult time to stay motivated – in a world increasingly telling us to smile and be positive, it often feels like self-care gets put to one side. This notion is pushed aside through London producer/songwriter Anna Straker’s beautiful, melancholic and resilient track “Good Days Bad Days”, which details her healing process after a sexual assault she experienced in Thailand last year.
She has now released a “chilled version” of the track featuring singer-songwriter Gabrielle Aplin.
I sat down with Anna to talk about self-care, lockdown and how to navigate the post-COVID music industry.
P: Hi Anna, how are you doing in this crazy period?
A: It’s a weird time isn’t? I think I’ve had to take it day by day and just not really think too far ahead into the future. It can be pretty overwhelming but putting out music has been a godsend – having a focus is really important.
P: You recently released a ‘chilled’ version of “Good Days Bad Days” with Gabrielle Aplin – what’s it been like releasing music in the midst of a pandemic?
A: It feels so digital – everything’s on my phone. If I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have known anything was going on! I would love to play some gigs right now to people in real life. But also, it’s been so good to focus on putting music out and having goals.
P: How was it working with Gabrielle Aplin?
A: It was really nice but again it was all done virtually – she recorded her vocals at home, so we were never in the same room together, we only filmed the chilled version together. But that was such a lovely day because we were filming it outside, and it was nice actually being together doing something.
P: As a producer, how have you found it adapting to not being in the studio with other artists?
A: At the beginning of the lockdown I was really struggling to create anything, but then I started doing these online virtual writing camps with loads of other producers and artists and we dedicated 3 weeks at a time to do it, which felt so good to have a kind of deadline for it and it made me do stuff. Since then, I can just produce in my bedroom. Going back to the studio for the first time since lockdown was incredible, but now I’m more creative at home.
P: I do really think there are some positives you can extrapolate from all this, would you agree?
A: I think most musicians feel this huge pressure to be successful and grind every day, but lockdown just made everyone come to a halt and slow down. I think that was so beneficial for everyone to just see that these things don’t matter that much – you can have days where you don’t do anything, and you don’t have to beat yourself up about it. I used to do this so much – if I hadn’t written a song in a while, I would feel really bad about it, but it’s so valuable to give yourself some breathing time.
P: Did you find it difficult to get into that mindset?
A: I still struggle with it now. It really helps to have supportive people around you. The world doesn’t really care right now. I literally wrote a song the other day called “One Day At a Time”, and I feel that’s the only way we can get through this now.
P: Obviously I’ve heard that “Good Days Bad Days” came from the aftermath of a sexual assault you experienced; how did you translate this experience into a creative outlet?
A: It took a while to start writing about it, but because I write so much music all the time it felt like a natural therapy for myself. It was really helpful to do that. My track “London Knows” was about that subject matter too. But I was singing more about the healing process than the actual event. Again, it really helped me because this song is like a positive mantra to myself or things that I needed to hear myself. Really, it was a song to myself.
P: Song writing, and healing are both such long processes, so it sounds like the two were really intertwined.
A: Totally. I do feel really proud of myself because when I came back and I started seeing my friends again I was just really open about everything. And I think that was the saving grace of healing; to not shut your feelings away is so useful, so it made sense to write about it and put songs out about it. It helped me so much being open about it so I wanted to share it with the rest of the world.
P: I guess the pandemic has helped us to face our feelings more.
A: I feel like there’s a lot more stuff about this online and a lot of support groups now, as well as people just having more conversations about it, which makes you realize you’re not alone. When I was being really open with my friends about these experiences so many of my friends started opening up to me about their own experiences.
P: What is the route we need to take with music now?
A: Well, there was already a problem in live music – artists would charge huge amounts for shows which people won’t pay now for a socially distanced gig. But I really wanna get back into it. Although I think in the aftermath of the lockdown it’s like we’re learning to be normal again. I’m just really worried that some of these venues aren’t going to be able to recover from it and we’ll lose a lot of grassroots cultural places in the UK. But that problem was already happening before the pandemic. So many of my favourite clubs in Hackney were being shut down because of luxury flats being built. It feels like we’re a bit under-appreciated as an industry.
P: You’re right – it’s something that has become even more topical with governments deciding what is ‘essential’, but would you say music is?
A: Absolutely. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t consume music in one form or another. And it’s the culture that we’ll be losing from it. We can all go and sit in a restaurant but music, art and every creative industry are responsible for the culture of our country and without that, we’ll just be very boring!
Anna Straker’s new EP “Growing Pains” is out this November.