A year or more ago, Anna Dagmar asked me for a quote for her EPK (Electronic Press Kit). I have booked Anna as an opener at our coffeehouse and I’ve seen her numerous times at various conferences so I’ve been well aware of her music for a good long while. This is what I wrote about her music: “Atmospheric and almost other-worldly, yet grounded by intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics that are sure to touch your mind and your heart.” Yes. That sums it up for me.
In addition to pursuing her own varied solo efforts, Anna has been playing gigs with the Chicks with Dip who are celebrating Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. The Chicks also recorded their tribute to the amazing Joni.
For more information about Anna, check out her website.
If you had to try to describe your music to someone in one or two sentences, what would you say?
Piano-woven folk/pop! Well…that’s my tag. I am a classical and jazz-trained pianist who gradually admitted my true, deepest desire — to be a singer-songwriter. I’ve kept much of the elegance and spontaneity of my classical and jazz roots in the accompaniments for my songs.
I categorize you as a fearless musician. Your music explores new territory and sometimes challenges the listeners. Your jazz music background may explain that quite a bit. Have you sometimes surprised the “folk” audiences you’ve performed before?
Thank you so much for using the word “fearless.” I don’t always feel that way, but it’s something I always strive for. Jazz improvisation did teach me to play on the edge, take chances, and look for new ways through a song. It also helped me learn to see the piano keys like a million possibilities, or like the colors of a painter’s palette. Each time you dip in to them, you can create a new painting. It really feels like that when performing feels right!
I know that you’ve been a Joni Mitchell fan for many years. Are you more inclined to sit down and listen to her edgier jazzy albums than her earlier singer-songwriter albums?
I wouldn’t say so, at the core what I love about Joni is her sense of poetry. The way she describes emotions so eloquently and intelligently. She has a rare gift for talking about emotions but with greater depth and wisdom than many lyricists. I also find the simplicity of the arrangements on albums like Clouds and Blue to be all that’s needed to orchestrate the songs. However, it’s incredible to me to hear her with jazz players like Miles, Mingus or Jaco. And they so deeply respected her ingenuity. That’s quite inspiring to me.
Did Blue make an impact on you when you first heard it?
I have a funny story about that. As a sophomore in high school, I played in a band led by upper classmate Meghan Toohey (who now plays with The Weepies among others). She gave me the album Blue the day of a gig, literally, and said, “Can you figure out the piano on the title track so we can perform this tonight?” I was freaking out when I heard it on multiple levels! First of all, it was one of the most stunningly beautiful songs I’d ever set my ears to. But beyond that I was scrambling to write down the notes which are fairly complex, and I kept pausing the track on my little discman. This was before the days of sheet music websites of course… I was well-versed at jazz solo transcribing, so I suppose it was within reason for her to ask me to do this on short-notice. Luckily I was able to figure out the piano part and perform it with her that night, squinting at my pencil scratching on the giant staff paper. It was an unforgettable moment and after that the CD didn’t leave my car for about two years!
Your last recording, Satellite, is a gorgeous piece of music—one where you really spread your musical wings. The video of the title song is spectacular. Can you tell us about the genesis of this video?
Oh yes, I wanted to convey my gratitude to both of my parents for instilling in me an openness and respect for philosophy and religion. They have quite different views about God and how to define meaning in their own lives, but have stayed happily married all these years. This really taught me to seek for myself in life and to be tolerant and loving towards people of differing belief systems. In terms of the video, the added inspiration for dance and multimedia effects came from the director, Mitch Jacobson. He had a brilliant idea to give the video the feel of a swirling Satellite kaleidoscope. We accomplished this by giving each of the dancers small action cameras called GoPros. Mitch nicknamed the dancers “Camerinas. ®” Also the video features the movements choreographed by Annie Sailer, with whom I had studied dance in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. So, many different facets of my life were coming together when I had the wonderful opportunity to make that video. To view it, click here:
What’s up next for you?
There are two main things I’m working on right now. One is a full-length musical I am writing with lyricist Kevin Wanzor in the context of the BMI Musical Theatre Writing Workshop. Because we do not yet have the rights yet for our piece, I’m not allowed to publicly share the source material yet…but will say it’s based on a fun and touching film from the 90’s. I should be able to let the cat out of the bag in a few months!
In addition to my solo performing all year long, I am working on writing several string quartet arrangements to accompany my songs. I just bought a $100 violin (seriously!) to help learn more about bowings and string crossings the way “real” composers did back in the day. I’m also taking some orchestration lessons with a great teacher named Randy Woolf who has coached other artists on this including Toshi Reagon. Small world!
The Chicks with Dip will be playing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, March 8.