Anna Clendening is a rising pop star who’s not afraid to show who she really is: someone who struggles with anxiety and depression. With music being her biggest outlet, the Chapel Hill, North Carolina native has dedicated her entire life to helping people—whether it’s through her music or through everyday life
Describing herself as “a transparent loving weirdo and an animal lover,” Anna loves dogs and used to have 3 of them herself. With her honest, soul-baring lyrics ripped directly from her daily notebook of real-life experiences, she recently released her new EP titled Evolve—creating records with healing power for all those who listen.
Flaunt caught up with Anna via Zoom, who was located in sunny Los Angeles. Read below as we discuss her journey with anxiety, the inspiration behind Evolve, studio essentials, a forthcoming single with John K, goals, and more!
I love that your Instagram bio reads “don’t talk to me, I have anxiety.” Walk us through your own personal journey with mental health and how music helps.
I was always an anxious kid growing up, my anxiety started becoming very prevalent in sixth grade. After my grandmother passed away in 8th grade, I went to a doctor and said “I really don’t know what’s wrong with me.” He said “oh you have anxiety.” I started seeing a therapist, started to understand what it was. My first panic attack felt like a heart attack at 14. I went to the nurse and tried to explain what’s going on, didn’t know how to explain it. She said “oh you didn’t eat, do you need to lay down?” Honestly, I might die right now. [chuckles] It was off and on throughout high school. Wasn’t so bad during college but when I dropped out of college, things got super bad. I became agoraphobic, you have a fear of leaving your house due to being afraid of having a panic attack or no control of your outward surroundings.
Weirdly around that time, I started doing 6-second musical covers on Vine. One night I was in my PJs singing a version of “Gas Pedal” on my guitar, it blew up. I kept singing online, it grew into this music career. It’s been years of me trying to figure out what I’m going to do in years, years of social media and finding myself. Music really did save my life. I was in a very dark spot , I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. Dropped out of college, I was living at home with my parents. Had no concept of who I was, what I was going to do. It wasn’t my favorite part of my life, but to be able to have a purpose was really life-changing, and that being music was even better. Music’s such an amazing way to express myself, but also to touch people across the world which is a little mind-boggling. In a nutshell, it’s saved my life over and over.
Evolve EP out now! How are you feeling?
I’m feeling good, the year’s been very weird. Been sitting on this music for a while now, it’s good to finally have it out. A few setbacks where I took a step back and dealt with my mental health, some deadlines and release dates were pushed back. That made me really sad but at the end of the day, everyone’s super supportive. 2 different categories: people I don’t know listen to my music and support me, that’s crazy to have people I’ve never met across the globe. Also to have my friends and family message me saying “I heard your song on this radio station, or this playlist. So good.”
To hear from people I haven’t talked to is really cool, that hits home. It’s a really great, relieving feeling, I’m really happy it’s out. I have a really great team behind me, really great music I wrote with some really amazing people on this EP. I started heavily writing over the past 2.5 years. Being able to sit in a room, bleed your heart out and put it into music, might be my favorite part. It was a product of a 2 or 3-hour conversation, very genuine. To see people relate to that is really beautiful, I spent much of my life dealing with anxiety thinking I was crazy and by myself. To have people say “oh I relate,” that’s the goal.
How has COVID-19 affected you or your art?
This year has taken its toll on everybody in different ways. Really hard to write this year honestly because I’m a very big energy person. Writing in a studio is so much more magical than writing over a webcam. Not to say my sessions haven’t been great, almost all of my Zoom sessions have gone well. But I do miss being in-person. I dealt with a lot of mental health issues this year, coincidentally going on before COVID. Really nice to take a step back and be able to focus on that part of my life really intensely. I almost feel I lost a year of my life. I’ve heard multiple people say it still feels like March. I remember yesterday was 2 days after my birthday, we went into quarantine. Now it’s November, crazy to think. I never thought I’d be here, I was so excited to play shows. Was going to do a song at Coachella with one of the DJs I featured, all that was pushed back.
Was watching the “Get Me” visual, did you actually get a tattoo?
I was diagnosed a year ago with borderline personality disorder, one of the lovely things for me is being impulsive. Diving into things headfirst, being all about this person I’m in a relationship with. I dated a guy for a month, we got matching tattoos. The tattoos didn’t mean anything. I said “let’s get a pineapple!” He said okay, we got geometrical pineapples. His on his inner thigh, mine’s back here. That’s before I was diagnosed with ADD. I didn’t know what’s going on, why I dealt with the break up so hard or why I pushed us towards the break up. Now I’ve given it my own meaning, which is really cool. Finding myself and not taking myself so seriously, because it’s fucking pineapple. [laughs] Live life when you can. I regretted that tattoo for a while but now it’s funny. A moment I did enjoy.
Do you miss back home in North Carolina?
The mountains and beaches of North Carolina are really pretty. I grew up in Chapel Hill, a college town of 35K people. Didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, nothing really connected to me there. My parents actually separated last year, our childhood home was sold. Everything felt uprooted, so I really claimed Cali as my home. I miss it from time to time, I’ll go back to see my dad. It’s a nice reset, but I really do like California now.
3 things you need in the studio?
Caffeine, my therapist told me I’m not allowed to drink it anymore. “Anna, if you know they’re giving you panic attacks…” First, she said “you can’t have an energy drink.” Okay, I can do that. I was drinking coffee, she had to talk me down from a panic attack because I drank coffee. I’m setting myself up for failure, so I had to cut caffeine out before. I need good people. It’s hard to write a super personal song if the magic isn’t there. It doesn’t mean the people you’re with aren’t great people, sometimes you gravitate more towards certain people in the studio. Some people I’ve written with have become some of my closest friends. I need food, or I get hangry. [laughs]
Talk about the version of “Love Song” with John K, arriving in January.
We haven’t met, but we’ve FaceTimed. I was there when he’s cutting his vocals over a video call. He’s one of the most genuine nicest people I’ve ever met. Not only saying “wow you have a great voice, I love the song,” but on a personal level. I told him stuff I‘m going through, he gave me advice and we barely met. Making sure I was okay, so genuine. Not to mention the music, are you fucking kidding me? I had one of his songs on my Spotify playlist from a couple years ago called “OT,” obviously a huge fan of “if we never met.” When I heard that, there’s absolutely no way. His voice is phenomenal, brings that song to a whole other level.
Goals for yourself at this point in your career?
I want to put out more music honestly, now that I’m with Atlantic and I have my first EP out. I’ve already in my mind decided the next 3 projects I want to do. Helping more honestly is the goal for the rest of my life. Whether it’s one person or 2 billion people, at the end of the day as long as I can help one person feel less alone, that’s always the goal.