Annie Becker is a Vancouver-born musician who moved to Montréal in 2009. I met Annie at an open mic night at the Arts Café in 2010, where she blew everyone away with her voice and guitar skills. Last summer, Annie released her first album All About the Beez Neez, and while I was in Berlin last summer, I kept listening to it while biking all across the city, and it became my Berlin soundtrack. Her music is so empowering and inspiring. Questions about her songs began to formulate in my mind, and I couldn’t wait to come back to Montréal to talk to her about her music. We finally reconnected and here is what we talked about:
What does writing music mean to you?
How I started playing music, besides the fact that both my parents were insanely musical, is that I needed to get something out, and I was sad. I found my mom’s guitar, and the first song I ever wrote was about her. I didn’t know any cords; I just played what sounded good, and wrote something because I needed to express something out of sadness. That became the formula of how I wrote for a long time, I was a catalytic writer. I am a product of music therapy.
Recently, it felt like I came out of a storm. They say, for an artist, misery loves company, you make your best work when you’re going through something, and I was going through losing my parents, and I’ve come to a point where I feel like I’ve done that now. And when you feel like you’ve defined your art and yourself for so long, what happens when you get out of the storm, you’re not fighting anymore, you’re happy?
There is instant gratification in dreaming up something, doing it, finishing it, and letting it go. Like a goal, simple and easy. That’s why I like to cook, you find an idea, find the ingredients, make it, and cook it.
What does it mean being aware of this change in you?
I’ve written songs for three albums, one of which is released. I think it’s time to become really good at other aspects of the music industry, while still playing those songs and exploring them with different members of my band.
How do you write songs?
It depends on what kind of song I’m writing, if it’s about a person, or about a sunny day, or an experience. Let’s talk about love, considering it’s written about most in music. I don’t write love songs. I usually get angry or frustrated about a situation and I catalytically write about it. I’ve got a good example: Desperado.
I had a story with a certain guitar player from a certain band who made me feel like I was a special lady and really wanted me to come to his next show. So I got all dressed up and went by myself to his gig. I’ve never had someone make me feel more desperate because I had gone to his show by myself, and he didn’t even look at me because there were ten other girls that were also “special.” As I walked home, I had already completed the first verse and the chorus of Desperado.
Two months later I was onstage at one of my favourite open mics, playing that song. After I got off stage, that guitar player came up to me and said “Oh Annie, I really like that new song you played tonight.” Nothing in my life has ever compared to that kind of satisfaction because he didn’t know that the song he liked is about him.
The best part about writing a song is you get to dream up the idea, write it, finish it, and share it. It’s done. And every time you sing that song, whether it’s a happy song or a sad song, you get the opportunity to go back to that state of mind when you wrote that song, or where that song came from, and use it in what-ever way you need.
Why do you busk?
Because I want to bust people’s city bubbles. I selfishly want to catch that business woman in the shopping district of your city and I want to make her smile and stop in her tracks. I want that pure genuine moment that all of us have inside us that we hide. When you go into a subway, how many people do you see smiling? When you walk down the street, does anyone ever say good morning? It’s a chance for me to give people back their human nature that they lose in city life.
What’s your favourite song on your record?
You can’t ask me that. Because they all come from different states of mind, they balance each other out. But if you were gonna ask me what song was my favourite process to create and record, I would say Sideways (which you can get by signing up for my newsletter on my website). It’s the darkest song on this record. The idea in the intro is, we’re opening up a storm, and by the end, you’re out of the storm. With all the struggles and turmoil that go with it.
Why is All About the Beez Neez the name of the album?
Back in 2010 I started my first blog and the blog was called “All about the Beez Nees.” I have two songs on the record What I’m About and Beez Neez and we decided to call the record All About the Beez Nees because it’s all about me. Listen to the song!
This record has a big recurring theme: city life. Change is about “you’re the only one who can change, so change!” You can sit and complain to your friends, but in all that time you could probably come up with a list of how to change what’s going on. I want this record to give people perspective. To let them think out of the box. And burst out of that city bubble that they don’t even know they’re in. Because in the end, if you’re not doing something that makes you happy, why are you doing it?
How do you feel as a woman in this city-world and how does it reflect in your music?
One of the things I used to do when I was younger was to change my look as often as possible. I would dye my hair black, and a certain type of guy would flirt with me or look in my direction. When I died my hair blonde, I realized that all the rumours were true, you do get treated differently. So differently that when working an evening rush in a 400-seat-restaurant, I would be pulled out of my section to serve a table half way across the building because they wanted the blonde. I would call these social experiments. It got a little bit dangerous when I started straightening my hair because this experiment had become a complex. Suddenly I was one of those pretty girls. Boys would look at me differently because in the media straight hair was hot. So I straightened my hair every day for the next year because media told me if I do that, maybe I can meet Mr. Right. On top of that, with this serving job I bought myself a 60-dress-wardrobe. What I’m trying to say is that the city can change even the most stubborn of hippies into a material girl. But as long as at some point you can recognize, and scale yourself back, give away some of those dresses, you can keep your feet on the ground. Especially, when some handsome man will tell you how refreshing it is to see a curly-haired girl.
How this ties in to the music is that most of the songs on this record aren’t necessarily giving you answers, but at least leaving you with the questions, and giving you the opportunity to see that you have a choice. You define yourself. There is no right or wrong, there is no formula for the kind of person you have to be, that’s the beauty.
Yello Telephone, Flaky, Za Za Zue, Long Distance Blues are songs about relationships. What do relationships mean to you?
I believe that the word relationship scares everyone, but just because I say relationship, it doesn’t mean anything. If you and I shake hands, we’ve started a relationship. My biggest pet peeve with women in our generation is that they lose themselves in a relationship. We decide that we are only half of the C (circle) and we won’t be whole without finding the other half, our soul-mate, our man. I believe that I am whole. But that I would love to share that whole with somebody else, that a relationship is based on sharing. I have my life, and you have your life, but I’m not going to define myself by your life, and we’re going to be strong on our own and share what we have together. But this theory can be used for women or men. Just don’t loose yourself.
What’s the story behind Little Darlin’?
It’s autobiographical, just me singing to myself:”Don’t be scared, little darlin’, it’s gonna be ok.” I wrote the chorus and the first verse in Thailand in 2010.
What about Flaky?
The first line says it all: expectation will eat you alive, chew you up and spit you out. Who-ever has disappointed you does not even have the slightest idea that you feel that way.
Where do you look for answers?
In myself. I’ve lived on instinct since I was 12. I let fate or sometimes even the weather that day decide the most trivial decisions that day. If you can find your own strength, then even if you fall, you won’t be alone.
What is your strength?