Interview: Annie Dressner on “I Thought It Would Be Easier”

A singer-songwriter who sees the sometimes positive aspect of sadness.

Annie Dressner, who has been a bit of an Americana favourite over the years, has just released her fourth album, ‘I Thought It Would Be Easier’ and is also on a headline tour of the UK. Americana UK’s Martin Johnson caught up with her over Zoom as she was heading to York to collect a band member before starting her tour in Cumbernauld. She explains that the title of her album comes from realising that her younger self didn’t realise the challenges that were ahead in dealing with life and relationships. She also admits to trying to hold on to her New York accent even though she has lived in the UK for 13 years. While her music ranges across the pop, indie, folk and americana genres she explains that she sees herself as simply a singer-songwriter, and it is the production values of particular songs that can influence their genre.

How are you and where are you?

I’m on my way up to York to pick up our third band member, rehearse, and then drive up to Scotland for the start of the tour. I’m looking forward to it, it will be fun, and it’s been highly anticipated for months, so I’m excited that it is actually happening.

You’ve still got an American accent, you are one of the few artists who have moved to the UK from America to establish a career. Why has it worked for you?

I met my now husband at an open mic in New York City, and I’ve been living here now for almost 13 years. So, music and love moved me to England. With my accent, parts of it start to go a little bit Irish but I’d rather really try to hold on to my New York accent, and I think it is slightly changing.

You’ve just released your fourth album ‘I Thought It Would Be Easier’. Is this a more mature Annie Dressner, what’s behind the title?

Annie Dressner 'I Thought It Would Be Easier' cover artIn thinking about the record it is ten songs all about different kinds of relationships, and I was thinking about my much younger self as a child and how I would never have anticipated those situations on the record that happened to me or other people. So, I called it ‘I Thought It Would Be Easier’ because I did think life would be easier, as I think many people do before they really experience life.

Did you get a different perspective looking back?

Often times I realise what I’m thinking after I’ve written a song. Sometimes I will know exactly what I’ll write about, while other times I will discover what I’m thinking, have experienced or have observed, and see it through writing the song as it is really the only way I know how to articulate what I’m actually thinking even if I didn’t realise what I was thinking before.

Your lyrics are clearly important to you, but how important is the soundscape of the record?

I think all of it is important. I think primarily within the song the melody is really important to me. When I write songs I tend to play guitar and sing random words, and eventually, it formulates them into an actual song. I think the sound of the words and the melody need to go together really well in order to work. I also think in terms of the soundscape of the record, the production of the record, I think it is really important to how I want the songs to be portrayed. So, I think it can make a huge difference, but the song itself shouldn’t be that different. I’m not really sure, I think the song being a good song is most important, and the production gives it more of a vibe, but with some of my songs they could have been produced in different ways and it would have maybe made them feel differently.

Your music mixes pop and indie with folk and Americana – how do you view your own music?

I think now I’m just saying I’m a singer-songwriter because, like you’ve just said, the songs can range over a number of related genres. I think that that does depend on maybe how they are produced, but I would just say singer-songwriter.

You are known for sad songs but sad songs can be cathartic and ultimately uplifting. What do they mean to you?

In exploring sadness, especially through writing songs, other discoveries can be made to get you through that sadness. So, I guess you can grow from sadness, you can learn how to do things differently through sadness, and you can also just feel the sadness. Yeah, I think sadness is unfortunately something everyone will encounter and hopefully you will come out the other side. Sometimes things are really sad, like death, but there is a range of sadness.

You had some of your friends join you on the new record?

Polly Poulusma is one of my really close friends, and she sang on my second and third records actually, and I love singing and harmonising with her, So, I naturally asked her to sing on what turned out to be the hardest song to sing on the record, and she was a good sport and she did an awesome job with that. Boo Hewerdine, I asked if he wanted to be involved, so he laid down Farfisa on the first song ‘Black and White’ which added quite a lot to it and that was really nice of him. David Ford and I did a record together two years ago and the song ‘After The Storm’ is the only co-write on the record, and it’s a song I started writing when we were recording our record a few years prior and I just couldn’t finish it. I thought the only person who could appropriately help me finish and co-write that song would be him. Steven Adams. I also asked him because I thought it would sound really good, and my husband Paul Goodwin, who also produced the record, thought he would sound great on the last track, ‘Should’ve Seen It Coming’. And that’s how it all turned out.

Who are your go-to influences?

Growing up there was a lot of Simon & Garfunkel, Carly Simon, James Taylor, John Denver, and singer-songwriters from that era that I grew up listening to with my parents. I also really love and enjoy the Foo Fighters, Belle and Sebastian, and Ben Kweller whom I met briefly at Folk Alliance last year, and I told him of all the records I listen to, apart from Simon & Garfunkel, I listen to his records the most. I saw him play on his first tour, and I do think it had an influence on me thinking that this is an awesome thing to do, and I love his writing. So, I would say all of those people and bands, but also many others because I grew up listening to lots of different kinds of music. It didn’t actually occur to me that I could write my own songs until I was 18. I always sang and did music, but I’m really glad I discovered I like to do it because it is really fun most of the time.

And you wouldn’t be in the UK without it.

That’s true, and interestingly I wrote my first song that nobody will ever hear in London because I studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art one summer, and I brought my little kid’s guitar that I learnt guitar on, a little guitar that had been in my house my whole life that I never noticed, and I wrote my first song in London. I’d forgotten about that.

It might still see the light of day at some time.

I don’t know if that song will, but it did include every chord I’d learned in it.

You did a support gig with Bernard Butler in February, what was that like?

That was really fun, that was a great show. He was not only tremendously talented, his songs are great and his guitar playing is excellent, he is also a very nice person. It was such a fun show to do and I enjoyed it a lot.

What was his audience like?

Attentive and excited, and a real mix of ages and everything like that, so quite a good lively audience and an all-around really nice show. Clearly, people loved him, so playing a show like that is a joy.

The music business is tough at the moment, do you have any advice for anyone starting out in the business?

I guess know who you are and what you are trying to say. Stick to who you are and write the songs that make you feel good and you are really proud of.

At AUK, we like to share music with our readers. What are your favourite tracks, albums or artists on your playlists?

Steven Adams, ‘Drops’, and ‘Grown Up’ by Ed Blunt who is very good and it’s just come out. Ed Blunt is on my tour and Ed Blunt and Gary Stewart are playing as my band and they are splitting most of the support.

Finally, do you want to say anything to our UK readers?

I’d like to say thank you for reading about music and caring about music, it’s really nice, and to Americana UK which has been very supportive of my music over the last few years, and I’m really appreciative of that a lot. It is just nice there is a forum and magazine that is sharing and promoting new music. I’d also like to say thanks for listening to my music.

Annie Dressner’s ‘I Thought It Would Be Easier’ is out now on Dharma Records.

Annie Dressner’s Headline UK Tour

 

17th April – Cumbernauld Theatre, Cumbernauld

18th April – Cape To Cairo, Shildon

19th April – The Old Schoolhouse, Robin Hood’s Bay

20th April – St Mary’s Church, Purley on Thames

21st April – Kitchen Garden Café, Birmingham

24th April – The Greystones, Sheffield

25th April – The Green Note, London

26th April – Vestry Hall, Cranbrook

27th April – The Junction, Cambridge

28th April – The Hive, Shrewsbury

1st May – Sound & Art, Worcester

2nd May – Chapel Arts, Bath

4th May – The Met, Bury

About Martin Johnson 406 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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