Anna Calvi | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Anna Calvi

Worlds Away

Feb 14, 2011 Anna Calvi Bookmark and Share

On the other end of an exceptionally bad phone connection, Anna Calvi comes across as a ghostly whisper. “When I’m singing I feel emotions that I can’t access in normal, everyday life,” says the London native of her shyness when speaking to the press, her voice struggling against a sea of static. “I think I can be quite fearless in music, but not so much in real life.”

It’s a surprising admission given the bold material of her self-titled solo debut, an album filled with guitar-based torch songs, heavy on both romance and attitude—imagine PJ Harvey taking on Shirley Bassey’s James Bond theme songs.

Having cut her teeth with the London punk outfit Cheap Hotel, Calvi turned away from the band’s abrasive sound three years ago to develop her solo project. “I just felt really strongly that I wanted to make music that I wanted to listen to and that I liked, and not really worry about the consequences or that other people would like it or keeping in current trends of music,” she says.

Her rebirth as a solo artist commenced with an extensive writing process, where she locked herself in a basement to avoid distraction. “It’s about finding the right balance of taking in new experiences and being disciplined to work hard even when your heart decides not to,” she explains.

The result of Calvi’s time in isolation is a sprawling, 10-song collection filled with darkly romantic flights of fantasy. Her ability to craft such intricate stories can be traced back to her childhood.

Born with two dislocated hips, Calvi spent the first few years of her life enduring painful surgeries, which stoked her desire to disappear into story. “I think artistically it’s had a big effect on me because I felt even more that I had to escape into my own world as a way of making sense of my life and what was going on around me,” she reflects. “I think kids do that anyway. But I think it was even more important for me as a way of surviving what was happening.”

As painful as it was, the experience triggered her wild imagination, which she now relies upon for her art. “Imagination is endless,” she says. “If you trust it, you can just follow it all the way down. I really value that as a way of expressing and developing as an artist.”

During Calvi’s basement sessions, she began to rethink her guitar playing, experimenting with how to simulate an orchestra in demos without relying on gadgets. “I wanted to make my guitar sound like other instruments,” she says. “Not using pedals and things, but technique.”

Calvi’s new incarnation has found many strong proponents. The Invisible’s Dave Okumu backs her on the album track “No More Words,” and early supporter Brian Eno recommended her to Nick Cave over dinner. As a result, Calvi was invited to open for Grinderman’s 2010 European tour. “There was this one time where he sort of came up behind me and picked me up and twirled me around,” she says, referring to Cave, her voice rising. “It was really amazing, when one of your heroes comes and picks you up. I was really shy and giggly after that,” she laughs. “Oh my god!” (


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