Musical Discoveries. Could we start by charting your artistic journey to Rocking Horse Studio?
Anna Madsen. It all started in California back in 2013. I packed up everything I owned, bought a used and uninspected car and left everything. I drove across the desert from little old Sandy, Utah, into Los Angeles, the proclaimed "City of Angels." Now I don't think it'll come as much of a surprise to you when I say that LA was nothing as it seems on the big screen.
Sure, there were plenty of palm trees, mansions, and glittery posters everywhere with smiles and glamour, but LA was also full of broken people, dead dreams, and a dreadful "tit for tat" culture that permeated out of almost everyone I ran into. With that picture in mind, that is where my journey began.
I lived in in a dilapidated, scuzzy hotel that only charged $100 a week -- my humble abode at the time because I couldn't afford anything else -- and I spent most of my time working odds and ends jobs while tracking down auditions. Eventually, I ran across an audition that ended up changing my perspective on my music career forever. Standing in front of the judges at that audition with a naive air and an over-confident attitude, I was asked a question I will never forget: "Do you write songs?"
Up until that point I was in music for the wrong reason, and it was in that moment that it hit me; there were a million girls like me. Pretty, talented, and wide-eyed dolls lined every corner in LA. What made me any different? Nothing. I wasn't an artist ... yet. At that point, I was just chasing fame and fortune. That night after the audition, I wrote my first song.
Was there much song writing after that?
Now skip ahead to 2014 when the next significant step in my musical journey started. I was now living in Keene, New Hampshire, the complete opposite end of the country and I had an entire catalogue of songs ready to be recorded. I ended up meeting a local hobbyist producer through a neighbor of mine, and we traded babysitting for recording time.
By the end of the summer, I released my first demo "Lorelei," an alternative pop tune about an ill-fated romance. The song sat on the internet for a while, but I wasn't able to move forward with any new tunes because my producer made plans to move in the spring of 2015. At the end of 2014 I didn't know what was going to happen to my career. That's where Rocking Horse Studio comes into play.
With my producer getting ready to leave, I started researching other recording studios in the area and one quick google search lead me to Brian Coombes. When I called to introduce myself, they already knew who I was because of the demo I had released that previous summer, and we made an appointment to meet. The rest is history.
What were some of the high points as things took off for you?
Mixing the song "Cimmerian" for my EP was magical. I was twirling around in the studio while we played the final mix, and I remember feeling so exhilarated. I couldn't stop thinking, "This is how making music should feel."
Visiting Adam Ayan's mastering studio in Maine was also equally exciting because I knew being there meant I was partaking in the greatness that surrounds that studio. The walls are decorated in awards and it felt really neat to know I was there as an artist and not as an onlooker.
How have you integrated your singing and songwriting with your acting, modeling and photography?
When I talk about my interests to people, I always mention photography and music first, because they are two areas of interest that I feel I excel in; only because I have put significant amount of time into mastering them. Modeling is more of a byproduct of photography. If you know how to direct behind the camera, it makes moving in front of the camera a lot easier. Acting is something I have dabbled in for fun. Photography and multimedia design has been helpful in coordinating promotional material for music, while the skill of acting is something I plan to incorporate into my music videos as you saw with "Palm Reader."
Your EP and winter single gave audiences a really good taste for your music, but what was involved in completing the material for your album?
I worked with the Rocking Horse crew for my EP, my holiday single, and my new album. I primarily co-wrote the EP with Joey Pierog and Brian Coombes, and Rick Black joined the writing process on my winter single, "Golden Room."
As I've mentioned before, I write the lyrics and melody lines with rgw accompanying vocal harmonies and then the other writers / musicians help with the various layers of music underneath. I wouldn't have the finished product without the help of those I work with. They are an incredibly important puzzle piece in helping the vision of a song come alive, and I think it's wonderful that I get to work with various people on projects. Everyone I work with brings different musical influences and ideas to the table that I wouldn't have otherwise thought of when charting out a song.
Please tell us about the album's name and theme.
I got the idea for my album title from my song "Cimmerian." The word "efflorescence" means "the state or period of flowering" which I find extremely appropriate for me as an artist, as I am "blossoming" into my own unique style.
The theme of this album is very autobiographical. There's mysticism and romance, but the stories are very human. Courage, selfishness, love, anger, sadness: they're my personal stories of growth and imagination.
What was done to rework the previously released songs for Efflorescence?
We ended up reworking the songs "Luna" and "Epitaph." On the EP, "Luna" was more reminiscent of a gypsy folk tune, and I wanted it to sound more ethereal and starry to match the lyrical content of the song. Both versions are beautiful, but the version on the full length album is what I imagined the song to be. The major changes on "Epitaph" included bringing out the drums to propel the song along, and changing a lyric on one of the verses to alter its meaning.
Can you tell us about the others that contributed to the album including all the other musical artists?
There are a lot of talented people on this record. Other than the Rocking Horse musicians, Anthony Phillips from Genesis played on my songs "Black Dress," "Irena’s Lullaby," and "Pioneer Hymn," and Jonathan Mover from GTR played on my song "Devil's Garden." Other guests include my sister Emily Jefferies, my best friend Carolyn Clark, and my backup singer and friend Hannah Rose. My other dear friend Michelle Coombes does on harmony vocals on "Pioneer Hymn."
Your photographs and video work are both stunning and diverse.
I'm an extremely visual person, so I've often used my tumblr as a mood board for my music. My style is very ethereal, haunting, vintage and romantic. Having an extensive photography background has also helped keep my image looking professional. However, at the end of the day, a lot of time is spent maintaining my image by simply doing research on how I want certain things to look.
For example, my video "Palm Reader" was directed by a production team that specialized in cinematography and visual storytelling. I didn't choose them on a whim. Their prior work matched my sound and projected image. They were also a professional grade team, and I wanted the visual presentation of the song to match the audio production quality of the song. In my opinion, the two go hand in hand.
What can one expect to see and hear at a live Anna Madsen performances?
The live interpretations of my songs are slightly different with a full band, but they still maintain their recorded personality. For example, my song "Black Dress" sounds more atmospheric on the record, while the live rendition of the tune takes on a more aggressive rock n' roll attitude.
We try to stay as close as possible to the sound of the recordings, but sometimes that isn't as easily achieved because of the heavy use of synth layers in my music. On a different note, to keep things interesting and surprising, we have completely reworked some tunes into acoustic versions. On the record, "Cimmerian" is more defiant and loud, while the acoustic version turns the song into more of a "romantic longing" piece. My onstage persona is exactly what you would expect from listening to me on the record. I'm dark, moody, and passionate.
Can you give us a glimpse into your plans for the next year or so?
My plans for the future include touring, with the possibility of Europe in late 2016 / early 2017, new videos, and a new EP by the end of the year.
Thanks for the interview Anna and best of luck with the new album!