Wednesday 10 August 2022

Annie Dressner - Interview

Cambridge via New York singer-songwriter Annie Dressner is about to go out on tour belatedly in support of her 2020 album Coffee At The Corner Bar and previewing new material. We caught up with her for a chat about her background and influences, songwriting and lyrical content and working with David Ford. She releases a new single I've Always Been Like This on September 2.

First of all, could you introduce yourself and tell us how you ended up in the UK?

Hello! I'm Annie Dressner. I moved to Cambridge, England eleven years ago from New York City as I met my husband (singer/songwriter/producer Paul Goodwin) in NYC at an open mic, shared a pastrami sandwich the next day and got married thirteen months later!

When did you start making music and what made you want to start doing it?

Well, I think I have always been making music.  I played piano since I was four and violin for some years, too.  The real question is: when did I realize that I was doing so?  My favorite thing in the world is to sing.  Since I was little, I would make up songs, sing in elevators and work through my feelings this way -- the only thing is, I didn't realize I was doing this until a few years after  deliberately trying to be a songwriter and thought: oh wait! I have always done this!  I taught myself guitar when I was 18 out of my dad's old Simon & Garfunkel sheet music the evening after graduating high school, as it had guitar tabs and I knew the songs.  I haven't put it down yet.

Are you still influenced by the same artists or who inspires you to write and perform these days?

Quite honestly, yes.  I am a creature of 'listen to the same music over and over again for years.'   I love Simon & Garfunkel, Carly Simon, Belle & Sebastian, Elliott Smith, and the Foo Fighters - amongst many more.  Of course, I listen to new music, but I would say - these are my main guys.  I also listened to a lot of jazz and musical theatre and classical music as a child... not sure those shine through, but I like many genres of music and I'm guessing they are all splattered around my songs in some ways, maybe.

You've said in previous interviews that a lot of your songs are autobiographical.  Does music act as a form of release for you?

I would say A LOT of my songs are autobiographical, but not all.  Yes, music does act as a form of release, for sure.  But it is also an interesting way to explore other people's lives and worlds through trying to understand other perspectives.  For example, my song Morning was a concept taken from a news article I had read and written from the perspective of a little girl.  Beyond The Leaves and Bruise Beneath My Bones are also not autobiographical.  

On the flip side, Nyack and Heartbreaker and Dogwood are -- but you won't hear me explaining what they are about further than that because... well, that is private.  I put the amount of details into my songs that I feel would still be universal enough for others to make the songs have their own meanings to the listeners, and still allow for me to express truth in a way that is not overly revealing or uncomfortable for myself or the listener.

And have you any instances where people have come up to you and told you that a song that you've written has had an impact on them and their situation?

Yes - mostly How Am I Supposed To Be, Come Back', Dogwood and Losing You. They are all about losing my mother -- and for me highlights my grief process over the years as they were written over the last eleven years.  It's interesting for me to listen back to those songs in order, because I know how I felt and when I wrote them  - and as time goes on, it doesn't get easier, but how I feel changes.  

I think once you have experienced losing a loved one, and there is no way of unknowing the pointed pain that comes with that - people can relate -- and sometimes they let me know.  I don't often speak about this and hardly ever on stage -- and so I appreciate that people know what the songs are about, as grief is such a monumentally unfortunate universal thing.

You've recently collaborated with David Ford on an album 48 Hours and then a tour.  Could you tell us a little about how that came about and developed?

This year has been a bit of a funny one!  So... I was meant to support David Ford on a few shows at one of my favourite venues - The Old Cinema Launderette in Durham in 2020.  Unfortunately due to the pandemic, we had to postpone it.  The fortunate part for me in that is David wound up adding another seventeen shows to his 2022 tour and offered me the entire tour support, which I accepted with open arms!  

The first two dates of our tour were in January and the last seventeen were in March.  David sung on my song Strangers Who Knew Each Other's Names and I sang on his new song Just Like You during the first few shows.  We soon realized that we loved singing with each other - and so we discussed writing a song for the March tour.

Whilst trying to write the first song, we accidentally wrote a six song album within two days, titled 48 Hours which we subsequently recorded the following week in a gruelling 13 hour live session at the fabulous studio Echo Zoo down in Eastbourne where David lives.

We got so excited about the project that we booked another tour before the March tour for July 2022 called The Summer Holiday Tour where we went to (mostly) seaside towns and played in tiny theatres.  We had a stage set that mimicked a bandstand, lampposts included - built by David - and it was a really awesome time!

One last detail which was quite cool is last week we were told the album was charted at #23 in the Official Folk Charts for July (it was released on 1st July 2022).

All in all, it's been a fun year of creativity and hard work!

You're about to do a big tour of the UK. What can we expect from the setlist - do you have new material in progress or will it be from Coffee At The Corner Bar as you've not had chance to tour it properly?

My last album Coffee At The Corner Bar had the unfortunate timing of needing to come out during the pandemic.  It was meant to come out May 2020 - and so with a lot of hope of returning to normality, I pushed it back until September 2020... I had a lot of singles come out in between, and so it went.

I have not toured Coffee... - you can expect to hear some songs from each of my three albums and my EP as well as some new unrecorded songs.  I have a new single coming out 2nd September titled I've Always Been Like This - which I will definitely be playing. I am currently in the process of starting to record my fourth studio album.

Is there anywhere you're particularly excited about playing on the tour?

Honestly, I am quite excited about all of the shows!  Luckily, I have some friends doing support for me who are wonderful musicians, including Amelia Coburn (nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards), Dan Wilde & Wes Finch.  I am also supporting Ben Ottewell from Gomez and my dear friend Polly Paulusma on a few shows.

One final question, how would you describe your music to someone who's never heard you before?

Folk (but not English Folk), Indie Folk (but not too Indie and not too Folk), Americana (but not Country) -- oh gosh -- just go give it a listen and come to a show.  Some folks say "an up-tempo Mazzy Star, an understated Jenny Lewis, Soccer Mommy & Phoebe Bridgers..." but I'd say - judge for yourself!

main photo - Elly Lucas

Annie Dressner's website can be found here. She is also on Twitter and Facebook.  She also has a Patreon.

Her tour starts at Mossley Folk Festival (September 3) then continues at Hemel Hempstead Arty Barn (9), Leamington Spa Temperance Bar (13), Sheffield Greystones (14, supporting Ben Ottewell), Trowbridge The Village Pump (15), Otford Memorial Hall (16), Beccles Canopy Theatre (17), Oundle Talbot Hall (18), Leicester The Musician (20), Manchester The Rose And Monkey (21), Birmingham Kitchen Garden Cafe (22), Sheffield Dorothy Pax (23), Cambridge Junction 2 (24, with David Ford), London The Green Note (October 5, supporting Polly Paulusma) and Winchester The Railway Inn (6, supporting Polly Paulusma).

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