Behind the creative mind of Anna Cordell
In what sort of environment or setting do you find yourself most creative?
If I ever have an opportunity to be in a house alone, I would say that's it... but most of my songs
have been written in any spot I can find when my family are all here. I definitely can't write if I feel self conscious, with someone in the room or someone listening, but If I get a room to myself I can get stuck into it.The second place is with my band, bouncing ideas around and testing things out... and then of course working in a studio which is such an incredible but rare tiime.
What are some influential elements that feed you artistically? Are there any that have remained steadfast, regardless of how much time pass, or are they continuously changing?
They do change a bit... at the moment I'm constantly listening to Aldous Harding, Midlake and Weyes Blood... but the constants for me are a lot of singer-songwriters from the 70s. Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, Sibyll Baier.
What are some stories that you believe the world needs to hear right now? And what are some messages that you want to share through your music in the future?
I think we are all hungry for meaning at the moment. With all the comforts a lot of the world has become accustomed to having being threatened, frightening things going on with the state of the earth, and now the pandemic, I think we have to seek new kinds of comfort and connection to one another and something outside of ourselves. I really think humans are spiritual beings and that's something we're very confused about now, especially when so many of the traditional institutions for spirituality have abused peoples trust so horrendously as well. We're feeling all a bit lost. I feel that way anyhow, so perhaps I'm assuming but I do think it's an innate part of us and if we don't manage to feed it perhaps we get unbalanced somehow.
With the release of your latest album, what kind of interaction/encounter do you hope your listeners will have with it? What resonating messages do you hope audiences draw from it? Right now, with all that's going on in the world I hope people might find some kind of comfort in my music. So many of these songs were written when I was going through personal tumultuous times and they were unconsciously written to help me make sense of a lot of that.. I hope the spirit of that could come through and help other people as well.
How do you go about crafting the skill of storytelling within your songs?
I never felt I was a strong storyteller with my songs... they always began as musings and feelings, but somehow a few have turned up! I usually have a melody on guitar and play around, just letting words come about freely- not really making sense. Sometimes it will be right away, sometimes it will be two months later- some words will come out that seem interesting. So I try to stick with it. I'll record them, write them down and then keep writing and I suppose my imagination takes over and I get something. A lot of my songs I'm imagining myself as someone else- sometimes the someone else is talking to me. It's a bit weird.
Your music is very atmospheric and sweeping. When you get “lost” in music, what does that look like or feel like for you?
Getting lost in music is pure bliss. Everything else falls away. I'm usually a bit scattered and have a head that rushes with 100 thoughts at once, music- especially when I'm playing live or recording- is like meditation for me, it calms my head, makes me feel grounded and connected and so happy! I think that's why I'll always play.
With the lush soundscapes that you create, what is your creative process like and what drives you lyrically?I'm so happy you describe it as lush! That's a big part of why I went to New Zealand to work with producer Ben Edwards - I think he creates these kinds of soundscapes so beautifully and I really wanted to work with him on it. I think part of it lyrically is actually not having loads of lyrics. It leaves a lot of space in the songs for mood and feeling in the music. I'm often surprised at how short the lyrics to some of my songs are when I write them out- because some of the recordings are longer than a standard 'radio friendly' song... a lot of that is due to the soundscape and room for breath around the words themselves that cushions it all.
You have shared that the new album, “...Explores the space within us that is separate to the wider world. The internal resources that no external factor can control, and the freedom that comes with that preservation.” How has this freedom propelled you both as a being and a creator?
It free's me to create unselfconsciously. I'm not thinking about who will or won't like this, what sound is fashionable right now, what I want this to turn out feeling or sounding like. I just let it be. Keeping it free like that is so much more exciting- it's risky perhaps but that really keeps it interesting and give you a lot of scope for learning. I've learnt to stay open, and to block out any of those external voices.
While creating, whether it be through your music or clothing line, has the artistic process surfaced any paradigm shifts or new perspectives that you now apply to your life?
having 5 kids, I've had to learn to be able to stretch and bend and accept change a lot. I've dipped in and out of music and fashion and the role of full time at home parent, to part time and back again! This time around I'm trying to let those changes happen with the least anxiety possible- right now like so many people I've had to adjust it all again - from touring and live performance that was planned with the album- to being in self isolation at home full time with my kids. The bit that I'm trying to trust is that if I stay open- every life experience can and will inform my music and clothing when things shift back in their direction. It's an opportunity.
What are some rewarding moments that you have had throughout your music career?
I think having the opportunity to record this album in New Zealand is one of my biggest highlights. Managing to get over there when I was pregnant with my 5th daughter and spend 10 days straight doing nothing but music was a dream!
With your song “Tried So Hard,” it has a beautifully haunting quality to it. When creating this song, what impacted you the most?
I really loved working on the vocal harmonies and then the strings for this song. I worked with cellist Richard Vaudrey... he layered up cello lines to create this lush effect, it was so great working with him. Then we sent the recordings over to Ben and he worked them into the song so perfectly.. it was pretty exciting to get the track back via email with all the parts complete.
In your music video, are those all your children as well as other members of your family? What messages do you hope to pass on to your kids when it comes to creative and artistic self-expression?
Yep, that's my 5 daughters, my mum and my grandmother! The director, Natalie Van Den Dungen wanted to create a kind of moving family portrait of the 4 generations of women in my family. I hope that my kids will feel free to explore their creativity. I'm glad they are seeing me do these things- I hope it inspires them. A big part of why I have the drive to keep going is that I hate the idea that you have to do all of this when you're 20- and if you are older than that, don't bother. I had my kids in my early 20s and the experience of that totally informs my music. I think I have more to offer musically now than I did back then- I hope by seeing me do this my kids will loose a bit of that anxiety that you feel like you have to get it all done at that age- I found that pressure really crushing and quite debilitating actually. I'm much more free now.
What was the process like being a contributing creator for costume design and serving as a stylist when creating the music video for “Tried So Hard?” Do you ever find that these two worlds often collide, that of clothing and music? When tapping into your creative side, what similarities do they both possess?
It was wonderful... part of the mood of the set came about based on the things I happed to be designing at the time. Happily they collide a lot! So many of my customers are musicians and people that work in the arts in general- so a huge part of it is having the opportunity to be around other creative people through my work with the clothes. Or meet musicians I would never normally have the opportunity to meet. It's also given me the odd opportunity to try my hand at some art direction and styling for photography which I have discovered I LOVE. Doing a range of creative things - I don't find they take away from one another- it's like it's all exercising the same muscle.
With also being involved in creating your own design work and clothing, how would you use the elements of this medium to describe your music? For example, what color palettes, fabrics, textures, etc do you feel embody or represent your sound?
That's an interesting thought! I wonder if the colours and textures I am currently using in my clothing correlate to the music I happen to be making at the same time. I think they probably do! I go for a lot of velvets, corduroys and linens in warm but earthy tones- burgundy, emerald, deep teal, cream, blush... I do love things to be lush and definitely colourful- but keeping the tones warm is a key element to everything I do for sure. There's always a bit of vintage inspiration in there too.I'm considering doing my next recordings to tape for the same reason.
Are there any upcoming announcements or events that you would like to share? And what are you most looking forward to this year?
I'm releasing a video for the first track on my album soon. It was filmed by a friend in Iran, something I was interested in doing because my dad is from Iran, but I have never been there. I think it's a good time to draw attention to this part of the world which has been hit so hard by the Corona virus on top of all the political trouble they were already going through. I'm also planning to release a couple of tracks while we're all stuck inside self- isolating, and probably some live music from my kitchen or something like that! It's all a bit of a work in progress shifting focus to things online, but I'm going to try to keep creating.