Anna Meredith is a Scottish composer and performer of modern classical music as well as experimental music. We got the chance to chat with her about some of the exciting and amazing experiences she’s had through her music career so far. To learn more and keep up with new singles, albums, and performances check out her website.
I thought your work with the beatboxer Shlomo was such an interesting project. I think it was a huge success and I have read many rave reviews, but how was it received by classical music fans?
I think it went down pretty well! I think some people were a little sceptical that it might just be a ‘novelty’ piece or a ‘classical’ piece with a beat underneath but i worked hard to integrate the beatbox sounds into the orchestra so it was more of a dialogue. I’m sure its not for everyone but I’m still pretty happy with it as a piece which means it stands my own test of time!
Did your work with Shlomo influence you as you took your classical training in a more contemporary direction?
Probably not directly but becoming aware of beatboxing (and the fact that anyone can do it) definitely helped with writing Handsfree which I did shortly after (Handsfree is a piece for on orchestra without instruments so the players do body percussion, singing and beatboxing … all heavily choreographed)
As well as your studio albums, you have written scores for the film ‘8th Grade’ and the Netflix series ‘Living With Yourself’. Is this something you hope to do more of or is live performance where your heart lies?
Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed doing the film work. I really like the breadth of work I so so am keen to keep developing in this area alongside band albums/performing and commissioned ‘classical’ work.
Your group is an interesting combination of instruments. How did that come about and has it been challenging touring with a tuba?
The make up of my band is something that’s sort of evolved as a combination of the right people and right instruments. I think it works really well as a 5 but electronics are always at the heart of the sound. I love having Tom (the tuba player) in my band! Lower brass is one of my favourite sounds but the particularities of dragging that shiny monster in its giant travel case is a bit of a nightmare!
You have performed to small audiences in intimate venues and you have taken the stage at the Royal Albert Hall; Which is the biggest rush?
I’ve loved different size venues for different reasons and there’s something really lovely about being surprised by an audience, maybe you worry a show isn’t going to connect well with an audience and they go wild and that’s amazing. I think my favourite gigs are the ones where you feel the crowd is coming with you right through the journey of the set and are raucous for loud stuff but listening for quiet stuff.
You recently received an MBE. Congratulations! How was your royal experience?
Sort of surreal! The whole day was really fun and (as you might expect) the actual ceremony was beautifully organised by the team in the palace. You get a sort of allocated 45 seconds or so with whoever is giving you your medal (wills in my case!) and I think we actually had a pretty good chat!
We are all enjoying your most recent album ‘Fibs’ and the video for Paramour feels so relevant as we are all stuck at home. What track are you most proud of?
Thank you! Glad you’re enjoying the album and vids! Its a cop out answer but I’m proud of each of the tracks for different ways, they were each a little challenge of something I’ve always wanted to write. Just because I heard it the other day I might flag up Inhale Exhale which is probably the ‘poppiest’ song I’ve written but I really like. I had to make it work around my own really small and high voice but still write something strong.
What’s your karaoke jam?
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
You are a role model for young women, particularly in the male dominated field of classical music; Who are your role models?
OOo. I’m always influenced by Bjork – she challenges and almost reinvents herself with each new album or project she does and there such a variety in her work. I’ve loved her since I was a teenager and still do.
I love the artwork your sister, Elenor, produced to accompany your work, particularly the synesthetic animated watercolors. You’re clearly a very creative family! Do you think people are born with a talent for art or music or can anyone learn with the right opportunities and commitment?
I wouldn’t say I came from an especially musical family and I’m certainly not someone who displayed any kind of unusual talent for music when I was young but it caused a real focus for me as a teenager and beyond and I was lucky to have a lot of support to pursue my interests from my family, friends and teachers. I think talent, skills and passion are something that can develop for anyone with the right time and effort. Perhaps it’s harder at the moment with talent TV shows that seem to portray the idea that people just have a gift or haven’t had to work at it which then maybe discourages people from singing or performing because they haven’t seen the hard work behind the scenes!
On the subject of music education, is the worldwide desire to teach children the recorder an awesome way to level the playing field of access to reading and playing music, or a long term plan for world domination by Mr Yamaha?
Ha! I’d never thought of it this way! There’s definitely a good reason for why the recorder is the first instrument for so many of us (easy to play, cheap, pretty indestructible) and maybe for parents, a definite plus is that it’s relatively quiet?! Beginner drummers, trumpet players, and violinists are a different matter!
What piece of vinyl would be the star of your collection?
My Dad has a ton of amazing old blues records from his time as a teenager in the 50s and 60s in Washington – I keep meaning to pilfer some when I go home to see him.
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
I’m permanently on a quest for a decent vegan cheese especially one that works on pizza. If I managed to crack that it’d probably just have to be called “Finally”…
What album cover represents your current mood?
Only because so many of the world’s inequalities and priorities are being pulled into focus maybe the Nirvana Nevermind swimming baby?
Check out our playlist on Youtube for videos of Anna Meredith’s performances and music videos below!