…Artists need to be confident, mentally strong and have tough skin as the world is not always easy on you. If you are not strong-minded you easily get swept up in critics, opinions, and second-guessing. These are things all people deal with but especially in such a ruthless industry. It is extremely important to have the confidence in yourself to always be very secure and level-headed. My advice to myself is to keep my composure and focus. It is important not to get discouraged. You will hear no a million times, so you have to know why it’s worth it to keep going and the talents that you have that make you special and unique to eventually hear the yes that can change your life.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Annalise Azadian.
Hailing from New York and based in the Bronx, the charismatic artist, Annalise Azadian has been building a buzz over the last few years for her unique spin on soulful R&B sounds. Her live performances have included slots for industry heavyweights Cardi B, Bebe Rexha, and Bibi Bourelly during her career. Annalise is a singer soul-writer with a signature raspy, emotive voice and poetic storytelling. Her music and her cool girl vibe is quickly setting her up as the Next IT Girl. Her recent release “Life of The Party ‘’, put out by The Orchard, follows her successful solo project ‘Six Weeks of Seven’ which clocked up millions of streams led by her single ‘BoguS’ with over 2MM streams on Spotify alone. The 24-year-old has won over industry legends including Elton John, who proclaimed her as a fabulous songwriter during his Rocket Hour show on Beats 1. Further expanding her international presence, Annalise linked up with Korean neo-soul star Jooyoung on ‘Without You’. Annalise’s subtle but emotionally powerful vocals elevate every song to a new level adding profound depth to her self-written lyrics.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Middletown, New York, where I lived with my family in a small apartment. I always played outside with my friends in the neighborhood skateboarding and playing basketball. I have been a tomboy my whole life. I graduated High School early at 16 and got accepted into Berklee College of Music, the number 1 music school in the country located in Boston. There I got to meet a ton of amazing people and got to learn music theory which I never had a chance to, as I was self-taught and had always played music by ear. I ended up dropping out of Berklee as I was spending so much time in NYC in recording studios and I felt those opportunities were so important for my career. The 5-hour bus rides back and forth were getting too much and I took the decision that there were more opportunities for me if I lived in NYC. I ended up moving to Brooklyn to sleep on my uncle’s couch, DJ Enuff. I stayed there for about 9 months until I got my feet on the ground, learning to become a young adult and live on my own. I stayed in a very small room for about a year in BedStuy then made my way uptown to the Bronx living on the Concourse and now I am living in High Bridge near Yankee Stadium.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always loved music. My mom always played music in the house, and I loved listening to Alicia Keys and loved R&B. I grew up living in my grandmother’s house with my mom, uncles, and aunts until I was about 6 years old. When I turned 7, my grandmother bought me a violin, but I couldn’t get the hang of it and the classes were too expensive. One day when I was visiting my grandmother, I was about 10, she pulled out a guitar from the attic and I was completely blown away that I had never known she played the guitar. Thanks to her and my passion for music I went on to learn how to play and she even helped buy my first electric guitar. Later that year she passed away unexpectedly, and I wrote my first song dealing with losing her. My mom would always listen near my door until one day she confronted me saying that she heard all the songs I had been writing in my room and encouraged me to do more. From then on, she and my step-dad supported me greatly and looked for local opportunities for open mics and talent shows. I ended up building my confidence as I was winning contests and getting recognition for my work. I even won a competition at the legendary Apollo Theater which started a little buzz about me as an artist. I picked up the piano around 14 and continued finding melodies and storytelling with my music about the hardships I was facing as growing up as this young adolescent. I do believe that it is my fate to create music.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting thing that’s happened to me in my career was a few years back when Elton John shouted me out on his Beats 1 radio station, Rocket Hour. He went on to say I was a fabulous songwriter which was such an honor hearing that from a musical legend like himself. I was also very surprised that he had even listened to my song, but somehow it made its way to his ears. I believe he heard it after Ebro Darden played my song on his Beats 1 station. It really meant a lot to me back then and still now.
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 funniest mistake I made when I was younger was showing up for a performance without my own microphone and not having asked the right questions about the event. I won a chance to perform at K-Fest, a huge festival put on by the radio station K104 in New York a few years back. I showed up with my guitar to play one song between Charlie XCX and Robin Thicke and at the last minute, we realized there was no mic or stand for me. I had to play my song with the host, Woodman holding the wireless mic for me. From then on, I knew to not assume all equipment would be at shows, ask the right questions and always have a backup plan. Overall, the performance went really well, but it was definitely a funny moment. Everyone at K104 has always been super supportive on my journey, much love to them!!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am working with Swagg R’Celious (Grammy-winning for his work with H.E.R.) and we have two songs that are big favorites of mine. One lives more in the urban space where we chopped and screwed some of my vocals and the other is a vibey R&B track where my raspy vocals are raw and melodic. I love the contrast in the two pieces as they both reflect my two styles of singing and songwriting and I had the opportunity to experiment more in the studio.
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?
Diversity is so important in the entertainment industry because like the reality of everyday life, there are many people with different cultural backgrounds. I believe everyone deserves an opportunity in any field. The leadership positions in the record music industry have been so male-dominated for years — More recently we’ve seen some shifts recognizing great female leaders. From Silvia Rhone to Julie Greenwald, and last year Nicole Wyskoarko was named as co-head of A&R at Interscope. Women help get rid of bias, provide a new playing field…the more women we see in executive roles and be leaders of their own music legacies and empires, the more we can push towards equal ground in gender and race. I find beauty in learning about different cultures and traditions. Music comes from black culture, especially my favorite type, R&B. It’s an honor to be able to celebrate it. My favorite artists happen to be black women, whose voice and soul I’ve loved so much and gravitated to their style overall. Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Mary J Blige are a few to name that I would love to pay homage to. Being from NY I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood and school where it was a melting pot. I myself come from a diverse background being Armenian, Irish and Cuban mixed with much more I am still learning about as I get older and diving deeper into where I am from and my make-up. What people don’t know is that half of my family is a different ethnicity than me that I grew up with considering them as blood to me. When I was 2 years old, my step-father came into my life and took me under his wing. He is Puerto Rican. I celebrated most holidays in a Puerto Rican household with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as my younger sister.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Having a strong mind in this industry is so very important. I believe that wisdom will help you know the difference between criticism that is unfounded and critiquing which can be growth and learning. Artists need to be confident, mentally strong and have tough skin as the world is not always easy on you. If you are not strong-minded you easily get swept up in critics, opinions, and second-guessing. These are things all people deal with but especially in such a ruthless industry. It is extremely important to have the confidence in yourself to always be very secure and level-headed. My advice to myself is to keep my composure and focus. It is important not to get discouraged. You will hear no a million times, so you have to know why it’s worth it to keep going and the talents that you have that make you special and unique to eventually hear the yes that can change your life.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Stay the course. All of the hard work and dedication you put forward will pay off in the long run, there is no destination or success without the journey beforehand. It’s a marathon — Have breaks, drink water, pace yourself. Keep the long game focus in mind.
Be patient and be true to yourself. It is so easy to fall prey to wanting to make others happy, but as artists, it is important to be ourselves and produce music WE love and are proud and excited to release.
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. 🙂
Greater acceptance amongst people. Sometimes I wish more people could socialize more freely with strangers. Coming from NY where we ride the train with new people next to us every day, we sit so close to each other, but we rarely ever speak to one another. I believe that society norms could do with a bit more smiles, conversations, acceptance of differences and friendly approaches. Working towards a world that is less judgmental, friendlier and more understanding would do a lot of good!
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?
My mom has played a huge part in my career. First and foremost, she has always believed in me and stood by me. She has been by my side at every important moment in my career. She is a great advisor. Not being from the industry she still helps me get in the rooms to be heard by people that could help change my life and support my career. She’s pretty awesome and amazing all around.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life-lesson quote is “Move in Faith, Not in Fear “- I have it tatted on me as a constant reminder. It’s a journey, not a race and your mental ability to stay strong and believe in yourself is everything. I wrote this as a spin-off of something I heard once and it inspires me daily.
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. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Rihanna. As such a powerful woman and role model to me, I would love to pick her brain on how she overcame obstacles growing up in the limelight and how she decided to make the switch from a great artist to an amazing businesswoman. I would love to be a legendary artist, fashion icon and businesswoman with my own worldwide brand to be successful in any path I choose to go down just like her. With that being said, she also just became a Billionaire which is quite the accomplishment and an accolade I would love to achieve myself.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me at Annalise Azadian everywhere. First and last name across all platforms. I love engaging with my followers and seeing the impact my music has on them, especially the fans who have been so creative using my music on TikTok.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
It was great speaking with you and thank you for your support and love, it is greatly appreciated 🙂