By Asher Berkson-Gold | April 12, 2023
Someone who walks past the 16th Street Western Beef supermarket might ask themselves, “what’s all that Racket going on?” The answer? Simply Anna of the North, bringing joy, passion, and heart to every song she sings.
Anna of the North is a musical project headed by Norwegian indie-pop star Anna Lotterud. Released last year, her latest album, Crazy Life, shows a true evolution of the dream-pop sound she’s known for and features more in depth songwriting, luscious soundscapes, and a bright and cheery demeanor.
Anna graced us with her presence at Racket NYC. She really brought the energy. The audience responded in kind, carrying Anna during a crowd-surfing session. She closed out the night with a dance party to Cher’s “Believe,” a song Anna has covered and continues to perform during her live shows. Anna even jumped into the crowd and danced alongside her fans.
But the shining moment of the night came when she brought her father on stage to play piano as they performed “Someone Special” together. The most wholesome part of an incredibly uplifting night.
Prior to her show, we caught up with Anna of the North, and she answered a few questions for the groovement:
How did you first get started?
I don’t really know why, but it’s like a calling. I don’t know, inside of me there were melodies and it’s always been really natural for me to sing and play….Music’s always been something that makes me happy. There was probably a little dream somewhere inside of me that being on stage and stuff like that would be fun.
I applied to music school, but I didn’t get in, so I did a bachelor’s in graphic design in Melbourne, and I met culture there that was really different from Norwegian culture. [In Norway,] you can’t really say that you’re an artist if you don’t have like a million streams on Spotify or if you haven’t played shows. You know, you’re not supposed to be something you’re not. In Melbourne, people are really open-minded about what defines a “musician”.
People were their dreams. People were writers even though they hadn’t released a book. People were musicians without really having a lot, say [performing] concerts or releasing songs. People were what they wanted to be, you know?
And I think slowly I started to just open up a bit more and silently saying, I like music, I wanna do music. And then the more I said it, the more I was sending it into the universe and then it came back to me. I went back to Norway and released my first song, and that was the start of Anna of the North.
We were talking about concerts a little bit earlier. So what was the first concert you actually went to?
When I was younger there were some hip-hop acts that I loved listening to. My favorite rap group was Cunning Linguists. I needed a fake ID to get in, but once I made it in, I was hooked. So yeah, the hip-hop scene was like my first concert kinda experience.
What was the first concert you actually performed?
I think my first concert was actually playing for my friends, which is something I’d never done before. It’s really scary. All my first shows were terrible experiences. I was really nervous and the struggle was [not to get] stage fright. So I don’t really understand how I ended up being on stage as much as I am. It’s taken me a lot of time and years to become the stage performer I am today.
What is the coolest concert or venue or show you’ve ever done?
In early 2020, on our American tour. Our first NY show was Bowery Ballroom. I was so nervous but something inside of me just kinda let go. It was just an incredible night and we had so much fun. We’re not playing there this time around, but I will next time.
What’s your dream venue to perform at?
To be honest, I think my dream would be to be where I am in life, playing for 40,000 people, at a given time, across the world.
Just being able to live off music and enjoy life, that’s my goal. I don’t wanna play Madison Square Garden or anything like that. That would probably be amazing. But, you know, yeah, I just wanna be able to tour around the world.
What would you say is your pre-show routine? Do you do anything specifically? Do you eat or drink anything? Listen to specific music or have any rituals before a show?
I drink a lot of tea to warm up my vocal chords. And I try to do some jumping jacks. And then sing a bit, and then we’re ready to go. But I’m trying to not focus on too much of what I’m gonna do, because it tends to stress me out more.
Who, what, and where do you draw your inspiration from? What inspires you for your songwriting and sound?
I think everyone and everything, of course. I’m really into indie songs and hip-hop as well, but I think everything I do I’m inspired by, and that’s my world.
So you’ve done a few covers in your day, most notably, “Believe,” by Cher. Uh, and I’ve read a couple articles and interviews in the past that you’ve said that song really holds a lot of meaning to you. How does it feel to perform a cover versus an original song? Are there any songs, any specific songs in the future that you’re looking to cover?
I feel like the covers I’ve done just made total sense. And it’s just like a part of what we play when we get closer to the shows. You know? Like it’s a song, it’s just an uplifting song, but it’s so sad. I wanted to kind of show that part of the song as well.
All my songs are kind of really melancholic and sad, but they’re also happy. So it’s kinda in the middle, you can find happiness in the sadness, you know what I mean?
“Believe” is one of those songs. It’s so sad. It’s so fun. I wanted to bring it down and at that time it just made total sense. I still bring it on tour and it’s the same with “Nothing Compares 2 U.” We were in the studio and that song just suits my voice. I was just going through a break-up as well, and I don’t want to just do that cover because I want to do that cover, like for me, it’s like something that I connected with at that time and that’s why I’m doing it. So we’ll see where we go from here. But I love doing covers and there’s also something about singing songs that everyone knows. That’s amazing.
The first song I sent my girlfriend was “Thank Me Later.” So what’s it like being a catalyst for relationships everywhere?
That’s amazing. I do love to experience that. There was someone that met at my show in Norway and they married [each other,] so that’s incredible. I love thinking about my music living around the world and people sharing it with each other.
I don’t know what my songs see, I don’t know what they go through, but I love this, in thinking about it, like how these songs can mean a lot to other people and in some way, somehow being a part of a lot of people’s stories. When I performed in Berlin, there were two couples making out as I was playing and I just love that.
Music is amazing, though. We’re lucky to have music. It’s like dogs. We don’t deserve dogs or music.
Most things you tend to write are incredibly personal and tender and relatable. With this in mind, what would you say is the most personal and emotionally powerful song on your most recent record, Crazy Life?
“Living Life Right,” but then you also have “60 Seconds,” and “Bird Sing.”
This is a question I ask myself every day. Like, “am I really doing this?” I guess “Living Life Right” is definitely one of those songs where I’m telling people that it’s not anything and it’s not easy for anyone. So I feel like it’s that song then.
You’ve spent a lot of your music career collaborating on great tracks and projects with other artists, working with other creatives like Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, Gus Dapperton, and Steve Lacy. Your original project, with Brady Daniell-Smith as well, is when you released your first couple tracks and your first album Lovers as well. And you’ve had your tracks remixed by Chanel Tres and The Chainsmokers, and you opened for Kygo on his tour. So you’ve worked with a lot of really cool artists with a lot of different sounds. How does the collaborative process change the songwriting dynamic? Do you think you get some of your best music out of these sessions?
A lot of the things I’ve been doing happened a bit early in life. It’s perfect. Of course, I needed that to go, but also, like, if those things happen now, I’d have so much more self-confidence in myself and my music, but also how I would’ve done those collaborations.
At this point, I’m probably more selective now as well. But I always had in mind that – there’s been collaborations I said no to as well. That’s because I don’t just want to become a voice. The most important thing to me is becoming my own project, but I’ve done some really, really incredible work.
I feel collaborations are really important because you see the way that other people work. We all have different methods, and all do music in different ways. It’s really inspiring to see how people are doing [their] stuff as well.
You mentioned that you love New York City, and you performed in New York City a few times, most recently at Baby’s All Right in November. Now you’ll be performing at Racket NYC, which is a new venue that just recently opened up in Manhattan. What’s it like as an artist to be one of the first people to perform at a new venue, in New York City no less?
I don’t know if it’s been a good or bad thing. I think people are more comfortable with it, like when they go to venues they know. So it’s probably a bit of a challenge in getting people to come. But, at the same time, I’m very lucky to have very supportive fans and people who want to see me. So it’s gonna be a crowded night, and it’s gonna be lots of fun.
What’s next for you? I know that you released your new track, “Swirl,” recently, and that had a lot of elements from Crazy Life on it. Is there a deluxe album in the works? Is there a new album? Are you going on this tour, and seeing what energy you get back? What’s next for you, would you say? [NOTE: Anna of the North released another single, “Try My Best,” during the time of publishing]
We’re definitely doing a deluxe album. It’s a part of that. And there’s also a couple of songs that I just needed people to hear, from that era in my life. So there’s two more songs coming. Then after that, I’ve already been writing a bit, looking at the new adventure. I’m trying to not take so long now to get a new album out, because I feel like Covid just made everything stop a bit. But I just wanna try to continue to release music, and do what I love doing.
📸: shot by Nicko McMillen