Interview: Ana Egge

erin petrie interviews the Brooklyn-based songstress …

Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Ana Egge’s latest album Bad Blood perfectly encapsulates her sweet melodies, soft mixture of country and alternative rock and deep, haunting lyrics.

Recorded in the famous Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y., and produced by Steve Earle, a man whose reputation and influence precede him, Bad Blood details her experiences with family members suffering from mental illness. Egge’s beautiful voice and catchy backing beats nearly mask the sad nature of the songs.

The album will be released by Ammal Records on Aug. 23.

Born in Sasketewan, raised in North Dakota and New Mexico, Egge resides in Brooklyn these days. She carries with her the tales of people she’s met here and there and includes her fans in the record-making process: She raised over $17,000 on Kickstarter.com to pay for her latest record.

Photo: Patrick Fraser

Pop-Break: You’ve been making music for a number of years now. How do you think your music has evolved since the release of your first album almost 15 years ago?

Ana Egge: Well, I guess I think I’ve been pushing myself melodically both directions — using more of my range as far as stretching my voice to sing higher and lower and trying to write songs to use that. And I think I’ve become a better guitar player and I think writing goes through so many phases that I’m not really in control over. I show up and do my best to capture the inspiration.

PB: So you grew up in North Dakota and New Mexico and spent some years in Austin and now you’re in Brooklyn. How do you think the places you’ve lived have influenced your music?

AE: I think I’m definitely influenced by stories I hear from people that I meet and stuff and different characters and different places have definitely made their way into songs. I think moving around a lot has been really great for writing because that kind of newness and fresh view really kind of makes me feel like the world is new again. Which is also why I love touring so much. I write a lot on tour and you’re not just staring at the same wall, you know.

PB: On this last album, you worked with Steve Earle. What was that like?

AE: It was great. He’s got so many amazing ideas and so much energy. We did it really fast — in five days — and he just had a lot of great, great energy that he brought to all the songs. He really respected the form of the songs but he had a lot of cool arrangement ideas … Like having the drums be a driving force on everything, which was really fun. I think also, working with him, all of us — the band and the help — were all just ready to, you know, be on point and make it happen the first or second time around, period. That’s basically what it was — everything was really quick, live takes and working out the songs and then going for it.

PB: Now your album was funded by a campaign on Kickstarter, correct?

AE: Yeah!

PB: So what’s that like: Knowing that your friends and your fans have a vested interested in making sure that you actually make this album?

AE: It was great, you know, there was like no downside to it. I think it’s really an amazing model for the arts. I think it’s a way that people realize what things costs, when maybe they don’t otherwise. [laughs] Like, “Wow, really, it costs that much money?” And yeah, there’s a way to stay in touch with fans and family about the process from the beginning of raising funds to figuring out what studio it’s going to be in. Once they sign up, I get to e-mail them all directly any exciting news and stuff like that. I think it’s a way to kind of be in on an art project or an album in a whole new way. Experience it in a 3D way, kind of.

PB: That’s cool. Now the content matter of your album deals a lot with family members coping with mental illness. Do you think this is the most deeply personal album you’ve written? Because that’s a very intense subject matter.

AE: Yeah, I think so for sure.

PB: But even though it is a very heavy topic, the album sounds like it has a sense of hope to it still.

AE: Yeah, it’s a very upbeat album, the feeling and the melodic sense. When you’re listening to it, you’re kind of rocking along and it’s great. And then maybe the second or third time you hear the song, you’re like, “Wait, what? What’s this song about?” Which, you know, it’s like sometimes you have to be tender and work with these intense issues in a way to reach people that’s not hitting anyone over the head with the pain or the suffering or the anger of the people having to be afflicted with such a horrible disease.

PB: Now you’re headed out on tour soon for the new album. Do you have a favorite place to play live?

AE: I love playing Austin, Texas. I love playing New York. I love playing Silver City, N.M.

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