The Tyrolean singer ÄNN sounds a little like BOY, a little like Oh Wonder and is able to capture emotions at least as well as OSKA. Thanks to her relatable lyrics and her soft voice, ÄNN nevertheless manages to develop her very own, unique style. Proof of this can be found on her singles that were released over the course of the last two years. In May 2021, however, her first album will be released. Itta Francesca Ivellio-Vellin took the opportunity to talk to ÄNN about the production of the album, experiences with racism and much more.
Your new single “Mother” came out on February 26th, 2021 – it’s a fantastic song.
ÄNN: Thank you! My mother had to cry when she first listened to it – I get a lot of feedback that it’s too emotional and sad.
It is pretty emotional, yes, but stunning, nonetheless. I’m definitely looking forward to your album, which will be released in May!
ÄNN: Yes, me too. It’s become a bit of a burden now – it should have long been released by now.
ÄNN: Well, last year was obviously “the big C”, which is why there wasn’t much time to go to the studio. The idea was to postpone the release so that a little tour might be possible, but well. That’s history for now anyway. I wanted it to be released in 2019, but it wasn’t meant to be. I wrote a couple of new songs in the meantime, which we added to the album, so it’s all good the way it is.
How did you get into making music?
ÄNN: I only started taking my singing seriously 4 years ago. I’ve always sung and written songs, and I also learned the piano. I also went to a music school, where my main subject was classical singing. Originally, I went there because I wanted to become an actress and vocal training is important for that. But music became my main passion and I started singing more and more. But up until I came to Vienna and started my studies, I didn’t see myself as a singer. When I was in the studio for the first time, I recorded a demo of “Vienna” with Thomas Mora. He thought I was pretty good and asked whether I wanted to work together with him. Before I was on stage, however, I was on the radio – that was strange. That’s why I have almost no stage experience.
Where did you go to high school?
ÄNN: In Tyrol, even if you can’t hear it. I’ve been in Vienna since 2015.
When did you write “Vienna”?
ÄNN: I wrote that the year I moved to Vienna. Vienna has influenced me a lot.
In the videos of your debut single “Painted Floors” and “Vienna” the focus is mainly on you. With “String Lights”, it’s different. The song is about friendship, and the video also focuses on your friends.
ÄNN: Yes, I made the video to “String Lights” with the help of two friends. We just spent a wonderful day together last summer, on a colleague’s roof, and filmed everything the whole time. In the end, I had around 25 GB of footage, which I edited myself. That was fun. For the first video, “Painted Floors”, I actually had completely different plans, but then we were at this warehouse and there was this red light, and after 5 hours full of filming other things, we finally did a one-take in front of the red wall, and that was it! The video for “Vienna” was also done very spontaneously. A driver drove me around Vienna for hours in this old Jaguar, that was cool. The car’s engine died a couple of times, though, and we were driving on the Ringstraße – the people behind us were not amused.
What is particularly nice about this video is that Vienna, especially the Ringstraße, is reflected in the car, which looks really nice – particularly in black and white. My Viennese heart loves it! There is, however, a certain similarity to Duffy’s video of “Warkwick Avenue”.
ÄNN: Yes, I didn’t remember that one at all. Someone made a comment about that under my video. It’s quite unfortunate! I’ve always loved that song. When I re-watched Duffy’s video, I was amazed that I didn’t realise it before!
Well, there are a few differences. And there definitely other music videos with people singing in cars! Some commented under the video of “String Lights” that the song reminds them of the wonderful band BOY. I have to admit, I think so too!
ÄNN: Yes! I was so happy! I am always happy about comparisons like this.
Other artists don’t like comparisons like these, because they want to do their own thing. For you, it’s more of a compliment.
ÄNN: Yes, after all, I am the sum of all the artists I have listened to in my life. Of course, they have influenced me a lot, so I am happy when people see connections. So far, I’ve only been compared to artists I really listen to, so it makes sense to me.
In your song “When I’m with you” you sing, “I don’t like myself when I’m with you”. Pretty heavy.
ÄNN: Yeah, I know [laughs]. It wasn’t necessarily about a romantic relationship. Sometimes, it just happens in friendships that it doesn’t quite work anymore. You just grow apart, and that’s why I wrote this song. But there is also the line “I hold my breath to keep these words from you” – that is to say, “I don’t want to say it, but actually I don’t feel like myself with you”.
In almost all of your songs, you have this recurring theme of “pretending” and playing a different person than you are. How did that develop? Is that also a topic on the album?
ÄNN: Yes, it’s the theme of the whole album. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I want to be. The issues that come up in “Mother” were the main reason why I tried to adapt to the people around me. From when I was a child up until about 3 years ago, I had the feeling that I didn’t know who I was and who I wanted to be. So, the main focus of this album is pretending and trying to find myself.
It’s always a process, but are you the person you want to be now?
ÄNN: I guess so. Yes, I am satisfied with myself. Vienna was also a decisive factor in that, because I just got to know a new environment and new people, including many like-minded people. Here, I was also able to make music, which was something I’ve always wanted to do, but never thought that I was good enough for. I’ve found my home here a bit. Even if the first two years were tough.
Yeah, Vienna is not always easy.
ÄNN: Nope. But easier than Kitzbühel. So, no offense to all Tyroleans out there. I really like my hometown, but the decision to go to Vienna was the right one for me.
Do you feel represented by Nenda’s “Mixed Feelings”? She’s from Tyrol too.
ÄNN: Yes! I also feel that racism has become once again a focus of conversations. Yesterday was this radio special with Austrian BIPOC musicians on FM4. Last year, however, when Black Lives Matter was getting so much coverage in the media, a friend of my mother’s asked her if we also had this problem with racism. My mother said, yes of course. Her friend answered: “Why though? Your children are quite pretty, after all! ”
I am speechless and stunned. In “Mother” your mum says “different is good”. How do you feel about it now?
ÄNN: Nowadays, I can accept it more. I didn’t want to attract any attention as a child and teenager. I just wanted to be part of the whole community. My mom is from Brazil, and some parents and grandparents couldn’t quite accept that I was in class with their children and grandchildren. It is also interesting that my older sister was in the same school as me, but hardly had any problems with racism. I did, though. That’s why it used to be important for me to be like everyone else – which is, as I mentioned before, the central theme of my debut album.
Thank you for the lovely interview!
Itta Francesca Ivellio-Vellin