Hi Annie, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been weird, thanks! Scary times we’re living in, but I’m doing well and am very fortunate.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Weigh of Life”?
“Weight of Life” was one of the more difficult songs I’ve written. It’s about my experience with motherhood, the good and the bad. It can be tricky to write songs about your experience as a mother, because you worry, “what will my kid think of this when she grows up?” But I wanted to be as honest as I could, and it isn’t always pretty.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
One night, I was out to dinner with my husband and another musician friend. We were at a trendy taco joint in Nashville and I had brought my one year old along. She was off her schedule because we were traveling, and she had fallen asleep on my chest. My musician friend was young, in his twenties, and just getting courted by record labels and managers. I watched him at the bar from my perch at our table, the baby hot and sweaty on my chest, not able to get up for fear of waking her. I watched his grin and his death metal t-shirt and his hands as he patted friends on the back and downed shots of bourbon, free as the wind. My fury was terrifying. That night I went home and wrote this song.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
I filmed with Caitlin Fowler (directing) and Gus Black (producing). Gus shot the photo for the EP cover, so he knew what this record and song were about, and the aesthetic I was looking for. Caitlin somehow stepped in and read my damn mind. I had this idea to use a young girl in the video, someone on the cusp of being a woman, and those scenes with her and me are so potent and strange and sad.
The single comes off your new album Joy – what’s the story behind the title?
Joy is also the name of a song on the album. Lots of people want to project this image of being a blissful, glowing, always happy parent. That isn’t me. But there’s something realer than that, something that cuts deeper.
How was the recording and writing process?
It took me years to write this record. I spent the first few years after my daughter was born writing song after song, and I didn’t have much time to think about what direction I was going in. When I finally stopped and took stock of them, the best ones were all about being a parent. I’ve said this before: I had some reservations about doing a ‘motherhood record’ at first. Maybe it isn’t cool to write about being a mom. But it’s real and it’s the most honest thing I’ve ever written.
What was it like to work with Tony Buchen and how did that relationship develop?
Tony is great. It was just me and him in his studio in Eagle Rock. Other musicians came in here and there, but for the majority of the time it was the two of us. When you’re working like that you just kind of get in the hole with each other. It can be intense, but it worked. He’s a great producer and we had the additional benefit of him being an excellent bass player and keyboardist. He’s also a dad, so he understood what this record was, and he was very thoughtful about the stuff I was laying on the line. I had him ask me a few times, “are you sure you wanna go here?” I’d always say yes, and he’d always go there with me.
How much did he get to influence the album?
The best thing Tony did for the EP was broaden it. He took something that was so personal to me I could barely see it, and he made it cinematic. He widened the lens sonically so it could be about more than just me suffering away at my piano.
What aspect of motherhood and depression did you get to explore on this record?
Because I wrote so much about it I feel like I explored every aspect! Before I had a baby, no one told me the truth about it. It’s like a code between parents. Don’t talk about how fucking hard it is, or no one will do it. The Fight Club of Parenting, haha! I wanted to show all the sides of motherhood I’d experienced so far. I wanted to show that I didn’t take it lightly, that it took all my heart and soul to be a mom. But I also wanted to show it could be funny and sad and exciting too.
What made you want to tackle this rather dark and complicated subjects?
I wanted a baby, but I was scared it would take away the identity I’d fought for my whole life. As an independent musician, you spend so much time fighting to be who you are. And then I had the baby, and I was exhausted and spent and depressed and my identity did feel like it was gone. I had postpartum depression that I didn’t really get a handle on until she was one, and so I felt empty. Here’s the thing though: my identity wasn’t gone. It took a while, but I started writing again and singing again and my voice was deeper because of having that kid, not despite it.
Where else did you find inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
I found it from things my friends said and things my mother said, from my experience as a daughter. Interestingly, this is the first record where I didn’t go in with a full template of musical influences and references. It feels like the music and production came very naturally and spontaneously.
Any plans to hit the road?
Good God I would love to be on the road. Given the current situation in our world, my concerts will all be virtual for a while.
What else is happening next in Annie Stela’s world?
Well, I’m gonna go clean the bathroom. Super exciting here in quarantine.