Anna Clendening is a ball of energy and talent, both on the stage and off. If you’ve met her, or follow her in the slightest, you’d understand her bubbly personality and undeniable charm. On top of putting out feel-good records that hit the spot at almost any given moment, the pop songstress prides herself in real lyrics, real stories, and real emotions, seen in all aspects of her artistry. Read more…
Taking music seriously only 5 years ago, the North Carolina native will eventually find comfort in her new home of Los Angeles. Amidst the daily grind of turning her dreams into a reality, Anna is not afraid to share the endless obstacles and insecurities we all go through and feel on a daily basis. From mental health to boys, her music is an escape for both herself, and anyone tuning in.
Following the success of her standout single, “Boys Like You,” which currently hails at over 40M streams across the board, Anna is geeked to take the stage at The Moroccan Lounge in downtown LA. The evening was filled with cuts from her forthcoming EP titled Waves.
For those who don’t know, who is Anna Clendening?
I am an avid crier. I am an empath. I have a big heart, and I’m a musician.
How would you describe your sound?
I was in a meeting one time and someone asked me, “What would you say your style is?” I was like, “You know what? It’s like a singer-songwriter goes pop.” He was like, “So you mean intelli-pop?” Like intelligent pop music. I was like, “Yeah!” It’s music with a meaning.
You’re from North Carolina, how does that play into your life and career?
I’m really blessed to have come from where I came from. My parents are still together. I came from a small town, it was very liberal. It allowed me to open my eyes and keep an open mind. It also kind of sheltered me because moving out to LA, I was terrified. I cried for the first month and a half. I saw someone poop on the side of the street, I was like, “I am going home!” And I did. Now, I love it here. It’s also nice to able to go back to North Carolina when it gets too much here, to see my family, etc.
How long have you been out here now?
Off and on, a year.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
It’s important but then again, it’s not important. Because you can make music wherever you go, wherever you are. I feel like LA and NY, it’s all overrated. My career has blossomed since I moved here, but that’s because I had a plan. Maybe it works for some people to just get up and go, but for me, I had to have savings in place. I had this following already. I basically already had the building blocks to a career, if not a career already. Then I moved out here and I just grinded and grinded. Just networked and was myself, and fell where I needed to fall.
How old are you now?
You’re still so young.
See, everybody says that. But I’m in an industry where I’m competing with 16-year-olds. For me, I feel like the people that are older have more longevity. Not only will I sing for a while, but I will write for the rest of my life. These people who get popular for their looks and not their artistry, you’re only going to look pretty for so long. You’ve got to figure something out. Go to real estate. [laughs] No I’m just kidding! Not to talk bad about anybody at all, but I’m glad that I didn’t rush moving out here. I didn’t rush my career at all. It literally just fell into place exactly when it was supposed to.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I’m waiting. I mean, it was so gradual. I wake up every day, and it’s not real. Especially now, this is my third show ever. Aside from America’s Got Talent and stuff like that, but a produced show where it’s just me, I’m headlining. It still just hasn’t set in yet. I mean, it does when I’m here and I meet people. It’s a feeling I can’t describe and I never will be able to, but I never want to let it go.
What was the inspiration behind keeping your name?
Well, I kind of fucked that one up. I made a Vine account with my real name, and then amassed over 2.3M followers.
Is there how you first got started?
Uh huh. Then I was on America’s Got Talent, then everything transferred to YouTube and Instagram. And here I am.
I think it’s so crazy how many people blow up on Vine and it doesn’t even exist anymore.
But it’s funny how many people just fall the fuck off too. Like Shawn Mendes, we both came from Vine. Ruth B., Bazzi(Andrew), etc. It’s very cool to see that a platform like that — as stupid as social media seems to us, or harmful or not important — it makes careers. I’m living proof of that and all of those people I named are living proof of that as well.
How important is social media for your career?
I fucking hate it. No [just kidding]. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s very toxic to people, not just me. But I love it because I get to connect with people that I would never in a million years meet, from across the globe. I’m very transparent on my social media. I get to be myself and people resonate with that, and they relate to it. I would sit through all of the bullshit comments just to have one person feel like they’re not alone, and to help one person.
I was listening to “To My Parents” from 2016. How has your sound evolved since?
2016, I was living with my parents. I had this rise of social media and then it kind of fell. I was living on my parent’s couch thinking like “fuck.” So I just wrote this song on the piano, because there aren’t a lot of producers and I didn’t have a bunch of music connections. It was all social media. I wrote a hook and it was just, “I’m sorry mom and dad.” [sings] And people really resonated with it.
It became a meme like “when I show my parents my report card.” It’s way deeper than that, but it doesn’t matter. For a while, it was just me, and all I know how to play is the guitar and the piano. I don’t know how to produce or anything like that. Being able to come out here and work with amazingly talented producers, I’ve kept the organic sound but also given it a pop influence. It drives it. It’s not me in the coffee shop with my piano being like… [hums] It’s stayed true to me, but also been able to evolve and really become who I am, because of the resources I now have.
What do parents think now?
My parents won’t shut the fuck up about me, it’s so incredibly cute. My dad, I was just on the phone with him right before the show started. He does insurance claims. He was down in Florida helping with the hurricane and just talks to everybody. Everybody that has daughters, he’s like, “Do you know who Anna Clendening is? Text your daughter.” Then the daughters are like, “Yes, I know who Anna Clendening is!” They talk about me all the time.
I feel bad for my brothers, because I’m not like, “Oh yeah, I’m the famous one.” My brothers actually resented me for a long time because they’re just as equally talented. My brother is a chef, and he’s so good at what he does. My little brother is just like my dad, he’s a little entrepreneur. If he wants to do something, he just fucking does it. It’s crazy. My America’s Got Talent audition, when Howie Mandel is hugging me, it’s my mom’s screensaver on her phone. It has been for 4 years. They’re very proud of me, so I almost feel fucked up singing that song. I like to preface it with, “Look where I was, and look how far I’ve come. Don’t give up.”
“Boys Like You” is at almost 40M on YouTube. Did you foresee it blowing up like this?
Oh shit, no. I literally wrote that song in 20 minutes. Recorded it in on my piano, sent it to get mixed and mastered, threw it up, and then drove to LA. Then when I got to LA and I was finally settled around July, I was like, “What the fuck is happening?!” I started looking at my numbers and then it was just kept going and going. That’s when it really hit me. I was like, “I’m in LA and my music is doing something. I am supposed to be here.” It just all clicked for me. It was surreal.
That’s dope that it was so organic.
Yeah, I didn’t know a damn thing about Spotify. It had never been playlisted. I made that video in iMovie. Apparently, it’s a screenshot from Ariana Grande’s video. I had to block those comments because I’m like, “I know…” Well, I know now. I literally Googled “girls on the back of motorcycles in the sunset,” and just picked a picture. [laughs]
Talk about working with Zelda Williams on “Invisible” video.
I love her to death, she is one of my best friends. Being able to work my best friend, it was effortless. I had a breakdown in the middle of shooting. I was crying in the bathroom like, “I’m not worth this, this is too much production, I’m not good enough for this.” She was like, “Are you kidding me?” She’s just an amazing soul. She has basically taken me into her family, like I’m going to spend Thanksgiving up there with her family. She’s one of the most beautiful souls that I’ve met.
How’d you guys meet?
We met through a friend at my CrossFit gym. She kind of took both of us into her family. She was like, “Ever since my dad died, I haven’t really made new friends. Then I saw Casey, and then I saw you.” We just clicked, it was so weird. I just reached out to her because when I first met her, I didn’t know who she was or anything. Right after that, it was the anniversary of her dad’s birthday and I reached out to her. I told her I was going through stuff with my breakup and she was like, “If you ever want to come over and just burrito on the couch…” I was like, “I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” Ever since then… she’ll be here tonight.
Talk about the intention behind doing a trilogy series.
It’s funny, the songs are not related at all. They are related within the fact that they’re what’s happened to me over the past year and a half, but they don’t really go together. The EP title Waves brings it together to say, “We have highs and we have lows. We’re at the top of that wave, we’re at the bottom of that wave. The top of the peak, bottom of the valley.” Zelda Williams is just fucking brilliant. She found a way to make 4 videos be congruent and go together — 4 completely different songs just seamlessly go together. It’s amazing.
What can fans expect from Waves in January?
They can expect some sad songs, and some songs to also groove too. A lot of my songs have sad lyrics — it’s sad because it’s realistic, but the beat is hopeful. I have a song coming out called “Bend and Break.” It’s like “you can cry a little longer, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, we all bend and break sometimes.” But it’s happy. You’ll see tonight. I dance to it, I bump to it on stage. I feel like we should talk about real shit, but it doesn’t have to be with a piano and just be like, “I’m so sad.” I want to inspire people.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
Whatever it is they could. I relate with people in such different ways on different spectrums. It’s just fucking amazing. And all different ages too. I had this guy come to my Chicago show who’s like 50 something. Bought a VIP pass. I was like, “you’re not a 13-year-old girl, this is amazing.” It’s incredible to see the people that you touch, and the walks of life they come from.
What is your take on the music industry?
The music industry is the Loch Ness Monster to me. It’s an iceberg. You see the tip of it, but there’s so much shit that you don’t know. It’s also very shady. There are a lot of amazing people in the music industry that will do anything for you. They will have your back and they mean exactly what they say, and do exactly what they say they’re going to do. Everybody on my team, everybody that I’ve worked with does exactly what they say they’re going to do, and promise what they’re going to do.
But I’ve met people and worked with people who say “yeah, I can do this,” and they name drop. You’re like, “I don’t care about any of that.” Do something for me, let me do something for you. The people that genuinely want to help you because they see the potential in you, that’s what makes it all worth it. That’s what makes the shadiness worth it. It’s tough. It’s an over-saturated, competitive, dog eat dog industry. But you find your people, you find your team, and you just cultivate that, and it makes it all worth it. It’s good and bad, same with anything.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I set expectations for myself, but I’m really trying to stop that. I have a number, following goals, view goals, but it doesn’t have to be about that. As an artist, I want touch to as many people as I can. Not physically obviously, [laughs] but emotionally. I want to spread a message. I’m actually working with my manager on — when I’m not touring musically — I want to tour and do high schools, middle schools, colleges, and talk about mental health and stuff like that. Because that’s why I’m doing this. I feel like I’ve said this a billion times today, but I just want to help people. I want to be that person that I needed so desperately when I was 13, 14, 15.
What did you do with your first check/advance?
Put it in my savings. Make an investment. Just put it back into my business.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I wake up about 9am, sit on the couch for about 2 hours. I eat breakfast then I go do CrossFit for 2 hours. I usually have a session, and that lasts for about 5 hours. Then I come home, sometimes forget to take a bath. I’ll write a little bit in my studio, and then I’ll fall asleep on the couch watching The Office.
3 things you need in the studio?
My dog, or any dog. Dogs just help the writing process. A good vibe. I know that sounds so cliché, but I’ve been doing a lot of different writing with people and if there’s not a good vibe, you’re not going to have a good song. Music is vibrations. It’s what you feel off of another person. Then probably an Acai bowl, I’m addicted. If I’m hangry, I cannot write. I had a session Thursday and I was so hangry, my brain just shut off. [snaps] I ordered an Acai bowl and we just finished up the song.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Fitness training and coaching. Also, a shit ton of volunteer work, any way that I could. In the mental health arena, the homeless arena, etc.
Favorite song to perform in a set?
They’re all so different. In New York, it was “To My Parents” because my mom was there. That was the first time I had ever performed it for her. “Bend and Break” is really fun to dance to but I think “Drowning” is the most emotional, because that comes from a very real place. Sometimes, I sit down on the ground and sing. We were going through soundcheck and I laid down. It’s very, very emotional.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
All of them. They’re all different and they all bring so much love. Whether it’s awkward — I have interactions where people don’t want me to hug them and I go in for a hug. But the fact that someone came to meet me, the fact that someone knows my name, every encounter is an absolute blessing.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
I don’t really have a certain artist. I just find a song and play it over and over. I’m trying to think… it was Post Malone for a while, because I was going through a breakup. I’ve been on a Noah Cyrus kick recently. It’s all over the map.
Probably Shawn Mendes because we were friends once upon a time through Vine, and then he got super fucking massive.
Do you guys still keep in contact?
That was like 3 phone numbers ago. We’ll see each other on social media, but that’s about it. Just a very talented kid, and coming from the same place. Either him or Andrew (Bazzi) would be great, just because it’s like the Vine kids are back. Or Ed Sheeran, oh my God. I don’t even think I could be able to do that, I would just piss my pants and stare at him the entire time we were writing. I have such a musical crush on him. [laughs] I saw him in a 200 capacity room, in 2011 before he blew up. I loved it. He’s amazing.
What advice do you have for an aspiring Anna Clendening?
Don’t do what I do, do what you do. Everybody’s different. My journey has been so different than what yours will be. One thing that I can say is consistency and confidence in yourself will get you to wherever you want to go. Whether you want to be a singer, you want to be the best Sudoku person in the world, it’s just believing in yourself and knowing that you’re good at something. Even if you aren’t and then you get good at it, just tell yourself, “I want to be good at this.” It’s motivation. And people ask me, “How do you get motivation?” I don’t even know what you’re talking about, because I just have it. I’m like, “I don’t like where I am, I want to get to where I want to be.”