In many ways, you need LESS to succeed than you think! #1 is perseverance. Most other things can be learned and acquired. But if there is a WILL, you will find a way — just stay with it! I THOUGHT I needed all this “stuff” and a team of people to be noticed in show business. Oh sure that’s all nice and it all helps. But end of day it comes down to YOU: what’s your message as an artist and can you consistently deliver it — and does it resonate?
As part of my series featuring the rising stars in the music industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Danes. Anna is a top Billboard jazz recording artist, with her current critically acclaimed album, “Find Your Wings”, debuting at #1 on the iTunes jazz charts, Top 25 in all of Billboard Jazz, and Top 13 in Billboard Traditional Jazz! The album was recorded at the iconic Capitol Studios in Hollywood. The multi-talented, Polish born, LA based performer, songwriter and music producer has quickly made big waves in the jazz world — and a name for herself — as the sultry, glamorous and humorous modern songstress of jazz “with the sensitivity and interpretative abilities closely akin to Sinatra’s”. Anna’s story is the story of the American Dream: born in Poland (on the 4th of July!) during communism, she grew up watching Hollywood movies and listening to Sinatra, dreaming of a better life. Her family finally escaped Poland for Sweden, leaving everything behind, ultimately settling in Canada, where she spent her youth and completed law school. Then, 20 years ago, love brought the young attorney to California and what followed were years of working in the family business and being a stay-at-home mom. But just six years ago, in the middle of her divorce, Anna discovered that she could sing after her seven year old daughter refused to continue with her singing lessons! The rest as they say is history! Two albums later, producing shows for clients like Neiman Marcus and The San Diego Symphony, founding a hugely popular jazz showcase, singing the National Anthem in front of as many as 45,000 people, her life has taken a massive shift for the stars — and Anna is just getting started! Anna is also now acting and has shot her first film, “Fatal Perfection”, in which she played a supporting role. Anna also recently completed shooting an episode of a new reality series slated for one of the big streaming networks: “180: Turning Point”, with the episode being wholly focused on her inspirational story. She is also a two time breast cancer survivor. Anna is also a professional speaker and is sharing her story in a variety of speaking engagements called “concert speeches”. She recently did a TEDx Talk where she delivered an uplifting message about grit, perseverance and chasing your dreams — and she did it with a lot of Hollywood glamour — and using her original jazz music!
Thank you so much for joining us Anna! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Seven years ago, my then 7 year old daughter did not want to continue with her music lessons and I did not want to waste the hour or the $60 the lesson cost, and being unable to convince her to continue singing, I stood up and took her place! I was a stay at home mom and lawyer before that with zero aspirations ever for show business! It was right time, right place: my marriage was failing and I found a safe place to express my feelings and sing beautiful songs above the love I was missing in my life!
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
There are so many and it’s only been about six years! So many “miracles” really! OK here is one: when I was getting ready to release my 2nd album, “Find Your Wings”, my team and I worked really hard to get the album out in pre-sales so it would chart on iTunes. I was told the night before the release that we MAY end up in the top 100 new releases. But on the day of the release, I woke up to find myself in the #1 spot on iTunes Jazz — Billboard shortly followed, where the album ended up in Top 25 for all of Jazz! Never in my wildest dreams did I envision this! From stay at home mom, to Billboard — and it keeps happening!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Well, you are FIRST to know, I am starting work on my 3RD album! It will once again be full of original songs, my stories, and I am working with an incredible producer! ALSO, I am going to be on the small screen and have filmed an episode for a new reality series AND am about to do a 2nd series! The first is motivational in nature and the second is about music! I will also be on the big screen and have my first film coming out, a short entitled “Fatal Perfection” with an award winning director!
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I’ve certainly met my share of famous people by now. To me, the most interesting ones are the ones who have had incredible success but remain humble and down to earth. They have taught the importance of knowing who you are, celebrating your individuality (NOT downplaying it!) and working HARD! One of my first mentors in music, Larry White, is one such person. He had an amazing career as a singer, songwriter, arranger, conductor, worked in TV, Vegas, worked with top talent in the world — and remains lovingly devoted to his music and to now teaching it to kids!
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I am inspired by people who “sing to their own tune” and stand up for what they believe in. To me Frank Sinatra embodied that: he was so original, so good and always found time to support causes he passionately believed in. People with integrity and guts — and a sense of selflessness.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
First of all, I hope that my “art” (my music, storytelling) takes people away and inspires them that we are all in this together and we share the same experiences and feelings — and that my art is somehow beautiful! But I have also used social media platforms to share my STORY of how every day I am hustling after my dream in an effort to inspire others to follow THEIR dreams and realize that it’s never too late to start chasing them! I started in music at 43 and in the middle of a divorce!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
A movement where people would SUPPORT each other more, encourage one another, listen, not judge! It often feels like we live in a segmented society, everyone out for themselves, in competition with everyone else. It shouldn’t be like that. We all have something to contribute in this world and there is room for all of us.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
If you are no longer enjoying what you do, then find a better way to do it! Take a step back, assess objectively, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing — or why you started! I find that having a true passion for your work is so integral to how you approach your every day and your whole life! I remember Celine Dion in an interview recently saying how she was kind of bored of singing — I nearly gasped! Maybe she is simply doing too much of one thing — I don’t know and I cannot answer for her. But if that were me, I would diversify my career with other endeavors and projects that fuel me with passion again! My other tip is to stay educated in your field and well connected — you are only as good as your team and your network!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- It’s going to take longer than you think to “get there”! When I released my first album Longing in 2013 I though for sure EVERYTHING was just going to happen and I’d be singing my heart out every day and every where and success would just roll right in! Doesn’t work like that. Takes time, YEARS, to develop a true following and hone your voice as an ARTIST, not just a singer! And to make a living doing it on top of everything else! And you have to constantly keep at it!
- DON’T TRUST everyone you meet on the journey! I am extremely trusting and “nice” (must be the Canadian in me, lol!), and being new to show business, I often ended up in the hands of the wrong handlers, who were basically out for their own financial gain. Or unscrupulous individuals who over-promised, never delivered, seeing stars in my eyes as a sign of “naïveté” .
- The MORE you are YOURSELF, the better! That’s where your true colors shine as an artist — there is no one like you in the world so you might as well tap into what it is, share it, celebrate it! Imagine if someone had told CHER to tone it down years ago?! How boring would that have been if she had listened! I’ve experimented on my musical journey, hid behind outfits and fake hair, being prim, polite only to realize, WHO CARES, I’m just going to be ME, say things that I MEAN, sing songs that I LOVE, wear my hair the way I LIKE it — there is room for all of us and I find that my fans appreciate that authenticity MORE than anything!
- Whenever something feels like a VERY GUILTY PLEASURE it generally means that you are on the right path and you should EMBRACE it and explore it — it means you REALLY want to DO that, say that, buy that ETC — so DO IT! For years I struggled with this guilt over going into music — seemed so frivolous for an ex-lawyer, but I’ve literally found my passion and my calling out of following those feelings, and it has transformed all facets of my life!
- In many ways, you need LESS to succeed than you think! #1 is perseverance. Most other things can be learned and acquired. But if there is a WILL, you will find a way — just stay with it! I THOUGHT I needed all this “stuff” and a team of people to be noticed in show business. Oh sure that’s all nice and it all helps. But end of day it comes down to YOU: what’s your message as an artist and can you consistently deliver it — and does it resonate?
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Oh hell YES, Oprah! My mission in life is also purely altruistic! I want to better people’s lives and lift them with my music and messaging! My friends laugh when I tell them my big vision that “I want to be the late-blooming, jazz singing, cancer surviving, immigrant, BLONDE Oprah!” And I want to spread my message through various means, from TV to magazines, products and shows! And that’s nothing to laugh about! The world needs more positive messaging — and MORE hope!
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