Wednesday, November 1, 2017

ANJA KOTAR [ Interview # 198 ]


     Given the fact that your songs get stuck in my head, I want to describe them as "pop" on some level- and even if it is because I can hear bits of someone like Ke$ha in them- but at the same time I think "This can't be pop music because I don't like pop music. I don't listen to the radio" How do you describe your music to someone who asks?

I think one of the greatest things about Pop music is that it’s so diverse - it draws influences from so many genres and, ultimately, what defines it as “pop” is a catchy, memorable hook you can sing along to. Through that perspective, I definitely always describe my music as pop, but in no way do I find that as an excuse to be boring or predictable. Once I have the main melody that I can hear people singing to, a whole new side of the work begins. I firmly believe that the production and underlying composition should work together in ways that complete and support each other, creating surprises and truly bringing the song to life by painting a sonic picture. And that’s what I try to do with my music.

·         Who would you say are some of your biggest influences that go into creating your music? Is there anything you listen to that isn't found in your music?

For this album especially, I gravitated towards artists that are using unusual sounds and “tricks” in their compositions - Jon Bellion, The 1975, early The Weeknd. I wanted to explore the territory of electronic music production, altering instruments and their timbre with my producer Pascal Guyon. However, there are musicians like Freddie Mercury, Barbra Streisand, and Lady Gaga who might not have an audible impression on my music, but they’re the ones I truly look up to as artists overall - from their vocal and performance abilities to their creative process and work.

·         At only age 19 you have accomplished more on "NOMAD" than some artists will in their entire life.    Aside from the obvious question of how you create such great music at such a young age, I can only imagine what the future holds for you.    What is it like for you- as a 19 year old- to know that your music is already so defined?

Thank you so much - that truly means a lot! I was always determined that I would try to really dive into my work and have a “mind” behind - study it and sculpt it in detail, not just create something that everyone else is doing, and do so on a whim. It took me almost two years to fully write and finish production on this album, mainly because I wanted to take the time to search through different options, sounds, and styles (“Coltrane” had over 6 different versions of it before it turned into what it is today!). With every step of the way, I learned something new and added a piece to the puzzle that was the overall sound of the record. I have to give a huge shout out to Pascal Guyon on this one; he created an environment where no sound or idea were off limits, constantly provided feedback and taught me new things, and was willing to work for hours on end on a single synth sound :) I always wished to have a defined sound, and it wasn't until the very last master came in and I listened to the album as a whole completely unburdened by what else needed to be changed, that I realized what we had on our hands. I am extremely grateful that I got to create something that I believe in with my whole heart and I am excited to see where it takes me from here :)

·         I've heard a lot about music in countries outside of the United States- how there aren't pop acts created like there are here.   Is that true where you are?   Do people have a difficult time believing you create your own songs?

As far as writing your own songs goes, I think that’s common for singer songwriters across the world and in Europe - many musicians I met while performing at festivals there last year either wrote or co-wrote their songs (the ratio is about the same as here). However, as far as the music itself goes, that’s definitely true - the pop music scene in Slovenia (and Europe in general) is much different than here. Because it’s comprised of so many unique countries separated by culture and language barriers, it’s much harder to have a career outside your country which makes music much less of an industry as opposed to the US. Just looking at it from a sonic standpoint, you can watch a couple of videos from Eurovision and you’ll be able to see what pop music is over there - it’s much more dance and trance oriented. Of course, big worldwide hits are still popular, but a big share of the market also take up national/folk musicians.

·         Would a guide on "How To Be Cool" really make someone cool?   Isn't it something that, like music and art, can't really be taught?

Yeah, I think it would! In my opinion, being “cool” is all about being true to yourself, embracing your uniqueness and non-conforming to standards that society tries to impress upon you. So in that view, I wish there were more messages going out to young adults through big media that tells them they are special and incredible exactly the way they are, empowering them to stand behind their believes and themselves.
At the same time, I also believe 90% of music and art IS in fact taught. Everyone talks about Mozart writing his first symphonies at the age of 8, but no one tells you he practiced for 6-8 hours a day, every day to get there. Sure, we are given a gift that naturally inclines us to a certain discipline, but it is then our responsibility to nurture it and improve upon it. And a parallel can be drawn to being “cool”: we were born a certain way and it’s our responsibility to embrace and nurture our bodies and personalities and constantly learn and strive to be better.

·         For some reason, countries outside of the United States also seem to really enjoy cassettes.   Do you have any thoughts on them- would you like to one day see your music released on a cassette?

Yes - there’s a big trend of nostalgia all across the world right now and you can see it in everything: from 80s inspired TV shows (Stranger Things) to increased sales in vinyl or cassettes. I think it wold be interesting to release NOMAD on cassettes - in this case it’s definitely much less about the quality of sound than it is about the experience and feeling of listening to something on cassette brings to you, so it would be great to see how people react to that (especially since the album is structured as an in-car mixtape :)

·         How do you feel you relate to your album title “NOMAD”?

The longer I live in the US, the more complex the question of ‘home’ becomes. One of the most interesting things I’ve experienced during this transition was the feeling that I belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time, a part of everything and nothing - very much like a nomad. The more I delved into these feelings, the more I started to notice that I wasn’t alone in this experience, but that, rather, many young adults transitioning from their teenage years into adulthood feel the exact same way. As we’re growing up, we are searching for ourselves and our place in this world, and NOMAD tracks that journey.

·         Final thoughts, shout outs, etc... ??

The first music video of the NOMAD short film is out now - you can check out How To Be Cool right here:

Thank you so much for all your support - this was definitely one of my favorite interviews so far :)

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