Michaela Anne has been on quite the journey over the last three years. On the surface, it seemed that she was riding high on the success of her album Bright Lights and the Fame, which was praised by The New York Times, NPR, and Rolling Stone and by listeners all over the world.
However, behind the scenes, Michaela was in the midst of a deep valley. Her record label and publicity deal disintegrated, she was accumulating credit card debt, and falling in to a feeling of uncertainty about her musical path.
Michaela is coming out triumphantly on the other side, as she is preparing to release her third album, Desert Dove in September with a new record label and a newfound love for music.
Hear from Michaela about all things Desert Dove, overcoming the adversity she has faced over the past three years, getting deep with her music, and more!
Pro Country: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Michaela Anne: I was a child of the 90s. I love the pop music of the 90s like Whitney Houston and Madonna. On the country side, it was the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain. In middle school and high school, I really got into a lot of older music and a lot of jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I also got into old country music at that time like Tammy Wynette, George Jones, and Patsy Cline. It eventually progressed into falling in love with Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Gram Parsons. I could go on forever, that’s just a quick list.
PC: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to pursue music as a career?
MA: On all of the things when I was growing up that asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be a singer. I always wanted that, but I had no idea what that meant. In high school, I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be Britney Spears, and I didn’t see myself being a pop/dance girl, so I figured I would just go to college and see what else was out there. I didn’t know you could be an independent musician, and I didn’t know anything about indie music. I was unaware that there was this whole world of people that were making a living and had fans that weren’t on the pop stardom level. It was a slow progression of figuring things out step-by-step, and I gradually got on to the path that I’m on now.
PC: Your debut album Ease My Mind achieved a lot of success and was praised by several major music outlets, including The New York Times. Did the reception that album received give you a certain level of artistic validation after releasing music for the first time?
MA: Definitely. It boosted my confidence for sure. I made that record on my own and did a pledge campaign. Every step of the way, I’ve just been learning as I go. Getting feedback that’s positive from people that aren’t in my immediate circle is huge source of validation and motivation. I’m super appreciative of that. But also, you can very quickly feel like you’re back to square one every few days in this career [laughs]. At one point you can have a huge high, and then a few days later be asking yourself “Okay, now what?” It’s been a lot of those peaks and valleys since then.
PC: Your bio mentions that over the past few years, you have been battling the uncertainty and insecurity you just mentioned. What has the period been like for you personally?
MA: I put out Bright Lights and the Fame in 2016, and I had an indie label and a big publicity firm behind it, and everything fell apart behind the scenes. However, I was getting a lot of outward validation during that time. It was reviewed in The New York Times, and people were congratulating me and telling me how much they loved it. But behind the scenes, there was so much uncertainty and everything was falling apart. I was racking up credit card debt, and I didn’t know how I was going to move forward. That was a huge test. I got my hopes up, and I got them squashed in a lot of ways. At the same time, a lot of dreams came true. It was a time of realizing that nothing is what you imagine it is going to be. The last three years for me have been asking myself every day why I do this, if it’s all worth it, and how to keep moving forward. As time goes on and the older you get, you realize that you’re all in and that there’s no turning back. This is my life. You have to believe in the journey, regardless of what you get back from it, and make the sacrifices. There’s been a lot of emotional and personal growth in that time.
PC: What did you learn about yourself during that challenging period?
MA: I learned that I’m really dedicated to music. I learned that no matter what, this is what I love to do, and I feel like it’s my channel and my way of connecting to people and contributing something positive in the world.
I grew up a military kid, so I also learned how to acclimate and be a chameleon. As an adult, I learned that I still have some of those habits, and that I can easily assimilate to new people and new environments. That can help me in a lot of ways, but it can also be hard to keep me grounded in my beliefs. The music business is a business that’s very easy to make you forget your core beliefs, because you’re just trying to survive. I learned that I’m susceptible to losing myself, and that I want to be someone that practices that steadfast self-faith that this business tests.
PC: “Where Will I Be Found” has become one of your signature songs in your catalog so far. What do you think it is about that song and its message that has allowed it to connect with people the way it has?
MA: I think about this stuff all the time. I don’t know if it’s because of the internet and all the studies I read, but I think the feeling of dealing with mental health and anxiety and loneliness is universal. Even though we have channels that allow us to feel more connected to people than ever before, I think there’s a running theme of searching. There are people searching for connection and belonging, and that’s what “Where Will I Be Found” is about. It’s about searching for where you should be and who you should be with. I think that resonates with more people than I sometimes realize. I often feel like I’m so unique in my feelings and that nobody else feels the way I do, but it takes two seconds to realize that’s not true [laughs]. Most people share very similar feelings of searching and loneliness and anxiety. I think that’s just something that’s in a lot of us.
PC: How did you come to the radar of Yep Roc Records, and what has their support meant to you as you’re preparing to release Desert Dove?
MA: I met Yep Roc through my manager. Yep Roc is in North Carolina, and my manager is from North Carolina, and he also manages a band called Mandarin Orange who is also on Yep Roc. I was on the peripheral of that just by association. When I finished the album, I made it without any record deal. They really loved the album when they heard it and wanted to work together. They’ve been incredible. I love the fact that they’re in North Carolina and outside of the music business cities. I’ve gone out and spent time with Yep Roc, and it really feels like they’re advocates of artists who are keeping music to its artistic core. It’s not about what’s the catchiest or about formulas or what makes the most money, it just feels like they’re very supportive of musicians as artists.
PC: You left Nashville to record Desert Dove in San Clemente, California. What was it that drew you to record there, and how did it help the finished product?
MA: A lot of my songs had been written out west when I was out there over different periods of time. It just felt like it had this western vibe. I wrote a lot of the record out in Arizona as well. It just coincidentally worked out that the people I wanted to record with had a studio out on the beach, so why wouldn’t I want to go spend three weeks on the beach? [laughs]. Nashville is great, but it can also be very helpful to get away from an environment where everyone is producing music. Isolation can be helpful sometimes. Also, I struggle with severe allergies in Nashville, so that’s another element [laughs].
PC: After the success of your previous two albums and singles, were you feeling any type of pressure, internally or externally, to achieve a certain level of success with the release of Desert Dove?
MA: Not really. Of course we all have our hopes and dreams, and I hope this record will do as well as the last record. It’s always important to try to exceed your last record, and I honestly think I made a better record this time. I think that’s a part of growing. I actively work to take that pressure off, because I feel like I don’t do my best work when I’m thinking about the outcome; it messes with my head too much [laughs].
PC: Why did you decide to release “By Our Design” as the lead single from Desert Dove?
MA: To me, “By Our Design” doesn’t feel like anything on my previous records. Thematically, it’s very aligned with how I want to proceed. it’s confidence-building and about creating a life of your own, even when there’s a lot of doubt and instability. Emotionally, it felt fitting to start this album campaign and to introduce this new music with that song to set the theme.
PC: There are a lot of deep moments on Desert Dove where you delve deep into yourself and really open yourself up. What is it about you that allows yourself to open up and show that level of vulnerability in your music?
MA: I have always been an expressive person. I spent a lot of time thinking that was something to be embarrassed about and that it was a weakness. The older I got, I felt a lot of my hang-ups fall away because I just exhausted myself. As I grew older, and through the experience of touring and sharing, I realized that’s how I connect to people the most. I have a hard time not going deep and not meeting someone and getting into a deep, emotional conversation. I’m not as good at little chit-chat. I’ve gotten to a place where it’s tiresome to block what feels the most natural. I think that’s just my natural tendency, and I’ve been getting to a place where I want to share that even more in my music, because that’s how I feel the most natural.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from the Desert Dove album after listening all the way through?
MA: I hope they take away whatever they need to take away. I think this record is really deep, but there’s a lot of fun that have a lot of up-tempo tunes that make me feel good. I hope it displays a lot of different things, and that people feel some kind of connection. I hope it makes them feel validated as well. In one sentence, I hope people take away whatever they need to.
PC: It’s been five years since you released Ease My Mind. Where do you think you have grown the most since that release?
MA: I think I’ve grown most in my songwriting. I’ve pushed myself a lot and been lucky to have a lot of great writers and people around me who have motivated me and pushed me to work on that. That’s the good thing about Nashville and being around a lot of incredible songwriters.
PC: Along with releasing Desert Dove, what are your plans for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
MA: The record comes out in September, so we’re going to start touring in the fall. I’m kind of laying low until after the album release, and then I’ll be touring all over, and I can’t wait for that!
*Images courtesy of IVPR*