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Anna May: “Music is highly competitive”

Music is highly competitive. I feel so at home in the act of making music, and when I am in the arms of the creative process, but I have never felt quite as comfortable in the context of the music industry. I am still finding my place in that world. Music is an amazing and […]

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Music is highly competitive. I feel so at home in the act of making music, and when I am in the arms of the creative process, but I have never felt quite as comfortable in the context of the music industry.

I am still finding my place in that world. Music is an amazing and unique profession in that, as musicians, we are launched very much outside of ourselves and our own process, when we perform, after having been very intimate with ourselves and with that process. We are forced to integrate with totally new stuff that is not necessarily of a creative nature. The softness of the creative process does not always blend with the harshness of this industry.

During performance is when we can learn about others, and do that on the job work that can be so big and so challenging, at times. Music is at once very internal, and very external. For sensitive people, coming into contact with so much stimulus at once can become draining or overwhelming. This is often the case for me, when I think about performing. I have become better at handing this aspect, over the years, though.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Anna May, an alt tragic Americana with invocations for peace and judgment bending and with bleeding heart stream of consciousness poems.

Anna May has so far released three albums, and recently released an EP, entitled Kites. She is also currently working on her next recording project.

Anna’s background as a dancer, autodidact, traveler, and pianist feeds her original music and inspires her to weave wisdom into the music that she makes.

Anna’s music is pure memory, meditation, and escapism, streaked with tones of jazz, along with fresh twists on folk music, all while honoring the hope to enhance connection, humility, and joy amongst humans.

There is a deep focus on spiritual expansion & fissures in human relationships, running throughout all of Anna’s songs, with an aim to cultivate more authentic and permanent states of joy.

Anna has performed at many notable venues, including the Wildflower Arts & Music Festival, the Boston Arts Festival, a broadway comedy club in manhattan, crying wolf in Nashville, bar redux in New Orleans, mid-city music lounge in Los Angeles, Folk Alliance International, and many more. Anna’s work has been featured by Northern Public Radio, the Curiosity Hour Podcast, Women of Substance Podcast, The BIRN Studios, Skope Magazine, Fame Magazine, New Noise Magazine, Rock Cellar Magazine, A & R Factory, Vents Magazine, Recording Artists Guild, and several more.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Yes, I grew up in Connecticut, in a coastal town where there is loads of quaintness, charm, and relative serenity; still shaped by Revolutionary War-era sentiments and artifacts, basically.

Everything can be really precious and idyllic in this part of Connecticut if you look at things in a certain way. This environment has never necessarily defined me, but it is nonetheless where I am from.

I am an only child & what I remember about being a child was all very pensive, creative and musical. I am grateful for my childhood and for all of the freedom that I had.

Many of my family members are musicians and I was lucky to be surrounded by many diverse forms of music, from a young age. The warmth and connection that music brought to my life is still something vital & visceral that runs through me. When I think about growing up, I think about, nighttime, soft lighting, kind-hearted strangers, pianos, guitar strings, and dancing through space.

To pass time, I did lots of writing and singing and was always a highly independent soul. I also learned from a very young age to appreciate the splendor of nature, with help from plenty of hikes and skiing trips.

I am grateful that my upbringing was tremendously peaceful and contemplative, and am grateful that I always felt a sense of security. I cannot remember too much that ever felt riddled with pressure or discomfort…what I got to experience was all very fluid and artistic in nature. I was often lost in the art of play or creativity, and possibly, still am.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Absolutely. As I said, I was fortunate to live amongst so much rich and diverse musical influence. Hearing live music often in my home, or at concert venues were experiences that left me with pretty clear intentions to eventually pursue those arts myself. When I was in my teens, I spent some of my school years as an autodidact or un-schooler, outside of public school, which very much became a path away from distraction, that led me to so much new independent study and inquiry.

During this time that in retrospect, I really consider sacred to my development, I began to listen to artists such as Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, and several others, as well as jazz artists like Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Theolonious Monk, etc.

During this period, I was able to view myself in an artistic way for the first time, apart from my family’s influence. This was more, the investigative inquiry of the artistic process, as opposed to, simply being on stage.

Wherever I heard the music live, I typically began writing lyrics on my own afterward, or during the shows. I would also sneak to my room to write if the music were taking place at home. I became inspired to carve out my own path and to explore my own values and truths. It took, creating this space and nestling into it, to flesh out my observations. Although music had been very natural to me, always, it was not until I did my own intent listening and discovering that I felt confident in creating my own work.

This time felt like an incredibly special incubation period, during which so many important influences became absorbed into my bloodstream & translated as influence & layers throughout my own work. There were several instances in my young adult life when I felt that I was meant to be extending my creativity and writing in a performance setting, and I began to feel empty and lackluster if i was not doing so. Art is, in many ways, dusting off the cobwebs, and realizing, all that we have internalized from our experiences in the world. These are sacred and undeniable formations that can often get lost if we do not explore a creative process.

I have always experienced quite a dichotomy in thinking about my musical path. What I was told in school or by society, at a young age, was often that, music was not realistic or worth pursuing as a career, and yet, within the context of my family and within myself, I saw reflected, a consistent dedication to the artistic inquiry. I could see clearly, the layered, therapeutic benefits in awareness and spirituality that came directly from music and from feeding our instinctive creative nature. Honoring the importance of this particular form of curiosity has led me in all that i do, as a creative person.

Mindset is such a critical factor in examining, and in ultimately deciding our courses. Sometimes, finding success simply takes a turning of mindset. When we turn our minds to: “I cannot do this”, it seems that we begin to believe that we in fact, cannot do that thing.

I am grateful to have grown up with parents, mentors and influencers who really left space in their teachings for fostering creative growth, and held art and the creative mind as highly important to human nature. Living with this healthy bit of pressure or expectation to extend myself, and, create is what inspires me to write music.

When we believe deeply in something, over time, that something inevitably becomes innate to who we are. Art is just a practice of setting aside space, to be artistic, no matter any discomfort. It is a practice.

Art is intrinsic to all of us, and I believe that music is, also. However, as humans, we often run through a strange course of elevating and dampening and fighting internal battles with our confidence.

I feel that this is especially true for anyone on an artistic path. We perhaps need to perceive an art form as valid before we can broach it, ourselves.

We must look to guides and mentors for this special form of inspiration. Early on, I had an awareness that I had something important to impart or convey, about my experiences.

Art is, training the mind to see kernels of a divine nature, in the context of everyday life. Art is a constant learning and growing process. I like to think of it sometimes as, accelerated growth in awareness. Perhaps, there was something unique that I saw in my experiences, and felt, was not reflected elsewhere. This was my starting point for my work.

I have always been interested in wisdom and philosophy and have felt from a young age that my way to share or contribute, is very much via writing. Whenever I listened to other songwriters, I was always left inspired or with lyrics of my own, and a desire to share my perspective.

Writing simply has been, as far back as I remember, my natural method for processing and experiencing my life. Writing can be a potent counterpart to all of what we experience in physical reality, that can so often be inherently spontaneous or disorganized. If we ever should feel alone or misunderstand, the beautiful act of writing is accessible to all of us, as a way to uncover new wisdom.

Writing can occasionally feel daunting, but I always remind myself of how healing and essential writing of all forms has been for me, for leading me to new revelations about myself and others. This is a really vulnerable and genuine act, and that is what I love so much about engaging with it, closely. We begin to realize our own store of incredible resources and insight, as we take pause to write. Writing is form of active meditation.

Songwriting forces us to bring the best pieces of ourselves to the table; our inventiveness, our truth, our essence.

Words connect us, if everything else seems to fail.

I remind myself that this is a gift and a powerful tool, to be able to use words as forms of influence or connection. It is my goal to say some of what goes unspoken and to always be getting better at saying those things, or, saying them in new ways.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I don’t know if I can think of an isolated, particular story about my career that I would define as interesting, but I have certainly found myself in either interesting or enlightening circumstances.

A wonderful aspect about a career in music is that, there are countless directions to explore, and there is ample space for personal expansion, as well as learning from others, who are also in the industry.

Music often feels like equal parts listening & absorbing, and playing.

Finding oneself on festival lineups with musical heroes definitely serves to charge up our artistic fires. I have been fortunate to share bills or stages with artists that I very much admired. There is no experience quite like this. Feeling a sense of likemindedness, respect, and acceptance when we are amongst people who have inspired us is a unique and amazing experience that causes us to want to be our best selves. In these instances, there usually comes the beautiful realization that these people are doing the very same progressive discovery work that we are doing.

Last winter at a conference, I found myself in a group conversation with Ani Difranco; somebody that I have learned so much from listening to.

From my perspective, these are the times in which we recognize completely that we are actually doing what we care thoroughly about. These are wonderful moments, and I feel absolutely honored and blessed about them.

I am fortunate to have found myself in many circumstances in my life that warrant this kind of amazing joy.

Maybe some of the most interesting or inspiring times in music, for me, have come from collaborations with other musicians, in very much having an opportunity to actively, stretch ourselves and our awareness, outwards.

Engaging in collaboration takes us to totally astounding new levels with our creativity. I have been fortunate to play in bands with truly world-class musicians that have been intent upon elevating my music to its highest levels, and changing it for the best…that is special stuff. I love collaboration and miss all that it offers during this strange time. Playing music with others is often when we realize our limitless artistic potential, as well as our vulnerabilities and insecurities. This is active growth, and the getting past what might be old and stagnant, energetically. We can realize that we are our greatest when we combine with the energy and strengths of others. This is a powerful metaphor. Collaboration opens us up in so many ways and shows us that we are in fact, united. Spontaneity and improvisation are intrinsic to who we are, as well. I admire and look up to so many musicians.

There simply is not enough time in the day for all of the creative potential to happen in actuality .. I have been surprised at how I have evolved, artistically, and have changed so much in the course of my career. That has been interesting & unexpected and reassures me that, human beings are experiencing growth at nearly every second.

Another perk of this job that I might categorize as interesting is, coming into contact with the endearing magic, wisdom & innocence of children, and being a witness to all of the funny, smart & beautiful things that children say.

I often notice that children become enchanted or transfixed at my gigs, and beg their parents to stay. Some of them sit right upfront and so close to the stage, responding to the melodies and meditative quality of the music.

This is when I feel that I have done good work .. whenever I see that children are engaged, to feel from the music, a sense of love, connection or acceptance. This is my favorite part of performing. It is wildly inspiring to know that in listening, these kids are tapping into something totally new, or coming into deeper touch with something already inside of them:)

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The mistake that I would consider to be the funniest, when I was beginning my music career was, probably, that I feel slightly regretful for being too eager. While it has served me in many ways to be a seeker of shows and collaborations, extensively, I perhaps entered the music scene, a bit too young, and with lots to learn. When I was younger, I wanted to play everywhere right away, and with everyone, perhaps without the realization that my experiences could be far more satisfying if I let some stuff breathe, and did not put so much pressure on myself and situations. I did not always give myself space to stretch creatively in the ways that I maybe should have done, and as a result, when I look back on some recordings, interviews or performances, I can notice clearly where I am lacking, and can even hear, basically, my lack of sensitivity in my singing. This could be a common mistake for artists. It definitely makes me laugh when I encounter my younger self and wish that I had waited a little while before i got on stage, etc. That being said, I am grateful for what I learned in dealing with people, and with various unpredictable situations, that I might not have come to awareness about if it had not been for, being thrust into performance atmospheres.

I also appreciate my younger self for seeming to care much less about what others think. That separation from judgment, I believe, is an ongoing lesson for all adults, in every profession. We are constantly relearning and redefining the parameters of the relationship to judgment, in different circumstances, all of the time.

I view my younger self as someone who was so active, so committed, and tremendously eager, and with time, I witness a passive and more sensitive quality of spirit begin to penetrate my music.

I confidently did lots of things that I maybe was not ready to do, always very willing to step beyond my comforts and experience growth, which can be both positive and detrimental. Music is extraordinarily humbling in every way. We are always learning. There are so many subtleties to pay attention to in terms of both writing and music, in order to reflect our highest selves, in the music.

I definitely come into performance situations now with a bit more humility, sensitivity and awareness.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Quarantine has been wonderful for creative projects, in that it is a time of much fewer performances. I have intentionally really set myself apart from others during this time, for the sake of exploring the essence and beauty of this new isolation. I am seeking to fully inhabit this time and its offerings.

While doing so has felt difficult to me at times, this space apart has also served to produce some very distinct pieces of writing that I feel proud about. I have been able to explore poetry, dream writing, and nature writing alongside songwriting, with more time.

I reflected and realized that so much of my work had been focused upon people and relationships. In this time of isolation, without many of those very human circumstances that are so easy for us to write about, at our disposal, I turned instinctually towards the natural world. I was able to honor beauty and simplicity in better ways than I had before, as a result of this dramatic lifestyle change. I feel that, the combination of experiencing the natural world in a more intimate way, along with deepening my study of yoga has contributed to this new music, that stands as such a departure, to me. I intend for these songs to be mythical, whimsical, ethereal, metaphorical, imagery laden, and to reflect the human experience in the context of a tremendously vibrant and present natural landscape.

These types of explorations are very necessary for this particular moment of time, I feel. There is a reason why Nature is the main character in this new work.

Human nature is at war with the natural world, whether or not we all can fathom, acknowledge or perceive this, completely. This feels to be such a pertinent time to be noticing nature and to be noticing all that people have consistently ignored about nature’s power and fragility. Our bloodlines run with nature’s bloodlines.

We cannot survive for too much longer without a more careful examination of the human relationship to nature.

If we can hear music that integrates the two and emphasizes the great beauty in the natural world, then, we may feel more empowered to offer the natural world, necessary protections.

We have choices regarding this war that will determine our survival. This quiet moment is a perfect time to feel and understand the sacred integration existing between human being and natural being.

These new songs are about these spiritual connections. i cannot wait to perform these songs that showcase the growth that this quiet and sacred time has gifted me with.

Some other projects on the horizon include an eventual album with a full band, along with a remix of one of my new singles.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Absolutely. Diversity and representing diversity through music has always been incredibly important to me as well, yet, I am so aware that there are still countless racial and cultural disparities across the board, in many industries. This causes frustration for me.

One of my biggest qualms regarding the music industry is that a highly obsolete system of sexism is operating underneath it. In the Northeast, in terms of more casual venues, such as breweries and wineries, it is a rarity to encounter female performers.

This means that we. are totally missing the various female perspectives in music, along with the African American perspectives, the Latino perspectives, etc. and so much beautiful culture is getting lost at the mercy of archaic systems of discrimination and marginalization. What furthers my irritation is that, sexism is too often expected, or anticipated, or not even validated.

When valid perspectives are essentially squashed out, in this fashion, we limit both personal growth and collective growth. I view sexism as a highly prevalent force in the music industry, in comparison to some other industries that I have worked in.

The female voice and body are presented in obsolete terms and are presented in the context of male — determined standards. Not all women are able to realize that they are at the mercy of a system that does not serve them and that their destinies and desires still contain a sexist underpinning. There is a great need for change. With our current system of this dominating form of sexism in music, and male-controlled venues, studios, etc. women are often discouraged from expressing their voice in full or in authenticity and are more so beckoned into an arena of blatant objectification, in order to be heard or noticed. This is all very tired but very true.

In terms of women in music, there seems to be a very unsubtle and uniform, form of being, that every woman is implicitly meant to strive towards. It can be wildly difficult to feel that while I am breaking new artistic ground, I am hitting all of the thick walls that sexism has pre-designed for containing my growth and my development.

The more that I progress in my career, the more that I become better versed in sexism, and more aware of the extraordinary need for widespread feminist ideals. The more creative that I become, the more that I threaten this structured system of sexism, and the more I am urged to comply with it.

I am in so much support of a bigger and more diverse female perspective, developing, and being reflected more accurately / becoming dominant, in our culture. Women give life to the world, and yet, we are still getting silenced at nearly every turn in our careers, especially in music.

Denial of this apparent sexism contributes to the overwhelming problem. The female perspective or femininity, in essence, is much greater and more complex than the myopic and distorted picture that is so often presented or promulgated by men, and it will be my intent to do what I can, in the music industry, to change, what is.

I want to live in a world where feminism is not perceived as a threat, or as controversial, but where it exists as a norm. Let’s celebrate it and see the feminine as divine and with copious and unique gifts to offer the world.

Having lived in New Orleans, which I do feel is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and knowing the beauty that comes from absorbing and understanding the culture that is not our native culture, it is difficult for me to encounter anything that does not align with and embrace growth and unity along the cultural or racial board. I know personally that an array of cultural influence finds its way into what I produce musically, due to the diversity in the music that I have heard, and due to the many individuals that have influenced me. I know, internally, that i am painted by such an array of cultural input.

Integrating diversity, radically, is an ongoing process…we need desperately to be immersed in new sounds, textures, flavors, vibrations, etc. in order to see changes in ourselves. It is pretty commonly understood that diversity is still very much lacking in the U.S. or more so that, the music and the culture is of course, present here, but, our societal mechanisms, are not expressing, or respecting diverse forms of art across several cultures, in proper or widespread ways. Racism is still an ugly impediment in respect to the full expression of all of the wonderful art forms that there are in the world.

As members of society, it is our undeniable task to give light to all that is not being reflected in our culture. We must take part in the sacred evolution towards complete unity and understanding.

Anyone that has ever been a student of jazz comes close to the dramatic and stunning beauty of African and African American cultures. We also can witness how, much that we view as American, is in fact derived from African culture.

I first fell in love with African music as a child; loving to dance to the distinctive rhythms that I heard on records, and later studying West African drumming. I was hearing so much American music that sought to integrate African motifs, and when I was in my early twenties, I began West African dancing, religiously. I practiced for many years where i lived in Connecticut, and still do dance. The music, and the artists that create this gorgeous drum-based musical offering, create something spiritual & magnificent in such vivacious yet sparse forms sonic unity. These rhythms can be part of us all and can change who we are for the better.

I have no ability to conceive of the hollow divisiveness that now exists prominently in our world. We learn from the experiences of other people. I myself felt a little culturally displaced or stagnant whenever I found myself in a dominantly white, suburban atmosphere, and made it a clear intention to move beyond the conventions that I perhaps grew up knowing, or that were presented to me as, somehow : ideal, or comfortable. I am grateful to have learned early in my life about misplaced ideals, racism, and about the ignorance that informs many habitual ways of being in our world.

African music, especially, is alive with spirit. It is an inextinguishable spirit of necessity and grace, that is born largely of marginalization and oppression; spirit woven into songs that are decorated with beauty and resilience.

I consider myself a perpetual student of African traditions, and Latin traditions. I am in awe and amazement of the music that is produced by these vibrational and visionary cultures.

We are lucky if we find ourselves in positions to absorb the rich nectars and wisdom brought to the world by vibrant cultures, but, the platforms for showcasing these traditions are severely lacking, or still, so, limited. There must soon be widespread accessibility and integration of these practices, and less of archaic forms of discrimination and segregation that hinder our progress as a united species. When more people have more opportunities to fall in love with new cultures, I genuinely do believe that they can in turn, understand themselves in better ways, and let go of any forms of hereditary or cultural resistance to unity. Seeing oneself in the context of another culture is a life-changing experience that i have had the privilege of experiencing many times, predominantly through the connective tissue of music.

Another diversity linked cause that i care greatly about and wish to be using my platform in music for is, assisting in promoting equality and rights for Native Americans, who have been unfairly marginalized and Infinitum in the United States.

I had the beautifully life-altering experience of camping on the grounds of the Standing Rock Reservation during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, several years ago. I came into contact with many inspiring people and wrote music about the small pieces of their experiences, that I saw.

My music has always been focused upon documenting oppression and suffering, and then upon, the ensuing resilience, healing and recovery process. I have sought to do this in chronicles of personal experience, and after my experience in Standing Rock, embarked on a conscious path to do this work on a grander & more collective scale, musically, in a quest to represent oppressed voices, and hidden experiences.

In using one’s privilege effectively, we can stimulate change for others who have experienced more oppression than we have experienced. While I care very much about social justice, and have the instinct to write about all of the horrible injustices that there are, but, I also write with the awareness that I am unqualified. As writers, we never see the whole. We are seeing glimpses into other experiences. In my songs about causes, I hope to add levity and idealism to what might actually be, stark or difficult. In my song Acadia, I explore the life of a young girl, who is essentially living in the war zone of a protest site. This was two nights of my life, while it was her entire perspective. In the song, Acadia sleeps in a chateau where it never rains, when in reality, Acadia slept in a ripped tent. I hope to reflect the imagery of the desolate night that I knew for the first time in camping there. This was every night’s experience for all those who lived at the site. There is so much spirit running through this country’s Native landscapes and people, despite that this land has been raped ceaselessly for so many years. As a writer, this was my short glimpse into what a lifestyle of oppression looks like. Despite chaos and oppression, there is still so much beauty in all of this country’s muted cultures. There is a lyric in this particular song about a Veil falling. I feel as if, any time that there are protests, this is the sign of a veil falling that has been in place for a very long time. We saw many veils fall this year. There are still veils falling and there will be, for some time.

The three reasons why diversity is important :

1. Diversity presents us with an opportunity for personal growth and expansion of who WE, actually are, by adding to our palette.

2. When more and more people can see themselves & their own experience reflected in entertainment, we will live in a more authentic and empowered world.

3. Potential for greater unity: when a wider variety of experiences are reflected in media, then, we come closer to canceling prejudices & developing lasting unity.

In this way, we defy all that has ever limited us.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

5 Things Video :

Hopefully, I was able to weave five things into this response.

This is probably something that people very much did tell me when I first began making music, but that I seemed to have glossed over, or did not fully hear.

Music is highly competitive. I feel so at home in the act of making music, and when I am in the arms of the creative process, but I have never felt quite as comfortable in the context of the music industry.

I am still finding my place in that world. Music is an amazing and unique profession in that, as musicians, we are launched very much outside of ourselves and our own process, when we perform, after having been very intimate with ourselves and with that process. We are forced to integrate with totally new stuff that is not necessarily of a creative nature. The softness of the creative process does not always blend with the harshness of this industry.

During performance is when we can learn about others, and do that on the job work that can be so big and so challenging, at times. Music is at once very internal, and very external. For sensitive people, coming into contact with so much stimulus at once can become draining or overwhelming. This is often the case for me, when I think about performing. I have become better at handing this aspect, over the years, though.

This in particular is something that I always knew about myself, and always felt uncomfortable about. Performance seemed very out of step with my quiet identity.

Navigating changing circumstances with composure requires practice, stability, awareness, and self-assurance. Working in the music business and navigating the various and diverse components of the business serves to keep artists on their toes, and keeps us on guard. We are pulled in countless directions. We must adapt, and learn to work with discomfort and judgments as part of our career, and as part of establishing relationships.

This all can be overwhelming, especially to have one’s sense of worth hinged upon, what other people think of you. Encountering all of these discomforts early on in life does, I believe, set a person in a good position to do lots of early learning and growing, and coming into oneself. Because I feel so comfortable with the artistic process, I have always tuned out the elements of this business that I do not love, necessarily.

Some other elements that surprised me: cyber bullying and navigating strange behavior from others…I once experienced an instance where some previous collaborators began stalking my band page and writing false accusations on a daily basis, with the presumed intention to slander me. This was highly stressful and overwhelming. There is quite a bit that exists in this vein, unfortunately, and that can be uncomfortable in that it moves me away from making my music.

Committing to protecting oneself and turning attention away from these sorts of experiences is something that I should have become more effective at, many years earlier in my career.

I was totally ill-prepared to handle this on my own, and was at a loss, honestly, much of the time when these sorts of things happened to me. I have been constantly astonished about how many negative comments regarding my weight or appearance, I have received, since being in a rather public position. I have also experienced several instances with online stalkers, from various countries, and have received some very scary threats from people that I do not know. I also had another musician threaten to cut off my fingers before sharing a show in Nashville! At a certain point, all of this must be effectively tuned out and turned away from, because it does not serve us, artistically. So much of behavior is inexplicable and irrational and is not necessarily related to us.

This all sounds strange to say, but, we must expect these sorts of reactions, as our role includes being connected to several individuals that we will not necessarily know, personally.

Again, turning towards something that is more spiritual in nature helps so much in offsetting the fear and anxiety that can come from negative experiences. Spirit is much greater than this stuff, and is always there for us as a cradle, without the forms of doubt or inconsistency that we sometimes find in human interactions. I was not prepared for the rapidity or intensity of this sort of stuff.

I was not prepared for the amount of slander that would come my way, at all. Fans can often lay claim to what you do, can make assumptions about you, seek to take ownership of you or what you make, speak poorly about you, etc. and that has all always felt bizarre to me, and rather beyond my control. This comes from a really different energetic place than music itself, comes from. My key is to focus on the music.

I have also had my guitar stolen, multiple times. I have dealt with difficult audience members. This all can implant trauma in us, but, we become better at discerning, noticing, etc. & perhaps understanding that difficult people on our paths do not deserve our energy or compassion. We do not owe these individuals anything, in addition to what we have already provided, musically. The difficult people will always be there.

We can move past.

The silver lining? We gradually become more confident as we learn to tune out all that does not serve our highest motives.

I perhaps was not prepared for the open judgment and harshness and disposability of the music business, even though I essentially grew up in it. I don’t like makeup. I am not really a glamour girl, and so, doing all of that stuff can be more exhausting than it is satisfying to me. It simply goes with the territory. This industry toughens your skin, and of course, you can hear that from a million people, but cannot fully understand what that means until you experience it, firsthand. Ignoring or displacing all of these stresses isn’t good. Validation and self-care are important.

Without performance, during quarantine, I have been able to recover much of myself, in many ways; parts that I had not even realized, were lost. There is a sheen to performance, a void of misunderstandings, and an acerbic nature, inherent in the performance world, that I do not identify with in any way. Going up against people’s judgments all of the time can be hard work, and we cannot guarantee that we will get through to everyone that listens to us.

I have always viewed performance as the compromise to creating. Performance is the sometimes difficult portal that i must walk through in order to transmit words and music that might change or reshape assumptions. This is necessary, for doing the work that I wish to do. Performance can be transcendent and spiritual, but it can also be muddy or mundane.

I think over time, I am learning to recognize performance for what it is, and validate that, performance is not an easy task to ever do, no matter how long we have worked in this industry.

There usually is always something that is difficult or surprising about it. I like that kind of excitement, sometimes, and sometimes, it can be exhausting to continue to rise to that challenge.

Coming into contact with judgments or assessments is a gift in disguise, I believe, though. I know that this makes me stronger and more connected to myself, when i can gather deeply from my resources, in order to withstand judgments.

There is a falseness to the performance world that is hard for me to encounter, when I see music as being a precious and delicate art form that brings us deeper in touch with authenticity. For me, art doesn’t always align with the sometimes shallow nature of performance, and often, I feel a sense of profound dissatisfaction. Some people thrive on the glimmer and the grandeur, but my motivations for music are very different and closer to the heart. Music is not about showing off, but about filling souls and stimulating rebirth. I am merely trying to translate love and acceptance, and elucidate that: we are pushing harder than we realize, and, we all deserve love and comfort. We all deserve validation and rest.

Music is maybe the purest form of self-love.

I have lost many people at the hands of music, and for that, I feel a great sense of sadness. I have had bands, collaborations, and relationships explode, in the shadow of the music industry. Those sorts of things haunt me.

Practicing detachment and exercising & enacting other vital Buddhist principles in my everyday life has been a source of comfort and satisfaction whenever I experience something that is difficult or unexpected.

There are often too many moving parts to keep track of, in this industry.

Music as a path can force us into self-centered ways of thinking and being, in that we are close to always absorbed with what we are working on, and are without healthy ways to counteract this deep, investigative work, we run the risk of totally imploding or being out of touch with others. Yoga has always been a gentle yet disciplined refuge for me, and something that i feel is also woven into whatever I create.

Music is a profession that holds us accountable to operate at two opposite spectrums; two highs and lows. At first, there is the slow beauty of creativity itself, and then, there is the high intensity of performance, judgment and competition; the whole thing is at once deep and shallow. i am forever coming to terms with that kind of complexity, and likely always will be doing so.

I consider myself a creator before i consider myself a performer. I am a passionate introvert above all. I am still finding ways to navigate the stress and the competition that comes with this job, but that feels so separate from why we chose to become creators in the first place.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

When we are in a healing role, we must also be able to effectively heal ourselves. We do not need to be constantly creating, or constantly writing, contrary to sometimes popular belief. Living is equally important. While an artistic path feeds and influences one’s lifestyle so deeply, we must find healthy ways to experience regeneration, authenticity and rebirth, so that we are able to continue to give of ourselves.

I would recommend to artists, prioritizing oneself, and occasionally creating some healthy distance between you and your music. I did not always prioritize myself when I was younger. I was playing shows and writing at a rapid pace.

Basically, I was not giving myself enough credit for the amount of work that I was doing, or, other people were not seeming to give me that credit, and there was a lack of balance in my life. I was without space to myself. Limits and boundaries are so helpful in assuring that we will be able to do exactly what we wish to do, at our chosen pace, and that our energy levels will be right where we want them to be. This is not only possible, but should be our desire, when we think about ourselves and our goals, I truly believe. We reserve the right to feel healthy.

I also came to the realization that: this is okay, to be doing exactly what I wish to be doing. For many people, I think, there is some preoccupation or pressure from others that causes us to feel that, we must be giving our energy to something else, rather than what we love, and I do not take that as a truth, in my world.

Now, I value myself more. I value my mind, my instincts, and my pace, to a greater degree. I trust my own judgment. I allow myself days off, languid mornings, extra tea, extra rest, or whatever it be.

We do run the risk of becoming increasingly isolated if we are working in a creative industry, and it can be really helpful to have conversations with people outside of the industry that we are working in, in order the dampen our own intensities.

We don’t need to live in confined ways, or be lost in our creativity, all of the time.

Thriving to me now, is: doing much less than I did before. Body awareness is incredibly important and works hand in hand with our artistic nature. Prioritizing the needs of my body helps me to satisfy the needs of my mind and spirit.

There is so much work and so much potential in the musical realm. When we envision our potential, we often ignore the need for taking baby steps, to get where we want to go. We often ignore the importance of our bodies and our health, which will be so critical in serving us, along the way.

Pushing past and getting through, and ignoring our bodies pushes us towards burn out, probably more powerfully than anything. Playing tons of shows does not need to turn us into cogs that are detached from our bodies and spirits. I seek to integrate what is holistic into a profession that can be relentless and tough.

Noticing simple beauty puts us more in touch with our creativity and also is beneficial to our health and wellness. Valuing oneself is the best gift that we can give ourselves.

Rest is part of a healthy body. Insights and awareness into my own body have made all the difference in my levels of success and function.

Also, surround yourself with loving people who support you, who validate your work, & who promote your highest intentions, rather than people who invalidate you or seek to disarm you :) — this does tremendous things to boost your energy and confidence, when you make the essential shift towards wholly positive influence.

Learn about your limits, and get to be best friends with them.

I am happiest when I permit myself to make time for getting back to myself, and when I stay strict, articulate and committed about doing exactly that.

Be small, be gentle, and be kind to yourself, whatever that means, for you .. maybe it is, responding less, taking a walk, having a conversation, etc.

All of that is just as healthful and important as the other things are. When we prioritize ourselves, we become more creative and more in touch, as well, I have witnessed.

We grow in our abilities to discern situations and people when we get quieter, and once we offer ourselves the ability to pick and choose what we allow into our life or into our awareness.

I would urge people to settle into their truths, their resources and their confidence, trusting that you have all that you need. Being open to influences is important, but, a healthy level of self-belief is really crucial to being successful, I feel.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, thank you.

You know, as I have evolved musically, my music has become more and more Love based, or in essence, a universal call for greater prevalence & active practice of love, along with, valuing the importance & sturdiness of the forms of love that we are cultivating, in both difficult and easy conditions.

This is .. Love when we are frustrated. Love when we are sick. Love when we are on top of the world ..

Love itself is pure constancy.

I have come to an awareness that a wholehearted kind of love is I also find, is not the most trendy subject to be exploring, from a thematic perspective, for our times that are so jaded and sarcastic, but, this has nonetheless been the most natural and relevant subject for me. Broad, giving and endless love is where it is at, in my world. Our world is much more polarized than it is, precious, right now.

So many songs are based in vengeance, and some of mine are, too, but, I ultimately wish to leave behind music that enforces unity and empowerment, and that can bring listeners to a space of solace, healing or meditation, to be activated and carried through the world.

I feel this to be music’s most important intention. It can be hard to stick to unifying messaging as songwriters, especially in tough circumstances, but it is such a great challenge for us.

As we are broken down by life’s often insistent monotony, it seems that we appreciate simplicity and love more fully, and can be more open to finding the sacredness that exists in simple magic, as a silver lining to our troubles.

We become more aware.

Creating music is a lifelong pathway to spiritual attunement, alignment, engagement, and redefinition, with intent to bring us to where we wish to be, with who we wish to be, or towards who we ultimately wish to be; further away from the surface that we had been existing on, previously. This process can be seen as a continuing challenge & eventual conquering of old fears and judgments.

This will come forth in our music.

Moving past judgments brings us towards unity.

Peeling back layers, leads to new understandings until we reach a condition where we are actively loving & accepting in our natures and beings, as a habit.

My musical motivations have changed over time from a process of desiring to have my voice and my own stories heard to .. a bigger process of positive internal change, and self-discovering, along with a much greater social aim, to connect people and reduce widespread division with music that is therapeutic in nature. Here is proof that we can certainly use whatever influence we have, in order to do good.

I have always felt out of touch with what it is to be a Millenial. I have an older soul, and have always learned from older music and influences that belonged to ages other than mine.

I have learned about myself that I am thoroughly empathetic, and am not quite as quick to judge as many of my peers seem to be. I sometimes suffer in the rigidity of a paradigm that seems to honor judgmental attitudes.

This pervasive judgment that i often observe is of a casual nature, really, but, it is still incredibly present and detrimental, everywhere.

My personal experiences have at times, left me feeling rather displaced amongst my peers, and disheartened by the world that I was growing up in, so much dissuaded at times, to be a real participant in harsh social climates.

I set an imprint to steer away from fully unifying & identifying with my own culture for my own safety, and have traversed different incarnations of relationships with it, over time, typically deciding to turn inward in favor of joining the crowd.

What I find most urgently troubling about what I encounter, culturally, is that, this is a culture that has, in many ways, generally, manifested hate through reactivity & judgment, and very often judges and dismisses what it cannot recognize, prematurely, as a matter of habit. These are the seeds of racism and bigotry.

I see this as pure reliance on our limits, in favor of zooming out to view the bigger picture.

I encounter this way of being in performance contexts, and also find it constantly in personal relationships, coming away with the realization that .. I am not this way and do not desire to be this way.

Life is so much bigger than these forms of petty assumptions that many of us unconsciously attach to others & use as yardsticks to examine life and individuals. How can so many of us have forgotten the art of looking more deeply at fellow people, who are all beautiful and so complex?

My guiding hope is that we would all become better at accepting what is, and judging it less, even and maybe especially, on the smallest of scales.

When we are less reliant on judgments as our indicators & methods of information, we solve problems more than we create problems to be solved. There is a clear ability to understand one another, when we move from this place or intention, but, it is obvious more and more to me that this ability is not actively committed to in the ways that it could be, in larger mediums, for the benefit of society.

We must still, always, at least try, to practice understanding and compassion, even when it might feel difficult to understand.

I have taken several necessary lapses from the insistent pace of the music business for the purpose of delving more deeply into teachings found in Buddhist philosophy, primarily, as a way to learn how to experience greater joy and appreciation throughout my life. I have just only scratched the surface with these tremendous studies.

My spiritual path is always at odds with my music career, as I oscillate between which I favor as a main focus. I have learned that I require both in my life, but am still achieving the proper balance. One discipline certainly feeds the other. my movement, if I had to define it, would be :

Move towards kindness. Move away from judgment, anger, labeling and misunderstanding.

Move together, away from distortions that are hastily formed judgments.

I often categorize my music as “invocations for peace and judgment bending, with bleeding heart stream of consciousness poems” .. I believe that all music is truly sacred art, intended, whether or not consciously, to cultivate peace and radical honesty. I wish for more and more people to feel connected, in listening to my songs.

I want people to embark on the process of ditching their pre formed judgments and misdirected anger.

There are so many of these pesky judgments, existing across countries and cultures, and amongst countless people. We are much stronger than the judgments are.

So much of these types of messages bent towards transcending judgment, are found in Buddhist principles and doctrines.

I have found the words and habits influenced by these traditions to be inspiring and so life giving, from a very young age. I always return to these profound teachings whenever I feel scattered or empty.

I have visited temples, meditation centers, etc. in a process of cultivating inner truth and inner understanding, and greater awareness of the journey, all to uphold the purpose of helping me to relinquish the judgments that serve to hold me back, in my own life.

My latest EP, Kites was something that I began writing with a desire to put forth work that was more global, more affirmative, and more so about unity; less about me, and more about collective experiences, and it was oddly enough written before the pandemic, which has ended up being one of the most significant collective modern experiences, to date.

In approaching and navigating this crazy industry, we as musicians do become softer in nature, as trials and tests of the business harden us, and I find that to be something so beautiful, really ..

The indelible sensitivity that we come to gain is derived from what is harsh and cruel, at times. Something tremendously beautiful can come from what is difficult.

The roots of the collective moment, right now, seem to be, anger, fear and division, and so, the most important thing has to be, recovering kindness and unity.

I find myself unconsciously writing more and more about the big things : more about acceptance; more about truth, in the embrace of a very heightened and broadened awareness that acknowledges the value of larger concepts, in bringing about connection on smaller scales.

I become less detailed, less contrived, and more vague, as if abandoning ego in favor of spirit that is endless, reliable and enriching ..

Kites is a song about unity, in places of darkness.

Kites are a metaphor for human beings, in this song. We are steeped in both fragility and incredible resilience.

Careless is a universal appeal to all forms of kindness, through the lens of the personal experience of heartbreak. This is a song about trying to objectively understand something that has hurt us, or someone who has judged us, while validating our experience of pain.

Beside Me is an exploration of what it means to form a judgment or to half — view the whole of a person or experience, while, we are all walking together along the same path.

Songwriting is an informed reaction to our world, at its core.

The act of writing as a process of therapy and self-discovery naturally puts us in touch with spirit or with something beyond ourselves. I do believe that creativity operates & exists beyond human limitations, and when we write, we are merely lucky to be grasping tiny pieces of a totally divine essence that is beautifully elusive. Songwriting teaches me about, all that I do not know.

Creativity opens us to the possibility of more and stretches us past our limits.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

While many individuals have offered advice and inspiration, I would certainly say that it has been my close family members who have always made me feel that my choice of career and goals were accessible and attainable.

This came, often at times when everyone else in my life was telling me that I was crazy or on the wrong track. Those that know us well can understand us the best, and can understand the genuine nature of our intentions.

The best that my parents and grandmother have done for me is to give me space to do what I know, I need to do.

While I have experienced an overabundance of inconsistency in other relationships, these special relationships have been so pillar-like and so critical in steadying me, and keeping me aimed with clarity towards my goals. My parents are teachers and inspire me with their work and dedication. They inspire me with their peace.

These close people in my life have made it possible for me to write or practice music, or go for a run, in cooking something for me, and helping me take care of things. I am very grateful. I often convince myself that I am invincible and can do everything alone, but that of course, is not true. My family members help me sometimes in being voices of reality.

It is a wonderful gift to be helped and encouraged, and, American ideals do not necessarily give us permission to view help as something positive, I feel.

My creative work is entirely my own, yet, it is inspired by so much outside of myself .. the life work is definitely shared with those that are closest to me. I also thank my parents who are in their sixties, for always beating me to the punch in setting up sound gear and packing up the car before shows.

I realize more every day that I have been quite lucky to live in the hold of such stability. Fickleness plagues the music industry, and has plagued my relationships, in many ways, setting me off course and ushering doubt into my consciousness. My upbringing taught me to value authenticity and goodness above all else.

My piano teacher is also someone that has inspired me a great deal, into my adult life. Living up to her sense of sturdiness and strength of spirit, technique, passion, and work ethic, is something that I keep in mind whenever I feel myself wavering in my personal belief.

I have met tons of people; some that I have idealized, some that I have loved, but, i realize, as I become older, that it is the constant and grounded people who are the most influential, and who bear the most clarity and certitude. Those are the qualities that contribute most to success. Becoming and then embodying that form of constancy has been a process.

At the end of the day, humanity is the prime inspiration for writers; all that is small, simple and good is what shines through in our reflections. I strive to find or recover connection to humanity, everywhere in my life. Detaching from that connection is a threat to our survival.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“What lies behind us and what lies in front of us pales in comparison to what lies within us” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This is always my favorite quote, when i am asked. For many years, I noticed that I was seeking satisfaction externally, predominantly. Society’s very mechanisms cause us to be external seekers, in looking for money to survive, etc.

So, there is, this necessary balance of being able to understand the world and how it works, that is essential. There is also the important realization that .. understanding the world is quite different from the art of truly understanding and knowing ourselves, and becoming acquainted with the beautiful potential that we carry.

Being overly concerned with, what comes next, or with what has already happened, can be detrimental to our progress, and yet, this is how society functions, largely, so, we do need to pay attention to these things, somewhat, or peripherally. Past and future count, but, not nearly as much as the present does.

It is so harmful to become disconnected from the self.

Coming closer to my own awareness and instincts, and not requiring as much from others or from the outside, brought me more love, satisfaction and balance than I could have ever hoped for. Sinking into what is already there, within, can be so gratifying, but, we regularly forget to do this essential work that is mostly found in, pausing and savoring. That’s often where all of the magic is existing. When I view as if I am expanding, inward to outward, and coloring the world with my energy, rather than desiring to gain something from the world, then, I am feeling most comfortable.

There is always recalibrating, and replenishing that is needed for this process to be effectively facilitated, should we stray from ourselves. This is not a magic trick, but, a process, like everything else.

This quote attaches us to the simple, beautiful, sustainable, and so accessible power of presence; to who we are in the now, and urges us towards what we can do to enhance and contribute to our precious & ever evolving selves.

Everything that we need is in us, at the present moment.

We are the present moment. It has taken me awhile to truly embrace and understand this concept of embodied presence .. the undeniable fact, that, we are Presence Itself.

Sometimes our strengths seem invisible; buried or muted, in some way, but, the reassuring truth is that, our strengths are indeed very powerful, and very available to us once we open completely to their gifts, rather than seeking, what we already have.

This opening only takes some noticing, some confidence, some space, some pausing, some identifying, and some readjusting, perhaps ..

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many. In the past, I feel like i have said Bob Dylan as an answer to this question, but right now, I feel like it might be Meryl Streep. She is such an elegant example to all women, in respect to eloquence, confidence, humor, and in regard to the importance of cultivating abilities. I feel that her presence would be so humbling, teaching, and affirming. I also totally would not mind meeting up with Leonardo DiCaprio:)

(I would not object to hanging out with Mick Jagger or Neil Younger, either!)

How can our readers follow you online?

The best ways to follow me online are via Instagram; my favorite way at Instagram.com/stardustmemory.annamay. This is where I enjoy posting the most. I basically use Instagram as a blog space which includes photography of mine, nature writing, motivational, holistic and health-based writings, poetry, etc .. this is likely the most expressive part of me, online. For shows and new music, I tend to list and update at annamaymusic.com and at facebook.com/annamayfolk/.

All of my recordings to date can be found at, annamay.bandcamp.com.

I have also been updating with live home performances and new songs at YouTube.com/annamayfolk/ & i am, although new to Spotify, on Spotify :

https://annamay.bandcamp.com/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!


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