Ever since Anna Calvi’s nomination for the BBC's Sound of 2011 poll, it's been a busy – and buzzy – few years for the London-based singer. Her debut album was released in the UK in 2011 and garnered rave reviews, getting nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2011 and the BRIT Awards in 2012. After she performed at the opening of the G-Star store in Cannes in June, RAW magazine sat her down in a London café to find out more.
RAW Magazine: At the moment there seems to be a lot of female singers/song-writers at the top of the music industry – it is unprecedentedly populated by female stars like Rihanna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and at the same time artists like Adele, Lana del Rey, and yourself. Women are also fronting bands like Florence and the Machine. Why the sudden female power? And where, in that mix, is Anna Calvi?
Anna Calvi: I think it is a combination of the trend that so many more females got signed to labels, alongside the fact that women are becoming a stronger force in music – as they should be! For such a long time it was much more of a male orientated career path but like everything, as time goes on, equality increases, so more women are being given the space to be creative and do really good work. I just kind of do my own thing really. I am very much a guitarist and my music is quite passionate. I see music quite visually, so I really try and create a lot of atmosphere in my music and in my recording.
RM: Who are your female icons?
AC: My female icons are people like Maria Callas, and Edith Piaff. What they both have in common, I think, is the raw power of their voice – especially with Maria Callas who, I suppose, is the first real 'opera diva', and she just pushed and pushed herself and her music was everything. She was a real artist and I find that really inspiring. Actually, there was something a bit rock and roll about her because her voice was kind of ugly even though she was performing these beautiful arias. There's a little something there that was a bit 'argh,' and that's what I like – I like these women who aren't scared to be a bit ugly sometimes.
RM: How was working with Brian Eno on your album? He sang backing vocals on a track.
AC: Yeah, he's great. He's really philosophical and very intelligent. I mean, he just says things that feel important (laughs). He told me that recording should be like really good Italian cooking – just a few great ingredients to make a really great dish.
RM: How would you describe your music?
AC: I'm not sure – I think it's just emotional. I want it to feel emotional and passionate and centered around my guitar because I feel my guitar and my voice are the two things that I am using to express whatever it is that I need to express. ... I just think that any music which really invites you in, to a different world, is how music should be. For me, it should be emotional and it should really be taking you somewhere else.