somegirlnamedanna talks us through the journey that brought her from a talent show at age 11 to the release of her debut EP ‘twenty one, twenty two’.
“Hello” is the first word you’ll hear out of somegirlnamedanna, who didn’t think it’d be appropriate to share her personal stories with all of us without a getting a proper introduction first. “hello i am,” the opener of her debut EP twenty one, twenty two is deliciously weird. Her fragmented voice echoes, building up a sentence word by word until you’re caught in a trance.
After saying hi, it takes no time for her to get deep: “I’m just some girl/ With blood on my hands/ From trying to love the world”. By the end of the song she plays it off coolly: “I’m just somegirlnamedanna”. Of course, she’s not just some girl, because just some girl would never be able to, at eleven years old, sing her own composition at the Grandstand stage (whose capacity is 12,000 people) and decide, because of the thrill of that moment, she’d like to pursue a career in music. Just some girl wouldn’t, also, be able to look back ten years later and realise that she’d made her dream come true.
But, in many ways, somegirlnamedanna is just some girl: trying to navigate the tribulations of growing up, learning how to face your issues and be honest with yourself, missing your crush, and also just procrastinating on breaking up with a boy because he got you tickets for Coachella next month. This dichotomy is beautifully chronicled on twenty one, twenty two, somegirlnamedanna’s debut EP, released via LAVA/Republic Records last Friday (7/31).
somegirlnamedanna (virtually) sat with Atwood Magazine to talk us through the journey from that talent show at the Grandstand to the release of her debut EP, as well as discuss music as a form of escapism and the importance of kitchen tables.
Listen: twenty one, twenty two EP – somegirlnamedanna
A CONVERSATION WITH SOMEGIRLNAMEDANNA
Atwood Magazine: Hello, Anna!
somegirlnamedanna: Hello, Nicole! How are you doing?
I’m good, how are you?
somegirlnamedanna: Good! I heard you’re in Brazil right now.
Yes, I am in Brazil, I’m from here! Where are you?
somegirlnamedanna: I’m in Minnesota right now. I just drove up from Nashville yesterday, and I just had a few weeks before I had to start just being in Nashville recording and stuff again so I thought I would just spend time at the farm with my horses.
I watched your music video and I saw the horses I was like “This is beautiful, this is amazing, why would you ever leave?”
somegirlnamedanna: I know and my mom just got a puppy to German Shepherd so I just had to meet him.
I read that you first started writing poetry and playing piano separately and eventually you merged both and started actually making music. When did you decide to try and merge both?
somegirlnamedanna: I think it was when I started to hear other songs that had such amazing songwriting. I mean, I mention “Fast Car” all the time just because that song was kind of that moment when I did transition. Living in the middle of nowhere, the real reason I started writing was because I literally had an hour-long bus drive to school every day, and that is a long time, we were the first ones getting on the bus. So I would just start writing, and I would write stories on the bus and I’d come home and then play piano, but I think when I heard songs like “Fasr Car” and how the songwriting made you feel something, I remember asking my mum “Why does this song make me feel hopeful and sad at the same time?”, I remember her just telling us “That’s the power of songwriting”. So I think that’s when I was like, “I kinda want to do this, I want to make people feel like that one day”.
How did it feel when you realised that you were actually writing a song?
somegirlnamedanna: It felt like the greatest escape ever. No matter what was going on in the world, music always just made sense. And I’d always get excited about writing a song or writing something that felt meaningful to me, and that’s never changed. Even now, this has been a really hard year for all of us, music is still an opportunity for me to escape for a minute and really lean into what I’m feeling.
Did you have a moment where you decided that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
somegirlnamedanna: It’s funny because I actually never really thought of being “an artist”, I just knew I wanted to be in music, hence why I was studying music business, I was in the studio all the time. But kind of like in “hello I am” when I said I never thought about my destiny, I really never saw a goal for myself, I just kept doing music because that’s when I felt like my life made most sense. But I think I wanted to perform. When I was 11 I did this talent contest in Minnesota and got to play at the Grandstand, which is this really awesome venue with 12,000 seats. I wrote this song for my brother called “11”, because I was 11, about how life is changing and I was 11 years old. When I played it I think that’s when I fell in love with performing, because I was just like “Oh my gosh this is the greatest thing ever”, and all this adrenaline being onstage and being able to connect my lyrics in person to people is so much cooler than just writing it and keeping it for myself. So that’s when I was like “I really want to start playing my songs live and maybe one day release music” because it’s such a cooler feeling when your songs can affect other people and not just be your own therapy.
And how do you feel today, now that you’re actually doing this, and you look back at your 11-year-old self and you’re like “See, you were right!”
somegirlnamedanna: It’s honestly crazy. I just kept doing what I loved and I think that was the biggest thing, I think I needed the support from my mom that was always “Don’t worry about what other people will think, just keep doing what you love. If you want to create, keep creating. If you write weird songs, then write weird songs.” I’m proud of my 11-year-old self for just not thinking too much about what kind of money I would make, about what other people would think about me, what my parents wanted me to do, I just continued to do what I love. I think that if you work hard at something, and you work hard enough to be good at it and you just keep practicing, it’s really possible to be able to turn that into a lifestyle.
“hello i am” was your debut, and it’s so unusual to have such a bluntly introductory and experimental song as your first release. How did you decide that it was going to be your first single, did you ever have a second option?
somegirlnamedanna: I mean it’s kind of funny because all of these songs were really, just like you said, experimental and “hello i am” was originally just a song I wrote called “interview” which defined the first time I started actually writing about myself. Growing up listening to songs like “Fast Car” and Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell, I really loved storytelling and writing stories on my own, I always wrote about other people’s lives and put myself in different shoes. “hello i am” felt important to me because it was the first time that I wrote about my true self and was vulnerable with my writing. That’s the reason I wrote it, but I actually never really was like, “I need to release this first, this is gonna be my introduction to the world”, I just felt right about putting it out. I wanted to be honest with people before I started telling the rest of my story, and be like “Hey guys, what’s up I’m Anna” before I start getting really deep and personal, here’s an intro to me.
How did it make you feel when you first started writing about yourself?
somegirlnamedanna: I think it was just part of growing up a little bit. I’d always viewed writing as an escapism. I’ve always like had anxiety and issues that I never really confronted, and with “hello i am” I was like “Wow, I really need to confront these issues”. There wasn’t necessarily a time when I was like, “So I’m going to start writing about my life”, it was just like “Maybe I should talk to someone about my parents’ divorce, maybe I never really got over it. And maybe I do have anxiety that I want to start talking about, and maybe I do procrastinate a lot and I don’t want to be ashamed of it, I just want to laugh about it”, So I think my writing just mirrored what was going on in my life, and just the fact that I started actually wanting to be honest with myself and not run away from feelings that I was having.
When you started to have this more intimate relationship with writing and allowing it to reflect everything that was going on in your life, how did that affect how you viewed music, or did it make it a little scarier to actually go on stage and sing about all your feelings?
somegirlnamedanna: When I finished all the songs, I only got to play them live once before quarantine happened. So the big scary thing I’ve got going on in my head is releasing them. When I put out “hello i am” I was really scared because it was really just an intro, and it wasn’t a typical song with two choruses, a bridge and two verses, I did start getting these nerves like “Oh my god what if people just think I’m just a big baby whining about abandonment issues or something”, obviously those feelings came into play. I think that when I just saw how some of my friends related to them I felt a lot better because at the end of the day, once you release music it’s not yours anymore, and I just need to let it go and realise that if it helps one person on this planet, then that’s a success.
Watch: “kitchen table” – somegirlnamedanna
On that note, after you released “kitchen table” lots of people were posting stories with #mykitchentable, sharing their own photos and moments around their own kitchen tables. What was it like for you to see your story brought into other people’s lives and be so widely accepted, and with so much love, that it brought them to share their own stories as well?
somegirlnamedanna: I thought it was the coolest thing. I remember our family gatherings, always talking about what I was doing in my life – I have this brother, for instance, who, works in microbiology and is getting his PhD, in Thanksgiving we talked about that. People were like “Anna, what are you doing?” and I was like “I just wrote a song about a table” and I felt stupid saying that out loud, And people actually responded to it and were like, “Oh my gosh this really helped me get through my parents’ divorce”, “I’m away from home and this inspired me to call my family” and that made me so happy. Seeing people respond to it, sending pictures of the dinner they made at their kitchen table with their siblings or friends, it just filled up my heart so much. That’s why I’ve been able to find this new relationship with music, because like I said it’s not yours anymore, it can connect you to other people and all these strangers reaching out and suddenly we’re DMing each other and we’re not strangers anymore. It’s really awesome.
What does the image of a kitchen table mean to you?
somegirlnamedanna: I think it just means my roots, how I grew up, and appreciating where I came from. When I grew up on this farm I always wanted a different lifestyle, I wanted to live in the city, I wanted to be like all the other kids I went to school with, but now I look back and I’m like “Wow, this really made me who I am”. Being outside, and not watching TV, and creating real memories around our kitchen table just made it all the more special to me.
Watch: “california” – somegirlnamedanna
You have a song called “california”. What’s your relationship to the place?
somegirlnamedanna: I started taking trips to California, it was kind of around that time that I wrote “hello i am”. I wrote it actually driving down from San Francisco to LA for a writing trip. I was just really missing this guy, I was in California and it inspired the song. I actually wrote the song when I got back to Nashville, but a lot of times when I write music I get a title in my head or something that I’m feeling and I kind of l write it in my head. Then I have a co-writer or something and I’m like “Hey this is what I have so far, let’s finish it”, and that was one of those songs. But I laugh about it now because it’s like “Come to California” and I’m not there and I’m like, “Hey, don’t come to California, probably not the best idea right now. Maybe later”.
As you’ve mentioned, “hello i am” was originally called “interview” and I read somewhere that originally it was 16 verses long and made out of questions you asked yourself. What were questions you asked yourself during the writing of the song that didn’t make it into the song?
somegirlnamedanna: I talked a lot about relationships, everything about how I just couldn’t get the hang of them. Every verse that didn’t make it into “hello i am” ended up making it into the other songs because I talk about all of it. I talk about all of my issues, everything from funny to really personal made it into the EP somehow.
The EP title is twenty one, twenty two. Is that a reference to your age?
somegirlnamedanna: Yeah, it’s just the story of like that chapter from turning 21 and 22. That was a really big year of growth for me, and I wrote all of the songs during that period.
How old are you now?
somegirlnamedanna: I’m 22 now.
So it’s pretty recent.
somegirlnamedanna: Yeah. It was all just last year.
Do you feel that you have to get over something and then write about it so you can write about it with hindsight or are you one of those people who writes as you’re going through it and doesn’t mind if things haven’t healed or you haven’t gotten over them, you can just release the song and let that be?
somegirlnamedanna: I think probably the latter. If I’m feeling something massively I’ll just write about it, and then if I’m not over it I’ll just keep writing about it. I don’t think writing allows me to get over someone or get over my feelings, but it helps me understand them more. I just write about the moment I’m going through. But the good thing is though I can look back at it. For instance, “abandonment”: I can look back at that song and say, “Wow, I remember the day I wrote that, I was completely broken and I couldn’t eat or sleep or anything”, and I look back at that now and I’m like, “I’m so much better now” and I can appreciate my growth, so it’s kind of just like a journal entry.
Is there a bigger story you’re trying to tell with the EP?
somegirlnamedanna: Honestly, they’re just little moments of the last year, and just me being honest with myself in the hopes that someone else will relate. And reminding everyone that at the end of the day we are all just like somebody with a name, we all go through ups and downs, we all procrastinate, we all have issues that maybe we don’t want to talk about, but they’re there if you want to talk about it.
Do you have a favourite song on the EP?
somegirlnamedanna: Oh. That’s a hard one. “hello i am”, although it’s not my favourite song on the EP, just because it really opened up the door to writing the EP. I think that’s probably my favourite, but also “seriously just stop” was just a fun song. I take things so seriously, I am the biggest overthinker. I’m so freaking sensitive, I think “seriously, just stop” allowed me to feel like empowered for a second, and I really love that song for that.
Watch: “seriously just stop” – somegirlnamedanna
I know you said that you only got to perform once before quarantine but you have sassy songs and more emotional songs, is there any kind of song that you like performing best?
somegirlnamedanna: Oh my gosh. “seriously just stop” is so fun to perform live. It’s so much fun, I like that one. “california”, I love playing that song on the piano. But “seriously just stop” is definitely the most fun to play live.
Has music helped you during this pandemic and quarantine?
somegirlnamedanna: Yeah, definitely. It has me really helped. I basically had my second EP written, and I basically rewrote a lot of the songs during this pandemic, just because you need music. It’s one of those things that is universal and has really no language, we all listen to it, and it’s been keeping us together. It’s like I said, when nothing else makes sense, music always has to me, so I’ve definitely been reaching out to my creativity a lot.
Considering your fans will receive this EP probably still in quarantine and/or the pandemic, and its a really difficult moment for everyone in the world, what do you hope it brings them?
somegirlnamedanna: I hope songs like “seriously, just stop” can be that escapism song for some people and help people feel empowered. I mean, it’s a really big time for our mental health, and I personally need “seriously, just stop” right now. And also if people want to dive into the other songs and just feel like they’re not alone in what they’re going through, I hope that happens. I know it’s a hard time to put out music right now, but I wouldn’t ever want to not put out music right now either because people still need it, even if it doesn’t reach as much of an audience or whatnot. I still think people really need music.
What’s the last great thing you listened to?
somegirlnamedanna: Oh, that’s a good question. I was listening to “Six Feet Apart” by Alec Benjamin this morning. I love Alec Benjamin so much.
📸 © Catie Laffoon
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