Interview: Annie Dressner

The kind of artist to rub shoulders with Jenny Lewis and Kimya Dawson, if her press is anything to go by New Yorker Annie Dressner already has a lot to live up to. Fortunately her debut album Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Names doesn’t disappoint. Soft and charming yet dispersed with hiccups of Dressner’s quirky, stylised vocal and sometimes awkward lyrical prose, the album is an undeniably captivating listen that harks at Americana goodness spun around and plonked down in the heart of a bustling city.

Now based in London and playing across the country on a regular basis, Dressner speaks to DrunkenWerewolf’s Tiffany Daniels about realising her aspirations, recording the album and things to come in 2013.

Happy Thanksgiving! What’s better – Thanksgiving or Christmas? Thank you! Let's see... Can I choose another holiday? My birthday!

My friend is from New York and last year she cooked the biggest Thanksgiving feast I’ve ever not imagined. What’s a must have for your Thanksgiving spread? I know this is probably not even considered a food - but I really like cranberry jelly out of the can - so you can still see the imprint of the can. YUMMY!

What’s your favourite Christmas song? "Here Comes Santa Clause"

How did you first get into music and what inspired you to start recording? I cannot imagine [my] life without music in it. For a start, my father was always at the piano and my grandmother was playing violin in orchestras. I started playing piano when I was 4 and played violin for a few years during my childhood, but my favourite thing to do in the world was and still is to sing. I taught myself how to play guitar the day that I graduated high school and wrote a few songs over the years - but never performed them and just did it for the sake of it. One day, around four years ago, I was feeling brave and played parts of my songs to a good friend of mine. He told me that I either should take it seriously or stop - so, I decided to take it seriously, and have been ever since.

You recently moved from New York to London – what prompted the move? Was it musical? Someone caught my fancy.

How do you think the New Yorker scene compares to the London scene? Has it been easier to gain recognition as a musician in either one? To be honest, I’ve not really played much in London. I’ve been touring around the UK more than focusing just on the city, although I did get to play The Bedford & The Green Note. I think that since moving here I have been putting a lot more time into it and for the first time have been touring, which has been very helpful. I do feel like you get a bit lost in the crazy amount of musicians in New York City.

Do you feel like you’ve settled in to life as a Brit artist? Who do you consider your peers? I definitely starting to feel more at home here, although I think I will [always] identify myself as a New Yorker, and I never want to lose that. Can a girl have both? My peers - Dan Wilde, Jess Morgan, Tracey Browne & Dave Gerard, and The Watchman. I really love and respect all of their music, and they are really nice folks too.

How often do you get to visit home – does the US still influence you as a person and as a musician? A couple of times a year – I’ve only been here for a little over a year so far. The US is definitely a big influence - I intend to grow here, but keep the vital part of who I am. Musically, I listen to artists from everywhere, so I think that all of the music I listen to influences me. It has less to do with the place and more to do with the band.

You recently released your lovely debut Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Names – what’s the history of the album? Where did you record it and how long ago? I recorded it in 2011 with my friend Anthony Rizzo, who also produced the album. I think the whole thing took about 10 months to record (off and on due to schedules). We recorded most of it in his apartment in New York City, and the drums and bass at an awesome studio in Brooklyn. A few songs, like "Come Back" and "How Am I Supposed to Be?" were added on later in the process of the album, as they were written during that period of time. It was also really fun to be able to work with my friends and I’m fortunate that they are so talented.

How have the songs translated across the Atlantic? Do they still have the same sentiment now you’ve moved? The songs have the same sentiment to me. I am not really sure if people interpret them differently here than in the States.

Have you found yourself picking up any British ticks? "Rubbish", "bin", "trousers" - my accent is not going to change! (Although I do like all of them!)

You’ve said on your FaceBook page you want to start a band. Have you played in a band before? Is this a direction your project could go in? Hello Facebook! Umm, in NYC, I did play with a band some of the time. Here, I have mostly been playing as a duo (me on guitar and Paul Goodwin - also very worth checking out - on keys). What I meant is that I would like to start a different project - like trying to write songs with people. I am going to continue doing my own thing - but just thought it could be fun to try.

What do you have lined up for the future? Any tours, or new releases for 2013? I’m going to be releasing my new EP in 2013 (exact details TBA). It is a four-song acoustic EP. I’m really very excited about it. Unlike my last album, I wanted it to sound more like the demos that I make when I write the songs rather than a full band. I think that that type of production will suit these new songs best. As far as a tour, I am going to be playing a bunch of Northern shows at the end of January as well as a lot of shows throughout the year. If you want, please feel free to check out my site - it's always being updated, so stay tuned!

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