The Fire Inside

Michaela Anne seems to have stepped into a new moment of her seamless country music. After her acclaimed 2016 album, All the Bright Lights and the Fame, she’s unveiled the upcoming Desert Dove (out on Sept. 27 with Yep Roc Records). The song “By Our Design” begins the record with a careful look at what could’ve been, but the beauty is that it’s not so mournful as it could be. There is energy and wistful hope throughout the album, which is in keeping with Anne’s past music. But she also shed her more classic-country sound more than once, which only helped bring her polished jewel of a voice out to lovely effect. And she’s continued forward in strides since 2014, when she released her first album, Ease My Mind. Anne agreed to answer some questions for Jupiter Index, and to discuss her art, inspirations, and future plans.

Kevin LaTorre: Desert Dove includes a few sounds you haven’t used before; why’d you make the changes?
Michaela Anne: I never want to do the same thing over again but I don’t make the most adventurous, “out” music, so the way to do that is to explore different textures and sounds I maybe haven’t used before. I’ve traditionally had a more “country” band instrumentation and this time I wanted that to be a base but with a few exceptions and explorations throughout.

he first image of “By Our Design” (you wake up first, put the kettle on) is a poignant one—how did that come to you?
That’s the image of most of my mornings when I am home and I was reflecting on the simple moments in life in relation to the big picture choices we make. Most mornings, my husband wakes up and heats up water in the kettle to start making coffee for the both of us. We are both musicians and we met in college and have been basically growing up together, side by side, in individual life paths that are quite unstable. The song is essentially a small meditation on our life.

How did you begin writing stand-up-and-stick-it songs like “If I Wanted Your Opinion”?
Well, being a solo female touring musician attracts a lot of experiences that feel rather sexist, condescending or straight up mansplaining. So it’s pretty easy to summon a bit of an attitude. I’ve always been someone who has some fire inside of me and not very afraid of confrontation so it felt timely to express it in a fun way through song.

Do you have a favorite song from the new record? What makes it your favorite?
I have a lot of favorites and they definitely change day to day but I think "One Heart" is a steady favorite of mine. It feels very personal and vulnerable to me but then the recording feels so intense and I love the guitar work Brian Whelan does. It has the dark minor tones with some rock sensibility so it’s one I would like to blast and sing along to in my car if it didn’t feel weird blasting my own music. :)

How was recording on location in San Clemente?
It was really incredible. It was a beautiful location and felt really great to be isolated in the studio with the ocean view through the window. It’s definitely a luxury to get to have a somewhat narrow view while recording and shut out the rest of the world, fully immersed in the music.

What can you tell us about working with producers Sam Outlaw and Kelly Winrich?
I had never worked with two producers at one time and it went really well. I think we made a great trio and all brought something different to the table. Kelly and Sam’s experience, sensibilities and individual talents really complimented each other. It would be hard for me to imagine having made this record with solely just one of them.

You’ve been mostly called a country artist, but do you accept the label (or any labels)?
I think people like labels because it makes them feel better to have a way to categorize. I deeply love country music so I don’t mind at all being called a country artist and definitely feel that I am in many ways. I don’t want to ever let that limit my artistic expression though or prohibit me from writing or releasing music that might not fit into others’ ideas of that category. I’m also not a country purist that has any strong opinions about what is or isn’t country. Music is music but I understand why others find labels helpful.

What do you think of your body of work so far?
So far, I’m really proud of my body of work and excited to keep growing and building more work that reflects where I’m at in life, what I’m thinking about, experiencing etc. at the time.

by Kevin LaTorre