As regular readers of this column know, I have a real love of finding and chatting with talent that is new to me. Such is the case this week when I was able to call Anna Pillsbury, a young, up-and-coming singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who will perform Monday, Feb. 20, at Slates Restaurant in Hallowell. I had heard many good things about this talented artist and was interested to learn more about her. Here is the bulk of that conversation:
Q: So, you’re coming into Slates. Have you ever played there before?
Pillsbury: I have. I did a show there a few years ago and it’s probably one of my favorite shows that I’ve done. The atmosphere is really nice and people are really there to listen. It’s definitely one of my favorite places.
Q: Have you been to the new location yet?
Pillsbury: I haven’t actually been to the new restaurant. I’ve read about it in the paper, but I haven’t made my way down there yet. Hopefully I can check it out before I play there.
Q: What can folks expect from you this time around?
Pillsbury: Well, I myself am going to be playing some songs off my EP that’s going to be coming out. There are some kind of honest and raw ones, but there’s also some silly ones. I like to add a bit of humor into my set because I really like people laughing and having a good time. So that’s my bit of the set, but there’s also going to be other performers that night — other local musicians — doing a tribute to Leonard Cohen after I perform. That’ll be cool to hear those songs performed by the talented musicians we have right in this area.
Q: Will you be contributing to the Leonard Cohen tribute show?
Pillsbury: No, I’ll be playing all originals.
Q: Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask: where am I calling to reach you?
Pillsbury: I’m in Augusta, so not too far from Hallowell. I kind of grew up there. Well, not exactly there, but I went there a lot as a child. … My dad has passed, but he was a musician who would play there and my mom’s a musician and an artist. The show is going to be a benefit for the Harlow Gallery; that’s why we’re having a variety of people play. My mom’s a visual artist and I dabble in visual arts so it’s nice to be benefitting a space that supports creativity.
Q: Where is that gallery located?
Pillsbury: Oh, it’s just across the street and a few doors down from Slates. It’s a little local art gallery. Hallowell definitely has such a nice, sweet community feel to it that not a lot of places have, you know?
Q: Yes, I do — and it has more musicians per capita than any place on earth, it seems to me.
Pillsbury: Yeah, I think that’s accurate — Nashville may come close.
Q: Well, that’s why I stressed the “per capita” part of that pronouncement. Now when will your EP come out, or is it out already?
Pillsbury: No, it’s not out yet, but I’m looking to get it out by the end of this year. It’s the first thing that I’ve recorded in an actual studio. Most of what I’ve done has just been me and my guitar — or me and whatever instrument I’m playing, just doing a solo track. But the EP will have drums and bass and other instruments on it. So I’m not exactly sure how long it’s going to take me. I would love for it to be done at the end of the year, but quality is more important than just rushing to get it done.
Q: Now seeing you’ve alluded to a guitar and “whatever instrument” you happen to be playing, I just have to ask: upon what instrument will you be performing at the Slates’ gig?
Pillsbury: Well, I think for this show I’m just going to play guitar. I thought a little bit about doing ukulele, but I think I’m just going to stick to guitar. Seeing there are other people playing, I want to make sure everybody gets their time and switching instruments can take some time. I think I might do an a cappella song or two; that’ll be a little bit different.
Q: How long have you been doing this?
Pillsbury: Well, I wrote my first song when I was four … I grew up in a musical family, my mom’s a songwriter and my dad could play pretty much every single type of instrument. He taught guitar and other instruments — and my brother is a guitarist, too, so I’ve had music all around me ever since I was really little. When I got into high school is when I got more into songwriting. One of my best friends started learning how to play guitar and we booked a show before we even had any songs. We desperately learned a bunch of songs so we could perform our show. Then she started writing music and I started writing music, but I didn’t have any interest in guitar because that was the annoying thing that my brother played when I was trying to watch a movie growing up. But as I watched my friend play — and I would sing harmony with her — I decided, ‘Well, I can do that!’ So I did, and while I was doing that, songwriting became a bigger interest of mine. It was also when I was starting to fall in love and getting my heart broken and all that, and that goes hand-in-hand with music for me. It’s been a really nice outlet and a way that I cope and self-heal and figure things out. I feel really lucky to be able to have that form of expression because not everybody has that.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Pillsbury: I think just the information about the show. It’s Monday, Feb. 20, tickets are $25, it starts at 8:15 p.m. and if people want tickets they can call 622-9575. (www.annapillsbury.com)
Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.