Anna Leone creates the type of music that immediately spellbinds you with its incredible natural aura and ability to encapsulate you through every subtle movement. Growing the youngest of five sisters in Stockholm, Anna sought comfort not always in people but the stories that are told through video games and comic books. The ever expanding stories of the Marvel & DC comics soon became a home away from the real world for Anna, becoming absorbed and surrounded by the deep and rich storytelling.
She first emerged back in 2018 with her dazzling debut EP Wandering Away, a collection of heartfelt and earnestly bright songs that showcased her tender vocal trance and carefully constructed sounds. She has since gone on to win at the 2020 Music Moves Talent Awards and yesterday announced her long awaited debut album I’ve Felt All These Things, set to be released on September 10th via AllPoints/ Half Awake. We spoke to Anna over a very temperamental phone connection to learn all about her journey as an artist and what the album means to her.
Over what sort of time and whereabouts was the album recorded?
I recorded it two years ago now, between 2018 and 2019, I feel like I’ve lost track of time recently. I recorded it in LA with Paul Butler as a producer and we went in in instalments since I’m from Sweden. I don’t have a visa or anything so I went there twice for the album and then we went back again. It was very much a back and forth situation from LA to Stockholm.
Has sitting on the album for so long made you want to go back and change anything at all?
I haven’t dared to listen to it again! I want to be able to disconnect from it a little bit. Mainly because during the album process I was so wrapped up in it. And I think it’s still quite painful in a way for me to listen back to it, so I want to distance myself as much as possible so that I’m not a wreck when I sing the songs live or talk about them. And everything that has to do with marketing the project, I want to feel a little bit more disconnected than I’m able to be.
Is that due to themes of the album and what you were writing about around that time?
I love the album and I’m really proud of what Paul an I did together and everyone else involved within the album process. I’m really proud of the album and of the songs. But I’m so emotionally attached to the songs as they’re a mix of reminding me things that I felt at the time. I was going through depression when I wrote it and I’m still kind of in that space right now so just reliving those songs feels kind of tough. But also I think the music is really healing for me and painful at the same time so it’s a double edged sword.
Did writing these songs help you overcome what you were feeling at the time?
Yes, they didn’t solve anything at all but I think they were comforting at the time. It’s also cathartic sorting through your emotions as well. Being able to put it on the page helps you to analyse and see the situation clearer. And discovering what you’re feeling as well.
In the video for “Still I Wait” you’re all in this refurbished hospital showing people separated, was that inspired by last year or was that planned before?
The idea from it came from Savannah Setten, the director. It was after COVID hit but before the isolation aspect of it started. But the song in itself has also always represented that feeling so it felt natural to show it in the visual way that we did. But it also coincided with the pandemic so it was a real coincidence.
Do you think that now the last year has happened, there’s been a new meaning been placed on the song?
Yeah I think maybe more the video and the song together. I think when I looked back at it I thought “Oh this is actually sensitive of what’s going on”. Everyone is talking more about connection nowadays and how people find connection and who we become without it. So I think that’s an interesting perspective that we have now that we might have not had before.
Did you find yourself finding a connection with yourself on the album as well as other people?
Yeah the album is definitely very centered around myself but also loneliness and how that can manifest itself. And how you can try to reach out to other people and love them other people but also making sure you can love yourself.
You’ve said before you’re a fan of the DC and Marvel comics, what drew you to them originally? And how long have you been reading those?
It started when I used to watch them on Sunday morning cartoons. The old Justice League and X-Men shows. I grew up with that so I’ve always been a fan of those universes. I think comics-wise it started with Batman by Frank Miller so it was the really dark stories. That’s what drew me to them, the realism, the gritty, the really deep questions of “Why are they vigilantes?”. Then with the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe I’ve been really into that.
Does the storytelling from the darker side of the comics influenced the stories you tell within your songs?
It’s what I find interesting about it. The stories are about superheroes but it’s also about the person behind them and what a human does in extreme situations and the extreme emotions they face and the weight of responsibility. I think the emotional turmoil behind that life is really interesting. So I guess that’s what inspires me in that way. It’s also something I find really exciting, but I don’t think it’s the exciting side that translates more to my music, more the psychological aspect.
Who would you say would be some of your other biggest influences for your sound?
Bob Dylan and Laura Marling I think about a lot. I’m really drawn to these singer-songwriters who really explore different sounds with the guitar and that can be really sparse and have a raw feeling with their songs. They don’t have to rely on production, it’s just a beautiful song within itself. I’ve always loved the strings that Lana Del Rey uses, how she creates this cinematic universe with her sound. It feels like you’re stepping into her world.
Is creating a world within your songs something you try to achieve?
Yeah definitely. I think that’s a great goal of mine, to be able to lose yourself within the songs. You can almost drift off in a way. A lot of people have told me that they fall asleep to my songs! Which is fun haha. They’ve said it’s because I have a soothing voice and I like that idea that you’re entranced in a way. It’s not something that you put on in the background, you’re present in the music.
It’s almost entering a meditative state where the music is relaxing you.
Yeah I think that it’s a cool thing to represent.
Originally you never intended to release your own music, rather just playing it for yourself. What brought you to the point of deciding to release your own music?
I never thought that I would become an artist because despite listening to folk singers like Simon & Garfunkel or other people I looked up to, I saw the word “artist” as something that I wasn’t and something that I couldn’t be. Mainly because I felt very introverted and I thought that to be a singer and to release music you have to be a certain kind of extroverted person. So that’s why I didn’t picture myself in that industry. I don’t know exactly what changed but I guess it was me creating my own music and feeling that “well maybe I should give this a go”. After that both my sisters connected me in different directions. And then I started working with Mica Elig, my partner in crime right now and who has been for a few years. He’s really supportive and very ambitious and he’s driving me to get out of my comfort zone in a good way.
Is coming out of your comfort zone something you try to do often when writing songs?
I think my main thing is that I shouldn’t hold back when I’m writing. I shouldn’t think too much about how the song will be received or thinking “I can’t write this because it’s too honest”. I feel as if I should just write for myself, as if it was never going to be released. And then I just release it! Otherwise it would just feel like I’m holding myself back in that sense.
What’s it been like releasing this music at the moment without having any shows to support it?
It’s weird because you kind of need that exposure that you get from live shows. So from a business perspective it’s much harder to get the songs out there. But I’m really afraid of the stage and I have stage fright, so for me it’s been kind of nice in a way to release music and be able to have that be the main way that people consume the songs. That’s my main way of delivering emotions. I was looking forward to touring and meeting people and performing the songs live because that’s a whole different world for me.
You get that connection from people. But at the same time people appreciate the album as what it is as that’s all they can have.
It’s nice that people can dive into it that way.
I’ve Felt All These Things is out September 10th via AllPoints/ Half Awake, pre-order here.