INTERVIEW: AnnaLina chats creating with those you love and celebrating connections of all kinds
We spoke with Sydney-based artist AnnaLina about her latest single 'One Before The One', the importance of collaboration and the best advice she's received as an artist.
WAEVZ AU: Congratulations on the release of One Before The One! What’s the story behind the track?
ANNALINA: Thank you so much! It’s based on a few of my past relationships where I noticed that my exes would end up in long-term relationships right after we’d broken up. I noticed this pattern and started thinking about why that might be and, along with Oscar Sharah and Pat Byrne, One Before The One was born. It’s about taking responsibility for my own actions and the walls I build up in relationships which leaves the other person craving openness and then finding it somewhere else. And while the relationships didn’t work, I don’t regret them as they got me closer to knowing what it is that I need.
WAEVZ AU: Tell us about the process of creating the song.
ANNALINA: I’d already written the little intro on my guitar by myself when I first started exploring the concept and then took that into my first writing session with Oscar Sharah and Pat Byrne. They resonated with it, so we wrote the rest of the track together. I’d initially brought in a James Blake song as a reference, but the song took on a life of its own and we leaned into more upbeat production style.
WAEVZ AU: You’re a self-described ‘romance sceptic’. How does this inform your writing?
ANNALINA: I love this question! It honestly informs all my writing. I remember in high school I refused to be in an exclusive relationship or let anyone call me their girlfriend. I found traditional relationships a bit pointless and unexciting and I found it hard to find music that explored these ideas and didn’t make me feel weird for not feeling all the things I was supposed to be feeling at that age. I’ve grown up a lot since then and had some meaningful connections, but I’ve also enjoyed exploring and celebrating different kinds of relationships and different perspectives in my lyrics. ‘It’s Seasonal’ is about the beauty in short-term flings that aren’t built to last but can be great while they do and ‘Know This’ is about two people who had all the makings of a good relationship but just knew they shouldn’t be together anymore. I honestly think my scepticism has helped me to navigate the dating scene and made it even more meaningful when I do feel something real.
WAEVZ AU: How did you find your way to music?
ANNALINA: I’ve been singing since I was a child. My older sister has an amazing voice and our mum would make us sing this Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion duet any chance she could. It was a bit cringe but it made me really love harmonising from a young age. I always enjoyed performing and would do it any chance I could, even a couple of mall talent shows in my tween years. I also started learning piano when I was 4; when I got older, I found that writing music came as a natural progression. I moved to London when I was 18 and absolutely loved all the music I heard there, in particular, the UK R&B scene. When I got back to Sydney, I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t give music a try and through that I met the most amazing people that I still collaborate with today.
WAEVZ AU: What does the songwriting process normally look like for you? ANNALINA: At any given time, I have 100 random notes in my phone with one word song ideas that pop up at mostly inappropriate moments - I write them down and save them for later. From there, I’ll sit and flesh out the concept a bit more and write some key lyric ideas. I used to write alone a lot more, but the music industry is so collaborative. Honestly that’s one of my favourite things about this is as a job, so I find these days most of my songs will be written with other people. It’s just about finding the people who understand you and will get the best out of you. I also love that most writing sessions will start with a conversation about the situation and this discussion is usually where the best ideas come from.
WAEVZ AU: Oscar Sharah has produced all of your releases so far - how did you two meet and what makes you a good creative pair?
ANNALINA: I met Oscar ages ago when his old band supported my old uni band, but we became friends a while later through my friend Lola Scott who was doing a lot of work with him at the time. We realised that he and I both shared a love for old-school R&B and so I booked him to produce my first two singles. I remember making a playlist of very contrasting references and thinking he wouldn’t know what to do with them, but he immediately understood what I was going for and made it such a fun process. We always end up showing each other music and bonding over nostalgic deep-cuts that we used to love.
WAEVZ AU: Are there any Aussie artists or producers you’re itching to collaborate with?
ANNALINA: My next single is featuring one of my very talented friends, Purple Drapes! We’ve known each other for a long time and I’m obsessed with his voice and his music. We wrote the song together and it was so great to get his perspective and voice on the track, I can’t wait for people to hear it. I would absolutely love to collaborate with someone like Budjerah! His music and voice are both incredible. As for producers, I’m so lucky to know Chelsea Warner and would love to get her production genius on a track of mine soon!
I’m so excited to be in the Aussie R&B/soul scene at the moment. I feel like we’re still kind of underdogs but there are so many talented people working hard to put it in the spotlight and I do feel like it’s on the rise more than ever. Shout out to WAEVZ AU, Tyrone Pynor and so many others for championing up-and-coming R&B/soul/hip-hop acts in Australia and cultivating the whole scene.
WAEVZ AU: What are your all-time biggest musical influences?
ANNALINA: I have so many, it’s hard to choose! But I grew up with old soul and Motown artists like Etta James and Otis Redding playing in the background of all my childhood memories. I’ve always admired the way they dedicate themselves to every performance they do – it always feels so genuine and raw. I definitely try to channel this energy any chance I get, whether it’s live or in the studio. I also love 90s and 2000s pop and R&B. I learned to sing by trying to copy all my favourites like Mariah, SWV, Christina and Rihanna and failing.
WAEVZ AU: Tell us about your proudest moment as an artist so far. ANNALINA: This is hard - being an artist is so fulfilling and it makes me so proud every time anyone reaches out and tells me they resonated with my music. Recently, I played a show and unexpectedly had people singing the words back to me. By the end of the song, others in the crowd who didn’t know it had caught on and sung the chorus hook. It was so surreal, I just stopped and stood there grinning like an idiot while the crowd sung it for me. It was a great feeling.
WAEVZ AU: What's the best piece of advice or lesson you’ve learned since you started releasing music? Anything you wish you’d known sooner?
ANNALINA: I can’t even remember who said this but early on at uni, I remember someone telling the class to get drunk with people more talented than yourself. I loved this because it really made the whole idea of networking less formal and intimidating. Everyone is out here doing the same thing and working in this same tough industry, and I took it as a lesson to just be genuine and surround yourself with people you admire and have fun with. Another piece of advice I wish I’d known before releasing is to build your catalogue. Say yes to as many opportunities to make music as possible cause each song teaches you something about yourself and your music and furthers your overall vision.
WAEVZ AU: What’s next for AnnaLina?
ANNALINA: I’m going to London soon and I’m going to be playing a rooftop AnnaLina show which I’m so excited about; I’ve always loved the UK R&B scene and I’m honoured to get to share my music there. When I’m back, I’m just planning to keep making music I’m proud of with people I love and admire.
Photos 1 and 2 by @mayaluana
Photo 3 by @maybelle.t
Words by @port______