Analogue Music | Anna Burch

Anna Burch

By Matt Conner

Anna Burch had no way of knowing a quarantine was coming, but she made the ideal soundtrack for it anyway.

While we're all staying socially distant these days, finding ways to fill the downtime at home, it's nice to find such a beautiful gem—a "restful" one, as Anna Burch describes—as If You're Dreaming. Burch's sophomore album was a purposeful effort to craft something that required patience, a counter-cultural creative approach to the singles-oriented marketplace that demands artistic consumption at an unhealthy rate.

That is, until these days. In the midst of a pandemic, we're thrilled to spin an album like Dreaming. Burch's return is a rewarding, relaxing jaunt through jangly pop/rock tunes that span a number of influences.

We recently sat down with the Detroit-based songwriter to hear more about trying to release an album during a global pandemic and what she learned from the cycle of releasing and supporting debut album.

Analogue: We're in the middle of this pandemic and all that comes with it and you're releasing this beautiful new album. Were there thoughts of shelving the release at all?

Anna Burch: No, no one talked to me about that. There's too much that goes into the digital distro side of things. I'm lucky in that I have these structures in place—a publicist, a label in the U.S., a label overseas. I think DIY artists have a bit more difficult time figuring out when to release and things like that, but it's still rolling out as planned. We're coming up with different ways to change our approach. I think generally the industry has been hollowing out for a while, especially with streaming and stuff, so there's a lot to consider. Today's a good day because BandCamp is waiving their revenue fees and I think more people are aware of how hard artists are getting hit right now.

"Selfishly, I think it's a perfect record for quarantine."

Analogue: Yeah I wondered about the silver lining there. Even my own friends are posting about sitting back and listening to an album front to back without doing anything else.

Anna: Yeah, so much of the way people consume music now is like background music to be productive to and work or something to fill the silence. Now that everyone has to slow down and rethink what their days even look like, the silver lining is that there's likely never been a better opportunity for people to really spend time with music and art.

Analogue: All that makes me wonder about If You're Dreaming and how you feel about the world it's coming into versus what you might have thought three months ago.

Anna: Selfishly, I think it's a perfect record for quarantine. [Laughs]

Analogue: No, I love that you said that and I'd love hear why.

Anna: I thought more about making a record than I did making songs to tour with. While I was having a lot of fun arranging the songs to practice for the tour, I really do think that this is a record that's more of a meditative, headphones-in listen for a lot of it. I really intended to make a proper album. It's not that the first record wasn't a proper album, but it felt more like nine songs that could stand alone, I think, but with this record, I wanted it to have an emotional arc to it. There are a couple instrumental tracks. I think the mood is more permeating throughout the record than the first one.

Analogue: Was that the result of planning with a vision or some organic observations?

Anna: It was a little bit of both. In a way, it almost provided a bit more of a challenge when ordering the songs and stuff like that. I knew going into it that even though it felt like not the best time to make a cohesive record with everything so geared toward singles and streaming, this contrarian in me really wanted to make a record that hopes people would be listening to the whole thing.

I was getting a little nervous actually about how to translate some of the songs into the live show, but I'm hoping that we'll be able to get to a place where everyone's safe and we can convene together again. That might even change people's attention spans when it comes to paying attention to live music. Maybe it will create a climate where we can connect more and play softer songs that maybe requires more patience.

Analogue: How much were you surprised by the whole cycle of releasing and supporting your debut?

Anna: I'd not anticipated getting signed to a reputable label like Polyvinyl and then all the stuff that happened overseas as well, getting a U.K. label that's well-respected as well. It think what surprised me was how quickly a European tour came together. I really appreciated my European agent who, unfortunately, is no longer booking, but he did a great job with a pretty unknown artist. I think that really helped me be able to land a U.S. agent and get more stuff going in the States.

The Europe stuff came together early and I was surprised by that. Then it became a bit of a blur because when we were a couple weeks out from release, I still didn't have a booking agent in the U.S. and not a lot of touring opportunities. Then when I was out of the road, things picked up a bit. That was cool. I had no idea I'd be touring as much as I did, but I think it was around 130 shows to support that record. They kept me pretty busy.

Analogue: Were you ready for a respite?

Anna: Absolutely. Luckily me coming home coincided with getting into an apartment that's much more conducive to rest and also creativity, so I was able to get into a new spot and make it my home and then I was able to really focus on finishing up the songs and start making plans to record. It was definitely a good time to slow down. I think the record reflects that mood of rest and a reflection of the weariness of the road and certain aspects in my life before that time. I think it's a good restful record.

Analogue: What are you most proud of on this set of songs?

Anna: That's a tough one. [Pause] I'm proud of the way we were able to arrange these songs rather quickly. Working with Sam and my drummer from Detroit, we were able to arrange everything pretty organically as a trio. I'd sent them my solo demos before we got together for our session and it was such a relaxed atmosphere. I'd been playing the same songs on tour every night, so it felt so fun to be in a spontaneous writing environment. I'm just really proud of the decisions we made and the way the record came together. It wasn't stressful and I'm really grateful for that.

VISIT: Anna Burch