It hasn’t been a bad year so far for Anna Calvi. Featuring on the BBC Sound of 2011 shortlist, her self-titled debut album has had a positive reception (including this lyrical review from our own Dara Higgins) and now she finds herself preparing for her first major headline tour, including a date at the Workman’s Club in Dublin on February 23rd. State spoke to her about the album, the fuss and patronage of some famous fans…
Did the thought of working with a producer like Rob Ellis for the first time worry you?
I had a very strong vision when I went into the studio. I was lucky working with Rob because he didn’t try and change that, we worked very well together. It was a real collaborative effort and a very rewarding one. I made it very clear when I met and him, and he could hear it in my demos, what kind of sound I wanted to create. The point of working with someone else though is to get two heads as opposed to one and he did have a lot to contribute. It’s a better record for it.
What was that sound you wanted?
When I started to record and write it I wanted to make as honest a piece of work as possible. I wasn’t interested in whether other people would like it or whether it was fashionable in any way. I don’t really think about my influences either, everyone has them and it’s natural that they show themselves in your work. I just try to write music that I would like to listen to and that feels honest and passionate for me.
It must be encouraging then to have had such a good reaction?
It takes a certain amount of bravery to say that I’m going to do this, even if only five people like it because it’s so weird and it’s got no hits on it or it’s dark. You have to stick to your guns even if no-one wants to release it because it’s not commercial or whatever the potential pressures are. That’s what makes good art, if you’re true your beliefs. If some people hate it, others will love it and that’s just the way it goes. It’s been really hopeful that that’s happened, that you don’t have to compromise to make people like you. The audience can sense when artists compromise in a careerist way, in some way that sends messages that people pick up on – if music has other things in mind rather than being art.
Do you think that artists such as Nick Cave and Brian Eno see something of themselves in you?
I have no idea if that crossed their minds really. It probably is a concern for artists who want to push themselves as musicians. The question that you end up asking yourself is are your making music for yourself or for your listeners? Doing the latter is far more dangerous because you fall into the trap of trying to please people.
Anna Calvi’s self-titled album is out now on Domino Records.