Music Industry News Network [09-10-2012]
"Alternative" Harpist Anna Cate Releases Debut EP
On the self-titled debut EP from Seattle-based singer/songwriter Anna Cate (release date: Sept. 25, 2012), seductive melodies and illustrative, uplifting words tempered with an element of escapism combine seamlessly with the artist's breathy, gentle voice and a modern production sound on a half-dozen original tracks that lure the listener immediately and never let go. At the core of the music is Anna Cate's virtuoso harp playing the instrument might be unusual in an alternative music setting, but Anna Cate and producer Nathan Yaccino incorporate its beguiling, enthralling sounds so naturally and elegantly that they may just spark a trend!
"It was difficult writing indie rock on the harp because I'd been trained to play classical harp, which uses a lot of rolled chords and arpeggios," says Anna Cate. "Classical harpists rarely use repeated notes but I went ahead and repeated notes in creative ways, sometimes adding accents, sometimes muting the repeated notes for a staccato effect. I also changed tempos and meters, sometimes adding a beat and sometimes taking a beat out. Nathan was careful to keep these nuances as we arranged the music for the EP."
Although Anna Cate used the harp as the basis of her songwriting for the EP, it's not front and center throughout the CD. "It's more of a wash of color, an embellishment, except for the beginning and ending of the songs," she says.
From the first notes of the opening track, "This Old Radio," it's apparent that aside from its use of the harp Anna Cate is a rarity among contemporary recordings, a peek inside of an artist's psyche and soul. "This song was kind of a free spirit, like me," says Anna Cate. "Every time I sat down to work on it, the song would end up meandering in a different direction, especially once I got to the studio. Nathan helped let the song stay the way it was, and we obsessed over getting the tempo changes just the way I played them naturally. It was our first song on the project, and we were a little more experimental with it, even adding in some backup vocals last minute. I had a blast making this song."
The next two tunes, "The Raincloud Song" and "Daydreaming," are Anna Cate's first attempts at writing pop music using the harp. Both songs began with harp composition, but the writing alternated between instruments in later stages. "‘Daydreaming' had been in my collection for awhile, and I finally finished it using the harp while creating my EP," she says. "Working hard on the project, and having a producer encouraging me with this song, helped me to finally complete it."
"Your Arms" was the only song on the EP not written on the harp and not produced by Yaccino. Recorded in Phoenix, at Chaton Studios, it was produced by Otto D'Agnolo. "The songs on my EP are about relationships, either past or present, romantic or not, or even just a connection to a stranger walking by," says Anna Cate. The idea for the next track, "Full Circle," she explains, "came while I was at a restaurant and overheard someone saying something that I thought was amusing. That concept of overhearing comments from a perfect stranger and then having it develop into a song, is the storyline."
The final track, "The Letter," had its beginning when Anna Cate was "in the car, travelling. I put harmony to it with the harp and then Nathan helped arrange it using the guitar. We did some takes of it with just me on vocals and him on guitar, which sounded fantastic."
Yaccino's role in creating the EP cannot be overstated. "Nathan wore a lot of hats for this project," says Anna Cate, who also plays guitar and piano on the recording in addition to the harp. "As the producer, he selected and arranged the songs, and also performed on several instruments, as well as engineered and mixed. The instrument selection was almost all done by him, with occasional input from me. The songs were recorded at Robert Lang Studios, which is a big brick house on a hill above the waterfront in Shoreline, Washington."
Yaccino also brought in Philip A. Peterson to add cello to three tracks: "This Old Radio," "The Letter" and "Daydreaming." Says Anna Cate, "When I first heard the cello part on ‘The Letter' at the studio, it was like opening up a beautiful present from someone. It was a great addition to what we already had for this song."
Anna Cate raised capital for her EP through a Kickstarter campaign, creating a swell of support while she developed the CD. She also orchestrated the production of a website, social media representation, promotional photographs, a music video for her fundraising campaign, and the CD artwork and manufacturing. But most of her time during the making of Anna Cate was as it should be spent making sure that the music communicated precisely what she was feeling and thinking.
"I like music that takes your mind to a place, sort of an escape," says Anna Cate, "and I like music that's energetic and meaningful and positive. It's nice to hear a phrase or two that's relevant to your life. People are looking for something new and different to get excited about, and that's what I'd like to offer with my music."
Plus, she adds, "It's also nice to feel that you've discovered great music that no one really knows about yet. I'm excited for people to be able to discover my music."
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