Anna Calvi is currently one of the UK’s newest and shiniest golden girl’s. Her sound is dark, sultry and emotional and her look a seductive cross between that flamenco dancer in Mission Impossible and the guitar-playing vixens in Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted to Love’ video. Following the release of her self-titled album last year, Calvi was showered with praise by everyone from NME to the music legend that is Brian Eno. Hot off the back of a string of first-time gigs Down-under, Anna linked up with BBM for a late night phone call from a very snowy London to fill us in on what’s been going on and why she’s doing what she’s doing.
Hi Anna, how’s Australia? I bet it’s nice swapping snow for sunshine?
Yeah, it’s great – nice to be warm, finally.
Are you a bit gutted to miss the snow?
I am a little bit; yeah I’m a bit jealous, but I think I go for summer – I’m not a winter girl.
I’m with you there! So what’s it been like playing over in Australia? You got some pretty rave reviews for your gig at Laneway.
Yeah it’s been really fun. It’s a nice festival and it’s nice to be travelling with the band. You know, we get to hang out a little bit and get a feel for the place. I’m enjoying it.
What’s the reception been like? Do the Aussie’s like the music?
Yeah I think so – it’s been going well.
Musically, what you’re doing right now is so different. Where does it come from?
I don’t know really. I just wanted to make music that I felt was passionate and and just emotional. I see music very emotionally, so I just wanted to create almost a sense of pure music. Like it’s fun, but it’s telling a story, not just in the lyrics. I just wasn’t that worried if it was similar to other fashions or trends or in music.
Your voice and stage persona remind us of artists like Annie Lennox and Grace Jones. Is it important to you to be seen as a strong woman?
I suppose being strong in the music is important. I mean, a feeling of fearlessness, in some way. And in terms of the way that I dress, I just wanted to express the passion in the music, which is why I dress in a way that’s influenced and inspired by flamenco outfits.
How did it feel to be picked out by Brian Eno as ‘the biggest thing since Patti Smith’ last year?
Yeah, that was err, [laughs] yeah… I mean, it’s been really amazing to have Brian’s support. It really means a lot to me and I feel very lucky and incredibly grateful. He’s been so sweet to me and he’s just such an incredible artist so it’s a really big deal to have his support.
Definitely, he’s one of my favourites! What’s he like as a mentor? You can definitely hear a bit of his influence on the album.
Well, he gave me some advice in terms of my arrangements and some of the mixes for the album. He’s just a very interesting guy to talk to, you know, he’s very intelligent and charismatic and really fun to hang out with.
Any chance you’ll cover any of his tracks? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for ‘Baby’s on Fire.’
[laughs] Well you never know, possibly.
Do you feel like there’s a lot of pressure to live up to with your next album considering the hype your first one generated?
I don’t feel the pressure, no. I feel that I want to do the best that I can for myself and not really for other people. I mean, I want other people to like it, but I need to like it myself first to be able to believe in it. I just want to do the best that I can.
How long until we see it? Will you be trying anything new?
I’m writing at the moment and when I get back from Australia I’ll be focusing on writing and recording. I think it’s definitely important as a musician to continue exploring new ideas, so it will be different for my next album. But it’s too early for me to say, or to give anything away…
What’s been the most formative experience of your musical life so far?
There have been lots of things along the way. I started playing the guitar when I was about eight and so when I first heard Jimi Hendrix that was a big eye opener. And the first time I heard Edith Piaff sing, that was a really big moment for me as a singer. Just to hear someone be so emotive, raw and expressive in their voice, and so fearless – that was really important for me on my journey to becoming a singer.
Do you remember which Hendrix track it was?
I think it was ‘Voodoo Chile’, which is the slower one with the big build up.
Yeah, I love that one; number two on Electric Ladyland if I recall… Are their any current artists exciting you at the moment?
Yeah, I think it’s a really interesting time for music at the moment. For me personally I really like Wild Beasts and Anthony and The Johnsons. I think there’s a lot of good music at the moment.
How about dance music? Would we catch you at a rave?
[laughs] Erm, it’s not really my preferred type of thing… Certain tracks I’d be into, but as a genre no, there’s other stuff I’d be more into. I’m not a raver.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I’d like to sing with Scott Walker – that would be really fun.
I think he’s a really amazing songwriter and I love his voice, he’s got a really great tone and, you know, he’s great.
So, how do you chill out when you’re not shaking up the music world?
I stay in bed for as long as possible! Then, you know, I see some friends, go and see a film, something like that. Just quite relaxed.
What’s your favourite music video of all time?
Oh wow, erm… ‘Borderline’ by Madonnna.
Really? I reckon ‘Papa don’t Preach’ is better.
Oh yeah, that’s a great one! Oh, I don’t know now – maybe that one. But her hair’s better in Borderline and she’s wearing a great pencil skirt. And she’s wearing yellow shoes, which really shouldn’t work, but it does.
How about your favourite Disney character?
[laughs] Mmm… That’s tough! I think I’ll go with the tiger in the Jungle Book.
Yeah, that one.
I’ll leave that as a mystery.
Fair enough! Well thanks for speaking to us today Anna. Enjoy Australia!
Thank you. Bye!
By Rebecca Jones