Anna Smyrk

Anna Smyrk

You may have never heard of Anna Smyrk before. She is an Australian alternative singer-songwriter who caught our attention during the pandemic with “Human Condition.”

Today she releases a new EP Cortisol and Blue Light. She recorded the EP in Nashville with producers Jake Finch and Collin Pastore. She has released the singles “I Don’t Want To Meet Your Mother” and “The Runner.”

Smyrk has a EP release party with her band Alex Burkoy (Tinpan Orange), Holly Thomas (Quivers, Husky, Freya Josephine Hollick) and Loz Irwin Ray (Belly Savalas) will grace the stage at Workers Club on Friday 28 April with support form This Way North.

Smyrk mixes mischievous pop beats with sly lyrics. She is not a pop singer. Her distinctive biting vocals have elements of Shirley Manson meets K. Flay. One is drawn in instantly by her hooks. Her arrangements fill a room with constructive elements fused into a living soul. There are many emerging voices coming from Australia these days. Smyrk should be tops on that list. Visit here for more info.

FEMMUSIC:  What was the biggest challenge in making Cortisol and Blue Light?

 AS: One major challenge was geographical. I recorded the first two tracks from the EP when I was in Nashville last June, but then I came back home to Australia. I didn’t know yet that I wanted the tracks to be part of an EP and when I figured that out, I wasn’t sure how to record the rest of the songs so they would all fit together. Luckily, the producers I worked with, Jake Finch and Collin Pastore, had set up a system for remote recording during the pandemic. So we ended up finishing the record across continents- me in my spare room in Melbourne, Australia and them in the studio in Nashville. It ended up working really well. The time difference was a little nasty (singing early in the morning is always a challenge) but I really liked being able to put down my parts in my own, comfortable space.

 FEMMUSIC:  What was your vision for the album?

AS: I wanted to make a record that was a natural follow up to my last release, The Hour Between Us. That previous EP was a real shift in sound for me. Before that, I’d been writing and recording in a folk, singer-songwriter style but The Hour Between Us was a record of indie-pop songs with a real focus on big, lush production and anthemic, hooky songs. There’s still a lot I want to explore in that sonic space, and Cortisol and Blue Light let me go down that road a little further.

 FEMMUSIC:  You worked with Jake Finch & Collin Pastore for this project. How did you meet them and what made you decide to work with them?
AS: I reached out to them when I was heading over to the US. I knew they’d worked on some of my favourite recent records, like Lucy Dacus’ Home Video album. I emailed them and sent them some demos but to be honest, I didn’t really expect to hear back from them! But they liked my stuff and it all lined up really well.FEMMUSIC: Tell me about “Arrived.” How did that song develop?

AS: It was definitely a pandemic song! Having to stop everything and totally rethink every plan I had made really made me reflect on this drive to always be moving forward, always reaching for something.

 I remember the seed of the song came when I was walking around the park. A few of the lyric lines came into my head and I had to stop and write them down. The verses came pretty quickly after that, but I was playing around for ages with different choruses and bridges. I sat down with Joel Quartermain, a great Australian songwriter and musician, who helped me workshop my disparate ideas into the final version.

FEMMUSIC:  Can you describe your songwriting technique? How has it changed over time?

AS: The process has remained pretty similar for me over time. I usually start with a little idea- a melody or a line of lyric. I’m constantly writing notes throughout the day- images and thoughts that pop up in my head, little bits of poetry. Those often become the start of songs. Then I tend to need a really long time to play around with it and think about what I’m really trying to say. Most songs usually take me months or even years to finish. I’ve always been intensely jealous of those songwriters who say they sit down and a song just falls out of them fully formed, in 10 minutes! It’s a much longer process for me.

FEMMUSIC: What song, not your own, has had the biggest impact on you and why?

AS: Just one?! So many songs have had a huge impact. One that pops into my head though, is “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrissette. I was probably in my early teens when I first heard it. I’d grown up listening to folk singer songwriters from the 60s and 70s, like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. I still love that stuff, but Alanis was something else! The emotions were so raw and brutally honest, the production was epic and the songs were edgy but full of hooks. I was completely hooked myself, and it was around that time that I started writing songs, so I’m sure it had a big influence.

FEMMUSIC:  As a woman in the music industry how have you dealt with discrimination?

AS: There’s a whole system of discrimination, bias and exploitation that needs to change in the industry, which impacts women and also intersects with discrimination towards people of colour, people living with disabilities, the trans community, and the LGBTIQ+ community. So I’m not sure I would say that I’ve really dealt with it, I’ve just tried to show up and support good people doing good stuff. I try to make sure my band and the team around me are majority women because we’re still a minority in most parts of the industry so I think we have to do everything we can to lift each other up. But there’s still so much to do on this! I’m still figuring out how I can be part of the change, I guess.

FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?

AS: I think so many musicians struggle to keep making their art because of financial challenges. It’s so tough out there and things haven’t gotten any easier over the last few years. I’d love to see more support for artists who are in the early stages of their career.

Anna Smyrk

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