A few weeks ago, I posted a video of "Satellite," the first single from Anna Dagmar's newest album of the same title. I first saw her play at a concert on Long Island, and not only did I love the song, I thought the subject matter would make it perfect to feature on my blog. I contacted her to ask a few questions about the song and the album, and she agreed to an interview. But if you haven't heard the song yet, do that first - it's gorgeous!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from originally? How did you begin your musical career?
I was born in Wellwyn Garden City, UK. My family lived in England for twenty years, but came back to the states when I was six years old. After that we lived briefly in rural VA and then in Chelmsford, MA which is north of Boston.
I started piano lessons when I was seven years old and took to it right away. I do remember many recitals growing up, and feeling like I was really playing interesting classical music by 8th grade. In high school I had the opportunity to do a lot of accompanying and collaboration in school. This lead me to want to pursue music in college and I went off to Eastman School of Music. After Eastman I moved to New York City and started performing professionally.
How would you describe your style of music to someone who wasn't familiar with it? What instruments do you use?
Usually I describe my music as, "piano-woven folk/pop." I like to use the piano accompaniments to paint the meaning behind the words. The piano is like an orchestra, so it has infinite possibilities! I also love arranging, and sometimes I use strings and woodwinds, giving the music a cinematic quality. My bandmates are really wonderful and they come up with their own parts once they hear my new songs. In particular, Ben Wittman (drummer) and Marc Shulman (guitarist) have added their signature sounds to my recordings.
What inspires you to write music?
I'm inspired by everything around me, and by my own feelings. Sometimes I make up stories about people I see on the street. Other times, I dig deep to remember the emotions I've felt in relationships and friendships. Occasionally I am struck by something more abstract like an image. That becomes a metaphor and grows into a song. Many times I sit at the piano and wait for musical inspiration to come out of improvisation, then it leads to a song without words at first, and the words follow.
In the song "Satellite", you sing that your father was "a man of reason" who "plays with math like music and yearns for proof", while your mother "kneels below the window and speaks to God above". Is this a true autobiographical account?
Yes, this is the best way I could describe the ways my parents find beauty and meaning in the world. My father is more of a scientific and mathematical thinker. He is highly educated in math and philosophy and has a passion for reading and learning. My mother is very spiritual and has dedicated a lot of time to religious history and also to finding her own way with faith. I would say she is not evangelical, she rather experiences her spirituality in a very personal way, and it has deeply enriched her daily life and her ability to give to others.
I have taken something from each of them in terms of how to think positively and how to keep striving for higher understanding and purpose in life.
Do you have a favorite song (or songs) from your latest album? Which ones would you most recommend to someone who wanted to get acquainted with your music?
The album is well-sequenced from start to finish, so if they have time it's nice to listen through in order. But a few top tracks would be:
#7 We Were Children
#8 Can't Help Falling in Love (cover by Peretti, Creatore and Weiss)
#9 Down the Road
What's next for you after this new album?
Ha ha! Journalists love that question! I am going to write a full-length musical starting this fall with my lyricist partner from BMI Writing Workshop, Kevin Wanzor. I'll also be touring regularly throughout the northeast and will be performing as far as Colorado and California this year. Just having finished my UK CD Release tour it's been a lot of travel! But for writing projects, the main focus will be the musical, and of course the beginning of a future album. That kind of gets cooking on it's own... let's see what happens and I'll keep you posted!