This is the moment for Anna of the North. The Norwegian-born singer is a true artist with a uniquely honest style, mixing synth-pop ballads with futuristic bells and whistles. She's been at it for a while—Anna first captured our ears back in 2014 with "Sway" and follow-up singles like "The Dreamer" and "Us" confirmed it: Norway had a new star.
In 2017, Anna's stars really started to align. She appears twice on Tyler, the Creator's new album Flower Boy, turning in standout features on "911/Mr.Lonely" and "Boredom." She even flew to New York to perform with Tyler on Stephen Colbert's show—even though, as she told explains, things didn't go according to plan.
More importantly, however, Anna's album Lovers is set to drop September 8. The singles we've heard thus far have been nothing short of stunning, and this is the story of her amazing journey so far.
What was it like growing up in Norway?
I think it’s a really safe environment. It’s been really good, I'm really lucky to be growing up there. But sometimes, you can get so comfortable too, you forget to challenge yourself. It feels like I won the lottery.
How has music played a role in your life in general? How did you tap into that?
I love music. It’s just always been really natural, all these melodies coming into my head, always listening to music. I was actually a bit afraid for my hearing, because I’d be listening to so much music so loud with bad headphones.
At what point did you feel like you could make music your career?
It’s a bit sad because I always wanted to do music, but you always think that you’re not good enough. It's dream that I just kept for myself, I didn’t even dare dream it. For me it was moving to Australia. I met Brady there. I think it was such an emotional rollercoaster as well because I left home, I moved by myself, and had to start life again, new friends, school, new place to live, and it was really hard. I remember trying to find a place to live was so hard, my English was really shit at that point.
Everyone was like, "No I don’t want to live with her, she’s weird." I remember struggling, trying so hard to find a place to live, and I went to this viewing and I found the perfect apartment, and it was like right outside the city, close to like everything with my own bathroom and I was like, "Please let this be it." But the guy who lived there was a 40-year-old teacher, and I just didn’t feel the vibe. He’s probably super cool and all that, but it was just like no… I needed to live somewhere I could befriend people, it wasn’t the right thing to do.
I think I’m most creative when hard, sad stuff happens to me. That’s when I get most inspired to write. It’s like a diary for me in a way. That was when I really started writing, started trying to produce and I got really into it and my dad gave me a sound card. My dad’s been really good, because he’s a musician. If he found something he’ll be like, “Oh, look at this Anna!” and then after a while, I kind of learned a bit more about recording and all that stuff.
I THINK I'M MOST CREATIVE WHEN HARD, SAD STUFF HAPPENS TO ME.
I started to write a lot, then I met Brady, and then I moved back from Australia and I was sad because I had finally made friends—then I was like, no I have to go home. I lived at home for two or three months when I got back from Australia and I didn’t know what to do. I was at a place in my life where my mom would just be like, “Anna, are you going to get yourself a job?”
Were you doing anything?
I would be up all night just writing music. I have the funniest thing, I have a photo where I’m like, “need to make a hit and become famous,” and that was right before “Sway."
I reached out to Brady again. He did “Since You Got On” and it's an amazing song—he produced it, and he kind of pushed me. I remember we did “Sway” recorded the vocals on like Skype and GarageBand.
You recorded the vocals for “Sway” on Skype?
We were having this session together on Skype and I recorded on GarageBand and they were picking the vocals. That’s what's so cool with them as well, they’re so real and so raw. I went to bed and during the night, Brady made an Anna of the North account and put it out on SoundCloud just as a joke. Then I woke up and he was like, "Hey, now your artist name is Anna of the North and you have a SoundCloud now."
So, that’s how your name became Anna of the North?
It's also because I was living in Australia so it was like Anna from Norway…
How would you describe your music?
I think talking about my own music is really hard. I wish I had never heard my own music before—as a person, just listening to my music for the first time. Because working with it and listening to it, you’re a perfectionist. You just work on it, work on it, work on it and then you have to stop because it will never be perfect. Because you always change something and you always hear something. I think you just have to—sometimes you just have to let it go.
And trust that it's enough.
We worked on “The Dreamer” for like a year. It took so long, and the first version was probably the best version. I think the energy when you first make a song, you can’t make it again. Music is a way to travel back in time. That moment that felt exactly like that and you can’t create that moment again.
Music is a way TO travel back in time.
I think that if you write a song and that’s it and then you move forward and then you go back to it one month later, you’re different. You’re not in the same moment, I think that what happens in that exact moment that’s the magic.
Your new album Lovers is coming in September. What are you most proud of with this project?
I am really proud of just releasing an album. I never thought—if you said this to me two years ago, I wouldn’t believe it. Yes, it's always been a huge dream doing music but actually being at the point now of people listening to it and supporting it, it's so cool and I’m really happy about not only being able to do singles but show the bigger picture of Anna of the North . I don’t want to be the single hits machine, I want to be in the art of it.
So we saw the track list, and we noticed there weren’t any features, is that correct?
Are there any artists in the future you would want to work with again or put on your album?
Yeah, like Tyler, the Creator. There are a lot of artists that I love. We really wanted [features], but in the process of doing it then deadlines and stress, there wasn’t really time to. I want it to be really right, and be the right way for Anna of the North. So, now that the album is done I'm really ready to work with other people. With this album, people can be like, "Okay, that’s Anna of the North."
What was it like working with Tyler?
The simplest process in the world. They got in touch, like, "Hey can you do some vocals?" I went to the studio and I did it, sent it over, and he was like, "Fuck that’s cool can you do another one?" That was it. It was super simple. I did it on the first take.
You never know if you’re actually going to be on the album with those types of projects. You just make a lot of stuff and I didn’t even hear the full song, so I had no idea what it was going to sound like.
I am really proud of just releasing an album. I never thought—if you said this to me two years ago, I wouldn’t believe it.
How did you guys actually meet, you and Tyler?
They started playing "Sway" on Odd Future Radio Station, then I met them, they snuck me in backstage, talked to them for a little bit. I had been like talking back and forth with Taco, and then they just reached out through e-mail. They are true artists, and Tyler is a true artist. He does what he wants to do—I think he’s a cool guy.
Did you get a chance to see Tyler perform “911” on Stephen Colbert?
Yeah. I was going to perform too—we asked before and they said yeah she can do it—but it wasn’t a work visa so I couldn’t perform. I got to be there. They actually posted this video of us doing it live. I was really sad I couldn’t perform, Tyler actually gave me a shout out that they cut out.
They were just like, "Anna of the North is here but she can’t perform."
You got to do the acoustic version, how was that experience.
It wasn’t like rehearsed or anything, we were just having fun. I think that’s what those guys do the best. They just have fun.
After you release your album what’s next for you?
We haven’t done our own headline show yet, so we’re going to do that. We're going to play in London, and like a European tour. Hopefully coming to the U.S. soon, just need to figure out my work visa. My friend and I are working on a clothing collection as well.
I’m just trying to like spend like the time trying to be creative and make stuff and have fun with it all. And ride the wave or however you say it. I'm going to London now and I don’t have much time home any more, so it’s going to be like a different lifestyle away from friends and family…
How do you think you’ll adjust?
I don’t know how this goes, I’m really enjoying it so far, but yeah I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Now with the Tyler stuff happening its just like its just so interesting and a totally different lifestyle from what I used to have just, working.
What was your first job?
I've been working as a graphic designer but before that, I was just a manager at a clothing store before I went to Australia. So stuff has changed, and the music has taken me on a different journey.
What does your family think about your music?
They are really proud. I haven’t been able to see my family the entire summer and I'm quite sad about that, I love family. But everyone has been supportive and they're just really proud.
Have they been able to see you perform live?
They came to London and they’ve been to a couple of shows now and they are really proud and really supportive and my dad is a musician as well so, I think he’s always wanted someone in the family to do music.
Speaking about concerts, what was your first performance?
We did Øya the Norwegian festival and they had something called ØYANATT which is like Øya at Night just like a club concept. I was so afraid and I felt like I was being strangled, and I wanted to cry and puke at the same time. It was just horrible, and I remember my mom and dad were there and they were just like it looks like you seen a ghost.
I'M STAGE READY, I'M NOT SCARED OF GOING TO INTERVIEWS ANYMORE, NOT SCARED OF GOING TO PHOTO SHOOTS. I'M JUST HERE.
I was so afraid so I said to Brady, "I don’t know if I can even do this." Performing was really hard for me in the start, I’m not the kind of person who’s just like, "Hey here I am look at me, I'm good at what I’m doing." But I'm so happy that I went through that, now it feels so fun performing. That's the thing that people have been telling me, saying that taking a while with the album and the music is a whole building thing, but for me I don’t think I’ve been ready until now either.
We were at W magazine earlier and I did a photo shoot there, and because this has been slowly building I’ve been getting used to, getting more comfortable with everything and if we had just released the album and I hadn’t been through what I've been through now... it has all been a slow process, but now is the time. It wouldn’t have worked out before. But now I'm ready, I'm stage ready, I’m not scared of going to interviews anymore, not scared of going to photo shoots. I'm just here.