TheVine interview: Anna Calvi: “I try and look people in the eye.” November 2011

I interview Anna Calvi for TheVine. Excerpt below.

The daughter of an English mother and music-obsessed Italian father, London-based singer/songwriter Anna Calvi was exposed to a variety of influences from an early age. But if you pay close attention, there’s plenty of references surrounding her self-titled debut of this year: the nimble Delta blues of Robert Johnson, the impressionistic swoon of Maurice Ravel, Maria Callas’ pure drama, and — visually speaking — the smoked-out primary colours of filmmaker Wong Kar-wai.

Many young artists would struggle to differentiate themselves from such an eclectic palette of tastes or, even worse, get themselves lost in a patchwork of paying dues. But Calvi’s a late bloomer. At 29, she only this year released her first album, and has the feeling of someone who’s matured into her craft, harnessing each of these elements to facilitate a mature and distinctive form of self-expression.

On the phone Calvi, much like her music, gives little away. There are no wasted words or platitudes; just a direct line to musings on a busy year, a need to retain creative control over her work, and her first ever tour to Australia when she lands on these shores for Laneway Festival in late January.

Whereabouts are you, Anna?

My flat.

In London, I’m assuming?


Our first attempt at an interview was kyboshed by you having lost your voice. It’s been a big year. Has it taken its toll physically?

I’m really, really careful, and I take it very seriously that I do rely on my body to do my work, so if I feel like I’m coming down with a cold I just wouldn’t do any interviews. It’s more important for me to sing well. I’m very conscientious about warming up and so because of that I’ve done all right. I’m not in too bad a shape [right now].

It’s ten months since the release of your album. The last count I did had you at thirty festival dates over the northern summer. Does life feel a lot different to how it did at the start of the year?

Yeah, that was a really busy period with all those festivals. I think it was actually thirty-three in the end. Yeah, a lot. I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed getting to play in all these different places. It’s been really good.

The album sounded like a very intense experience for you personally. People tend to look back on those intense periods of their life and discover something different about themselves – perhaps put it into perspective. Do these songs now feel different to you? Has their meaning changed after you’ve played them so much?

I definitely try and approach them from a current place because I don’t listen to the album; I don’t really think about the recorded version of them anymore. Whatever they are that night is what they mean to me. So it doesn’t feel like reproducing a recorded song.

Are you keen to get on to some new material?

Yeah, I’m definitely looking forward to getting on with that, when I have longer at home.

You locked yourself away to make this album. Is that the only way you think you can make music, by locking yourself away and not letting yourself out until you’ve come up with something?

I personally work better when I’m on my own. It just works for me.

You talk about the material coming out of that very isolation of recording on your own. The fact that the process was feeding on itself, did that make it harder to know when to stop?

I think just being a perfectionist makes it hard for me to stop. But at some point you have to, and that’s kind of a good thing. I don’t think I would spend as long on the next record as I did on this one.

For the full article, visit TheVine.

Leave a Reply