Artist Name: Lee Anna
Song Title: Give Me You
Genre: Soulful Pop
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Lee Anna – Give Me You
Lee Anna is a singer-songwriter from Mississippi. After living and playing in New York City for six years, she recently relocated to Los Angeles where she continues to develop her soulful pop sound. Her first single GIVE ME YOU was released in October 2018, in collaboration with Eli Paskowitz of the producing duo Verbless. Like magic, the single came together in a matter of hours during their first session together and quickly became the lantern track for SALT + LIGHT, a full-length album coming early 2019. Under the influence of Florence + the Machine, Sia, Whitney Houston, and Carole King, Lee Anna mixes pop beats and hypnotic, muscular vocals with the soul of her southern roots for a contemporary and lushly feminine sound. Lee Anna serves as the host artist for Hometown Sessions, a national concert series that takes popular singer-songwriters back to their small towns to spotlight the importance of arts education. She currently opens for these artists. While she finalizes SALT + LIGHT, Lee Anna is booking her own shows in the Los Angeles area and writes for a select number of L.A.-based artists’ projects.
Brief us on how to impress fans during a live performance.
Live performance is all about connection. There’s a StoryPeople quote that says, “There came a moment in the middle of the song where she suddenly felt every heartbeat in the room,” and as abstract as that sounds, everyone knows that feeling during a great concert or seeing a new artist for the first time. That’s the feeling I’m trying to cultivate during a performance – gather each person in, one note at a time, until they’re all in the music with you. You should leave feeling like you were a part of something bigger.
Explain what has motivated you so far in your music career.
Music has saved me a few times; I want my music to lighten someone else’s load in that way. That’s what motivates me. If I had to rely on ego or hype or the want for fame, those are such fickle motivators. The one that sustains me is the idea that a song might make someone feel better understood, that a group of friends would turn it up loud on a long road trip and feel alive and connected to each other and every time that song plays it would take them back to that moment. The memories that I have like…
Discuss your experience as an artist.
I spent a lot of time being a good singer without a sound really. It was jazzy with powerful vocals, yes, but for years I gigged around New York and tried to find that sound and collaborators to no avail. Back in May, I decided to move out to L.A. after my manager relocated there, and it was like someone flipped a switch. There were so many incredible artists and producers that I met in the first couple of weeks and started working with shortly after. That to me has been the most valuable experience so far: finding people who are doing what I’m doing at a higher level and learning from them.
Tell us the biggest mistake you have ever made in your music career.
This is more of a man I wish I would have spent that budget differently, but going into a studio that I didn’t vibe with an engineer who was great but not particularly into the project and with session musicians who I hadn’t spoken to directly prior to the sessions. It was a learning experience but an expensive one that in the end yielded a great quality recording that lacked soul or magic.
Discuss the story behind the song.
Eli, this ridiculously talented young producer out of OC, we went into the studio for a writing session right after I moved to L.A… He played a track he had started the night before, the chorus came almost immediately – I sang it for him, and as soon as it hit the line “give me you” we both knew that’s what we were going to work on. The concept was one I had been talking with a friend about that day of trying to keep your head above the water of insecurity, particularly in a new relationship, and the first line was actually grafted off an old song I found in my notebook that fit really well. A couple of hours later we had the structure and vocals down and Zach Bodtorf came in and replaced the guitar sample. The song clearly had potential but at this point, we’re 4 or 5 hours in and decided to start on another and come back to it later with fresh ears. Ordered some dinner and in that time my manager Shelby came in as well as a friend Billie Fountain so we played them what we had. Billie sat down at the midi board and played the keys you hear now on the track. All of a sudden the song was there. That was it; that was the missing piece. It was like magic – I think we all felt it. Eli did some tweaks and played a bounce and it was like the room crackled. We listened to it on repeat in the car ride home. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling.
Tell us how to fund a music project.
I personally produce music events as a day job. If you have any sort of organizational skill, musicians already (hopefully) know how to put on a great show and have an advantage in understanding sound engineering, how to communicate with the artists, etc. so it’s a unique way to use all of that and make money while you’re building your solo stuff. I also recently have started writing for other artists, which granted isn’t exactly easy to get started doing either, but it has long been the advice I’m given most to earn both relationships in the industry and funding for your own stuff by songwriting.
Discuss your opinion on the safety of fans during shows and live performances.
I think about this a lot, and it comes down to making sure there is as much vigilant security and protocols in place as possible without concertgoers feeling like there’s a reason to be afraid that they’re going through airport security. At the end of the day, we want to be as safe as possible but not let the terrible incidents in the recent past control us through fear.
Tell us the greatest piece of advice someone has given you as an artist.
So many pieces come to mind. I remember Jeremy Loops saying “an artist is not stirred, an artist stirs” which is both a tongue twister and a really poetic way of thinking about it. There is stillness or a center you have to reach that helps you make authentic choices based on your gut and creativity versus what everyone else is doing or supposed to do.
Tell us what you will improve or change in your music.
I’m trying to own the vocal production side more. When Beyonce has a track, there’s a vocal composition that is solely her own. She stacks her backgrounds and has that little super far back in the mix lines and melodies that have become almost a signature instrument. Same for Sia and Florence and the Machine, they have that sound down – it’s not just the lead vocals. I’m trying to figure out what that looks like for my sound and songs.
Discuss vocal training and how you protect your vocal.
Vocal exercises every day, long warm-ups before sessions, healthy placement. These are not the glamorous “I don’t even need to warm up before hitting these belty notes” practices, but they’re the healthy ones so do it. I also don’t smoke and try to stay away from dairy anytime I’m singing.
Discuss your best mood during a performance.
Playful. When I feel playful on stage it means I’m also confident which means a better performance overall and also kind of feels like flying.
State your artist’s name and elaborate on it.
My artist name is my given name, Lee Anna.
List your best artists with reasons.
Beyonce – she is the entire package, such a hard worker, just dynamic for days. Also, Lemonade is as close as I’ve ever heard anyone ever come to putting human organs on a record.
Whitney Houston – raised the bar for what was possible vocally.
Shawn Mendes – something about his music is incredibly uplifting, maybe it’s that open acoustic sound threaded in but I love his music.
Demi Lovato – her voice is exceptional and songs, like Tell Me You Love Me with that soulful edge, are what I’m here for.
Carole King – what an incredible songwriter and the story of how she became an artist is such a great reminder that the sum of a song and an artist can be greater than its parts, there are no standards or limitations – great entertainers don’t fit into anyone’s template.
Discuss your existence as an artist.
Pretty great, lots of highs and lows, but overall I’m very grateful to be doing this.
Tell us the greatest problem you think is facing society and the solution.
Globally, there are so many. Extreme poverty, hunger, the list goes on and on. People are disengaged from these struggles, humanitarian aid tends to come with a sense of superiority where since we’re not [born into] in this position of need it must mean I know how to meet your need better than you do which in turn is like a bandaid on a bullet wound, and overall there’s agreed of a few that is leading to a diminishing middle class for the masses. Do I think I have the solution, no? But I do believe in humans. And I do believe that if we keep individually educating ourselves and trying to educate and bring in others, we can engage. It truly is about everyone doing their part, even if their part seems small.
Discuss your songwriting and recording.
I write a couple of songs or at least chorus/melody ideas a day, either a cappella into my voice memos or with simple chords on a piano. I’ll come back to them the next week or one will stay stuck in my head, and I’ll send it over to friends/producers or bring it into a session and see where it goes from there. If I’m writing off beats, a melody and theme usually are already there in the music. I remember the producer SVA and I were in a session and he played me a track where the first thing I scribbled down was “going round and round and round.” When the song finished he said “yeah, so that one is called ‘Circles'” which blew my mind. Recently there was a song that I had such a specific idea for, so much so that I went into Ableton for the first time and made my own shitty beat just to show the feeling I was going for and it paid off in dividends. Eli made the beat SO much better but it had the exact feel I heard in my head, and it’s now one of my favorite songs and actually is going to be the next single, I Think You Love Me. I also really love writing in the studio so you can get those vocals down as fresh as possible, but in my experience, it’s better to have at least one really developed theme or line to start from so you don’t just fall into writing filler lyrics in the excitement and rush of recording.