Anna Nalick is beginning to live her dreams. As one of a new breed of singer-songwriters for this young century, the 20-year-old California native has put the finishing touches on her debut album, Wreck of the Day, and the result is a refreshing blend of sophisticated wordplay, haunting melodies, sublime textures and atmosphere. With all music and lyrics written by Anna, Wreck of the Day signals the arrival of an unmistakable new voice in pop music, full of youthful exuberance and provocative reflection.
Anna takes a heartfelt, introspective and spiritual approach when writing her words and music. She notes that “inspiration comes from a variety of sources,” adding that her songs are “not necessarily about my personal experiences, but sometimes just observations of situations or relationships of different people I’ve known. They get funneled through my own inner psyche. Whatever the source of the interpretation, the feelings I get are personal. I find a need to write these feelings down in words and the melody follows.” Although Anna’s songs are intimate, they are poignantly universal at the same time.
The strikingly melodic “Breathe (2 AM),” the album’s first single, examines life’s uncertainties and offers comfort as Anna describes “three different situations that were intertwined during a particular period of time.” She looks for salvation in “Satellite,” her lonesome voice cutting deep in such lines as: “And so I send my feeble flare/Through the silent, arctic air/Heading anywhere/Until at last I’ve finally found/A place to lay my anchor down.”
Elsewhere, hard questions and fears are faced in the contemplative “Citadel,” which Anna singles out as a song which “&describes me the most. It was written at a time when I just wasn’t feeling like I fit in. I was feeling tentative and afraid to just jump in with both feet. There’s a line in the song–‘What if I fall? What if I don’t? What if I never make it home?’ It’s saying that it’s one thing to be afraid, but you’ll never know if you’ll make it or not unless you try. There’s still this little girl inside me, who may be just a little scared, but at the same time, really wants to dive in and experience all those big exciting possibilities around her.”
Citing a wide range of influences running from Fiona Apple and Tori Amos, with whom she shares a complex feminine poignancy, to Blind Melon and John Mayer, whose adroit poetic paradoxes reverberate in her songs, to Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom she calls, simply, “The guy that I’m going to marry when I get to heaven,” Anna generates a sound and sensibility distinctly her own.
“Ever since I was a little girl I just knew I wanted to be a performer,” she recalls. “My earliest inspiration came from my grandparents, they both performed on Broadway, mainly in the chorus. My grandmother even danced with Fred Astaire. She was in the stage versions of the Marx Brothers’ ‘Coconuts’ and ‘Animal Crackers.’ I learned many of the songs from those old shows from my grandmother who taught them to me when I was a kid.” Anna’s grandmother passed on when Anna was in the 8th grade, but her tales of classic old school “show business” instilled in Anna the passionate desire to become a performer herself.
Anna grew up in Glendora, California, just east of Pasadena. “A town with a main street with an ice cream shop,” is how she describes it, “like out of ‘Back to the Future.'” When Anna was 14, her father turned her on to the sounds of Elvis and the Everly Brothers, while her mother spun disks for Anna by artists like the Rolling Stones, Cream, and Led Zeppelin.
Anna marks the approximate beginnings of her songwriting career with memories of 5th grade math class: “I was sitting there, not paying attention, as usual, and rewriting lyrics to a Cranberries’ song. I’d also listen to Green Day and pick out bass notes on guitar. I figured out that I could put that all together and write my own melodies.”
By the time Anna reached high school, her musical aspirations were in full swing. In addition to writing her own songs, she was developing as a live performer, singing on-stage with a Rush cover band. “I was also in a band with my best guy friend and we played hard rock songs,” she recalls, “and I had to be really angry and do a lot of screaming.” But the Rush and metal covers were a far cry from Anna’s true musical calling: the writing and performing of her own original and personal songs.
Anna’s original plan was to go to college and then follow her dream of a career in music. As she began college, she continued writing and documented her songs on a Rainbow Brite cassette tape recorder. She soon met a photographer (who taught a class at a local high school) who mentioned to Anna that one of her students had parents in the music business. Anna passed along a six song lo-fi home demo and the next thing she knew, that student’s mother, a manager of producers and other talent, introduced Anna to Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith, the founding members of Blind Melon now turned production team, and Eric Rosse, best known for his production work with Tori Amos.
Suddenly, Anna Nalick was working on a master demo with some of the very artists who’d helped inspire her in the beginning. “That was my first experience in a professional studio,” she says. “It was amazing. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I loved having my music fully realized! We immediately began to play the demo to a select number of record companies and within about two weeks, I had label interest.” Anna Nalick signed with Columbia Records in October 2003. Putting her college plans on hold, Anna went into the studio with Thorn, Smith and Rosse as producers, together with mix-engineer Mark Endert (Fiona Apple, Maroon 5, Gavin DeGraw) and an all-star group of musicians that included Smith on bass, Thorn on guitar, Rosse and Zak Rae (Alanis Morissette, Macy Gray, Sinead O Connor) on keyboards, Lyle Workman (Frank Black, Sheryl Crow, They Might Be Giants) and Stuart Mathis (Jewel) on guitar, Joey Waronker (Beck, Johnny Cash, Elliott Smith, Nelly Furtado) and Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, David Bowie, John Mayer) on drums.
The result is Wreck of the Day, a collection of 11 songs matching Anna’s deeply resonant vocals with finely etched keyboard and guitar-based settings. She touches on a lot of big things, in a personal and engaging way, and invites the world to join her.