Michaela Anne may be from Brooklyn but she’s found a home in Nashville and with strong, confident releases such as the upcoming “Desert Dove” (Yep Roc Records) and international tours, her fans span continents.
But about that confidence.
There’s an endless stream of both solicited and unsolicited advice for up-and-coming country singers in Nashville, Tenn., and that was true for Michaela Anne.
“When I got to Nashville, I was told the ‘rules’ of songwriting,” Michaela Anne said. “I was informed that a woman in a country song can never be the victim, but she can also never be the perpetrator. That’s not real life. As a woman, sometimes you’re everything all at once, and I wanted to write about those experiences.”
And so she did, and does — and nowhere better than on "Desert Dove."
But because Michaela Anne is that strong and confident songwriter, those weren’t the only risks she took on this album, her first for Yep Roc Records.
Incorporating her signature classic country with modern production elements, the result is a haunting self-examination that never fields too much “self” as it spins out lives and lyrics that resonate on a global register.
“Desert Dove” won’t release until late September, but an excellent representation of the whole, “By Our Design,” is available from a link under the music tab at https://www.michaelaanne.com/. Check that out and know this from someone who’s had a chance to hear the full set: They’re all that good.
And speaking of good, Michaela Anne was good enough to answer a few questions from Mountain Times recently. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Tom Mayer: You’ve said that "Desert Dove" represents a sonic, artistic and professional shift for you. The songwriting is still best described as classic country, but you’ve refreshed the sound. Gone on this album is the raw tonality of songs such as “Easier Than Leaving.” Would you tell me about that both in terms of production and listener experience?
Michaela Anne: I went into this record being conscious of my desire to make a sonic shift. I love my last two records, but I feel like they're safe and predictable in some ways. Don't get me wrong, I love the simplicity of an acoustic song with very minimal, if any, production. And I've never been very sonically adventurous in my writing — I’m much more driven by the emotion of songs.
Yet, I still wanted to push myself this record to reflect the kind of music that excites me; I wanted to make a record that I'd objectively love and listen to if it didn't feel weird to sit around and listen to myself. Ha! Also, not to mention the natural growth as an artist. As I age, I gain a lot of new experiences, my perspective changes and my tastes change, so therefore what I create is affected. I kept saying I wanted to make a record that in my mind sounded like a mix of the catchy, accessible, emotional aspects of a Patty Loveless or Shania Twain record combined with the sonic elements I love of records like The War On Drugs or Rayland Baxter.
TM: A signature of your work, and certainly on albums such as “Ease My Mind” and “Bright Lights and the Fame,” is the classic country I’m-so-lonesome-I-could-die melancholy you masterfully infuse with a rare self-confident lyricism. Yet, I’m catching something a little different on “Desert Dove” — a bit more regret added to the mix, maybe? Is this album somehow even more personal to you than your previous releases?
MA: Yes, I think it is. I think my last record had a few more "stories" — narratives that I created or made up separate from myself, “Bright Lights and the Fame” being a prime example of that. This record definitely pulls from a lot more of my own contemplation, my own struggles and experiences of the past several years.
TM: You’re teasing "Desert Dove" with the vulnerable and seemingly introspective “By Our Design” (available on Spotify and your website). It’s an excellent representation of the album. But beside this, what song from this disc resonates most with you … and why?
MA: ”Child of the Wind" is probably my most autobiographical song. It's essentially me in a nutshell. And I feel like the production really represents that as well. It has this kind of dirty, distorted guitar sound on it and the strings were arranged and performed by one of my closest friends, Kristin Weber. It has somewhat of an Eagles vibe, a great song to roll down the windows and drive to, belting at the top of your lungs. Which, no matter how many times that's done or how cliche that is, it will always be one of the best feelings to me. "One Heart" is another one that's a very personal reflection on my nature of loving people maybe a little too easily or quickly.
TM: “Desert Dove” doesn’t drop until late September, so I’ll guess we’ll have to wait for that. But, you’re on a fairly full summer tour — can we expect anything from the new album on those dates?
MA: Definitely. We won't be playing all of them, but I have added a few of them to the live set.