Monday, November 3, 2014

Pheaturing Phile Alum Anna Coogan

Hey there, good afternoon and welcome to the Phile, kids. It's Monday and November. Actually, apparently it is now Movember. So, remember, this Movember to briefly check for lumps during the many hours you spend scratching your balls. Yes, I said it.  Okay, so, many U.S. pastors are endorsing politicians from the pulpit in angry protest of a 60 year old law that allows them to save millions of dollars every year by not paying taxes, with the provision that they remain politically neutral. The church leaders are banking on the Internal Revenue Service choosing not to revoke their tax-exempt status, probably because that is almost certainly what's going to happen. Looks like Church and State have reconciled, and are now in a polyamorous relationship with Corporations.  Hey, want more Taylor Swift news? The song catalogue of pop superstar Taylor Swift... whose record-breaking new album "1989" was released last week is being pulled from Spotify due to the likelihood that the record company Big Machine can squeeze a few more dollars worth of sales from fans if they eliminate the music streaming service as an avenue of consumption. Now that Taylor Swift songs are no longer available on Spotify, where on earth can I hear them besides literally every radio station?  God, I wish I was in New York now. For the first time since the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center is finally open for business. Today marked the first day that the 104-story One World Trade Center is in use by the many businesses it houses, meaning that New York City and America officially have their enormous phallic symbol back. One World Trade Center is 1,776 feet tall, which seems triumphant, until you realize the rest of the world sees that as 541.3 meters tall.  Devotees of the blockbuster literary erotica hit "Fifty Shades of Grey"... as well as fans of male frontal nudity the world over received some terrible news today. The star of the upcoming film adaptation revealed that his penis will sadly not be appearing onscreen. So, looks like you'll just have to go see Gone Girl again.  Comedian Chris Rock scandalized many viewers of "Saturday Night Live" this past weekend when he utilized humor while commenting on the 9/11 and Boston Marathon terrorist attacks during his opening monologue as guest host of the comedy show.
"SNL" should just have Zach Galifianakis do the same Chris Rock monologue next week and all the angry white people will call it “edgy." Haha.  Okay, I just mentioned Taylor Swift and that girl is all over the media. Well, like I said these last few weeks, Disney is cashing in and re-releasing all their classic animated movies replacing the princesses with Taylor. Check it out...

Okay, I wouldn't call Mulan a Disney classic at all.  Speaking of Disney... the greatest company to work for ever is really, really milking this whole Frozen thing. You can even buy the movie on VHS. Don't believe me?

Told you. Hah!  So, do you kids take selfies? Selfies are so popular they also appear in movies that shouldn't.

You know, everybody tells me I would like the show "The Big Bang Theory". I wasn't sure until I saw this...

Now I just might have to watch it. Haha. I'm so stupid. And now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is this week's...

Top Phive People Having A Worse Monday Than You
5. A guy who sent Ariana Grande a giant pumpkin for Halloween.
4. Fans of Taylor Swift, who just took all her music off Spotify.
3. A guy who dressed as a Fox News reporter for Halloween and got attacked by someone who hates Fox News.
2. The Dems, because polls suggest the GOP could take the Senate tomorrow. And the number one person having a worse Monday than you is...
1. Lena Dunham, who has been accused of sexually abusing her little sister.

Okay, this time my mind is fucked. A Phile reader sent this to me and I can't figure it out. If you can, please let me know. It's been bugging me for a bloody week. Oh, real quick before I continue, a Phile reader named Magdalia sent me a drawing of myself, and I thought it was so cool I have to share it.

Haha. I like it but I'm smiling in it and I have too much hair. Apart from that it's pretty good. I actually look like Beavis or Butt-Head here. I can never figure out which one is who. Shit, now I don't remember what I was gonna do next on the Phile. Oh, yeah, I remember...

Wayne Static
November 4, 1965 – November 1, 2014
Cue up the Steely Dan... no static at all.

Mid-term Election 
Mid-term election refers to the electoral charade that happens two years after the electoral charade of choosing a president.

The 29th artist to be pheatured in the Phile's Art Gallery is Andry "Shango" Rajoelina who is from France... but we won't hold that against him. Haha. Here's one of his pieces...

Apparently that's a "Breaking Bad" painting if you didn't know. I didn't... I thought it was Indiana Jones. Anyway, Andry will be a guest on the Phile in a few weeks.

Today's guest is a Phile Alum whose latest CD she did with musician JD Foster called "The Birth of the Stars" was just released on October 28th and can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon. Please welcome back to the Phile... Anna Coogan.

Me: Hello, Anna, welcome back to the Phile. How have you been?

Anna: Thanks for having me back... been good, thanks! I’ve enjoyed watching your local Wawa get built.

Me: Haha. Yeah, for those that don't know, on Facebook I have been taking pictures of the Wawa here in Clermont being built which took about a year. You know, last time you were on the Phile two years ago First Lady Michelle Obama was on the same entry. Were you surprised? You were in good company, right?

Anna: It seemed like an auspicious start...

Me: Anna, you're originally from Boston, am I right?

Anna: Yup, born in Boston and raised there until I was twelve.

Me: You live in New York now though. What part? Upstate I think, am I right?

Anna: I moved to Ithaca, New York about three years ago. I absolutely love it here.

Me: And you teach music there?

Anna: Yes... I teach voice, guitar, performance, and songwriting. But mostly I’m a vocal coach.

Me: How long have you been a teacher? Is it fun?

Anna: I’ve been teaching full time since we moved to Ithaca three years ago and I left my job as a biologist, although I taught occasionally before that. It’s a lot of fun and connects me to what I loved about music when I was a kid, before all of the business stuff creeped in and put a damper on it. I accidentally typed “dumper” which actually really sums up the business part.

Me: What ages do you teach?

Anna: All ages! I teach a lot of tween girls, and I teach at Cornell so I have college kids, and a few brave adults as well. I like ‘em all, but there’s something about the teenagers that really works with me... maybe because I’m still stuck being around fifteen years old (and deeply stubborn in way only a teenage can be) inside.

Me: Are your students aware of your wonderful music?

Anna: Some of them have listened to it and think it’s really cool, others don’t really care at all, and some, especially the ones who have seen me perform with Johnny Dowd, think it’s just weird. I kind of leave it up to them if they want to dig deeper and find out about their teacher. Unless there’s a big show coming up, in which case I try to rope their parents into showing up.

Me: I read some bios on you, and I didn't mention this last time you were here but a lot of times it says you are from Canada. Why is that, Anna?

Anna: Man, your guess is as good as mine. I’m so totally NOT from Canada. Although would love to get some of their funding for touring and recording!

Me: You're married, right? Is your husband from Canada?

Anna: Yes, I’m married. He’s from Alaska, though. Also, totally not Canada, although geographically maybe it should be.

Me: You do spend a lot of time in Europe touring. Do you like touring and playing Europe better than America?

Anna: Honestly, I like to tour where there are interested audiences, and where I can earn enough to afford to be on the road. I’d go pretty much anywhere in the world if those needs were met and and there was no civil strife. Europe is a great place for that... generally great and attentive audiences that still really care about what you do. I also speak a handful of European languages, and speaking foreign languages is my favorite thing to do, so that makes it really appealing. Also, I love food and coffee and walking in cities, and waffles. Love those Belgian waffles. But believe me, if touring more widely in the U.S. becomes a possibility, I am all over it.

Me: How do you find the audiences are different?

Anna: It’s a bit like Anna Karenina… good audiences are all the same... it’s the bad audiences that are bad in their own way! I feel like a good audience is a good audience... regardless of what language they speak or where you are. If they are into the music and the show, and are a rowdy enough to let you know (but not so rowdy that bottles are flying), and there’s that crazy energy passing between artist and audience- that’s a good show. The harder shows are where people really aren’t picking up where you are putting down and that’s where the cultural differences seem to come in. Often times in Europe, if someone didn’t like a show... they’ll come up to you and tell you. That takes some getting used to. Other times it can be hard to tell what people are feeling... if they love you, they’ll sit in silence and stare… and if they hate it, they’ll sit in silence and stare. The key is learning to perform the same regardless of audience reaction, which also takes some getting used to. 

Me: Let's talk about your latest album "The Birth of the Stars" which you were kind enough to send me a copy of. I love this album. With this album, you could be the star, Anna. How did that song get to be the album title?

Anna: Thanks!! I wrote that song with my drummer Willie B. I never intended for it to be the title track of the record, but I actually think it works well. When we toured the “pre-release” version of the record last winter (which was a quirk of timing, since the official release is later this year and into next year) we just called it “Anna Coogan and JD Foster.” I got pretty sick of explaining why the record had no title. So, when I went to print if officially, we named it... we had a couple of contenders, but that one won out. That’s probably my favorite song I’ve ever written.

Me: It's a duet album you did with JD Foster, who I have heard of... he played with Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakum and T Bone Burnett plus many more. Where did you first hear about JD, Anna?

Anna: I got hooked up with JD through a friend of mine whose son plays with Laura Cantrell. JD produced one of her records. JD and I did a record together (he produced 2009’s “The Nocturnal Among Us.”) We stayed friends over the years, and when I moved to N.Y. from Seattle we played a few shows together, most notably opening for Taj Mahal here in Ithaca. JD stayed for the weekend, and we ended up writing a bit. It seemed to come easy, so we got pretty motivated to write more. It was a long, dark, cold winter, and it was nice to break it up and plumb the depths a bit. He ended up coming to Ithaca several times over the next year for week long writing sessions.

Me: How did you and JD meet and decide to do an album together?

Anna: We came to a certain point with the writing... we had well over an albums worth of material  and it seemed like the logical next step. It always does, I guess. JD is a fantastic producer, and we had Willie on drums, and Ithaca has some beautiful studios. We went with the fantastic Electric Wilburland a few miles out of town, with Grammy winning engineer Will Russell at the helm so we were pretty much ready to go.

Me: Did you both do the songwriting?

Anna: Yes... this was the most collaborative effort I’ve ever done. JD came to Ithaca several times over the course of the year, I cancelled all my lessons for the week, and all we did was write. It was so fun and we came out with a ton of songs, only some of which appeared on the record. We’d also get a box of wine at the beginning of the week and work through it night by night, going late and starting early. And LOTS of coffee. JD can drink an incredible amount of caffeine.

Me: I want to show this picture of you two...

Me: What instruments does be play on the album? Quite a few, right?

Anna: JD plays a lot of instruments on this record. Studio time costs money... lots of money... so we laid the basic tracks in three days, and then took it home from there. He spent a lot of time in his living room laying down guitars, vocals, and most notably “weird sounds.” He’s super into sounds all while we were in Europe he was making iPhone recordings of church bells and street sounds. Pretty inspirational to see someone living music production like that.

Me: How long did the album take to record and was it fun working with him?

Anna: The album got done pretty fast, at least from my point of view. JD may have felt different! A few basic track days in the studio and then a month or two of JD mixing and adding things. I added a few instruments as well, but it’s mostly him. JD is one of my closest friends... we went through a lot of life changes together over the last few years... took a lot of hikes and spent a ridiculous amount of time driving around in a van... so yes, it was fun. Also intense, and sometimes a battle, on certain songs and certain nights. But mostly just fun.

Me: You started to play an electric guitar, not acoustic. What made you change, and what do you like better?

Anna: AAAAAA ELECTTRIC!!! The Strat has changed my life in so many ways. There is such a freedom in playing the electric guitar... the whole neck opened up to me. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have Johnny Dowd and Willie B in my life... both of who have large collections of pedals that they’ve been lending out to me, so I get to try all the fun sounds without spending my life savings on pedals. Which I’ll probably do eventually, since every pedal is the best pedal. I still do a fair amount of writing on the acoustic, but every time I pick one up my band mates give me a certain look and it’s back to the Strat.

Me: You mentioned Willie B. and I have to talk about him. He has played with Neko Case I think, who I am a big fan of. How did you meet him?

Anna: Willie lives down the street from me and when I first moved to town JD introduced us. We first saw him play with the Johnny Dowd band at a tiny venue in Ithaca, and my husband and I were blown away with all of them, especially Willie. I had been doing a lot of solo acoustic work at the time so it took a bit of time to convince him how much I needed drums and synthesizer.

Me: You and Willie have been doing a lot of shows together, but JD is not playing with you. Is he working on another project?

Anna: JD’s got tons of projects, so we work around his schedule. Willie and I live close enough that we can practice every week, so it makes it easy to play duo shows. Plus he’s got the unique ability to play bass pedals and drums AND synth at the same time, so it’s been fun working on that.

Me: With you and Willie as a duo, he's playing drums and you guitar... like the White Stripes or Flat Duo Jets. That's a great combo of instruments. Do you like playing with just you two?

Anna: I love playing in all combinations, (except solo, which frankly is just not as fun) but the duo is pretty cool... Willie plays bass pedals at the same time as drums, so it’s a pretty unique and full sound. We both love to play with JD as well. We did a trio tour of Europe last year and that was fantastically fun. I also toured for several years with Daniele Fiaschi, a Roman guitar player, which involved a lot of bickering in Italian and drinking a lot of coffee. It’s nice to have options.

Me: Wait... I know you know who the White Stripes are but do you know Flat Duo Jets? Dexter Romweber was once on the Phile years ago.

Anna: I’d better look at up! I’m so tragically unhip sometimes…

Me: So you played a show with JD, Anna.

Anna: Yes. I toured with JD for several weeks in Europe as a duo, and then Willie joined us as a trio. We’ve also played a few stateside shows together around the city and Ithaca. JD has a strict policy of never playing a song the same way, so you have to be on your toes, which is great fun, and has definitely improved my musicianship.

Me: I have to ask, who did the great artwork for the album?

Anna: Q Cassetti. She’s an Ithaca-area artist who most recently did the Valentines Day postage stamp for the USPS. Q kind of saved this project in a lot of ways. We had printed limited edition copies for our tour of Europe, and we had run out, and it was really hard to decide if we wanted to go ahead with printing more. My budget was more or less gone, and CD’s are so hard to sell… Q stepped in at the last moment and created AND donated this incredible art and gave me the strength I needed to finish the project and see it through to the end. I’ll never forget her kindness.

Me: That was nice of her. I should interview her on the Phile. Do you think you and JD will be doing another album together?

Anna: I hope so, but we haven’t written much this year, so it may be a while.

Me: If you can do a record with anybody else, who would it be?

Anna: Oh MAN that’s a hard question. I’ve always loved Tucker Martine’s records. And Daniel Lanois. And if Paul Simon ever wants to get into production...

Me: Okay, on the Phile I ask random questions thanks to Tabletopics. Here we go... Shit, this is a deep one... Is work valuable for its own sake? I have no idea what that bloody means.

Anna: Actually, that’s a pretty decent deep question for me. Most deep questions leave me deeply puzzled but this one I get. I am the daughter of a workaholic, from a workaholic New England family, and... well... I love to work, when it’s work I love. It’s also a decent question because my line of work often takes working a separate job to support. I teach, and run a B and B, among other side jobs, to pay off the never ending band costs, and yet music work is still the driving force of my life. I wake up every morning hungry to get to work... even when that’s booking or facing seemingly endless rejection each day... and I go to bed exhausted from it... and, when it’s not driving me crazy, it’s the best thing ever.

Me: Anna, thanks for coming back on the Phile, and thanks for the CD... do you think JD would like to e interviewed on the Phile?

Anna: If you can track him down!! I had to drive six hours to Long Island last weekend to see him. Luckily it was sunny so we went to the beach.

Me: Go ahead and mention your website and everything.

Anna: Website: And of course, the cursed Facebook “Pay for Posts” fanpage: (okay, I’m a bit bitter on the bait and switch, I worked for years to build up my Myspace page, but then all of sudden that wasn’t cool, and then it was Facebook, and what the hell is ‘ello?? I can never keep up:) and the incomprehensible Twitter: Join me! It’ll be fun, I swear.

Me: Okay. Take care, continued success and come back again soon.

Anna: Thanks much... keep at the blog!!

That about does it for this entry of the Phile, kids. Thanks to Anna for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Thursday with Terra Lightfoot from the Canadian band Dinner Belles. And on Monday it's singer Jonathan Sprout. Don't forget to vote tomorrow for the slightly less awful and eventually completely ineffective candidate. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

Not if it pleases me. No, you can't stop me, not if it pleases me. - Graham Parker

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