“I’m having a second childhood with my music right now, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it,” declared Anni Clark in a recent telephone interview from her home in Old Orchard Beach. I’ve known and covered Anni ever since her debut album (on vinyl, no less), “Maine-ly Original,” came out in 1985 and have followed her growth and maturation as a singer-songwriter over the ensuing years. So, when she called me about her newest album — her eighth overall and her first studio album since 2002 (though she did release a live album in 2005) — titled “Will It Ever Be the Same,” I just had to find out more.

Q: What’s your new album about, Anni?
Clark: Well, the songs were inspired by themes of love, loss, transition, hope and physical distancing in the era of COVID-19.

Q: Since mid-March, I have been focusing on the affects of the current pandemic on musicians, artists and media folks not only in Maine but around the country, so your “Will It Ever Be the Same” fits right in with my theme, as well.
Clark: Absolutely, and it’s changed my world. … The inner two panels of the CD packaging tell the whole story of how this project came to be.

Q: I remember reading that story. It was when you were at Eric’s home in Rockwood on Moosehead Lake. He’s what you call “my other half.”
Clark: Yeah, I had not seen him for 12 weeks, because he has an essential job. We were both playing it safe. Well, after not seeing Eric and gradually feeling a little more distraught because I couldn’t get out and play my music … and I was just tired of being alone, I told him, “I just need to come see you!” He said, “Get up here.” So, I went, and we only had a few days together before he had to leave and go back to work. … I wasn’t going to be able to see him for another week. Well, I stayed up there, because it’s such a soulful place and I felt some healing happening.

Q: Then, on May 24th you had that accident on the pier down on the lake.
Clark: Yeah, I lost my balance and fell into the lake. The ice had only been out three weeks — it was 35-degree water and I had three layers on with hiking boots and wool socks, a fleece hat and mittens. … I remember saying to myself before I hit the water, “Oh, my God, I’m going in, but I’m getting out!” Well, I don’t remember another thing until I was on the back porch of Eric’s house pulling my boot off and saw all the blood coming down my leg.

Q: You must have cut it on a rock as you were getting out of the water.
Clark: Yeah, at that point I was fully awake so I got my phone — fortunately it wasn’t in my pocket when I hit the water — and called his sister who was up in her camp, which was four minutes away. She came over, and I went to the hospital in Greenville. But they had to ambulance me to Bangor, because Greenville couldn’t handle the wound. It was too big, and they wanted a plastic surgeon.

Q: And after the surgery and the 20 stitches they put in your leg, you went back to Rockwood to recuperate, right?
Clark: Yeah, and after two days of that I decided I had to play my guitar. I ran through a couple of tunes that I had learned recently to make sure that my brain was still intact and that my fingers worked. Then I just started to noodle and within 20 minutes I wrote the title song for this CD. When I got back home here I had a friend over for a ‘dog’ visit.

Q: A what?
Clark: (Chuckle) A “Distanced Outdoor Gathering” — that’s what I called it. Anyway, we sat outside in our chairs safely apart and we talked. I told him about my new song, and when I got done playing it he said, “Anni, the world needs to hear that song right now.”

Q: And the rest, as they say, is history. Now the album has a couple of songs that I remember from our earlier chats: 2013’s “November 1963” about the Kennedy assassination, and last year’s “I’m With You Greta.” This is the first time those two have appeared on a record, I believe. But, a lot of the 12 songs were new to me, such as “The Ocean is Music,” for example.
Clark: I wrote that song three weeks into COVID. I was a little bit more hopeful and hadn’t been eaten up by the sadness of isolation yet. And we were having some early, lovely spring days. I was getting down to the beach a lot, which was really awesome because a lot of beaches were closed, but Old Orchard was not. … I felt so lucky that I had that in my back yard that I was down there every day when the sun was out. And even when it was raining, because it felt good on my face. I played it on a livestream, and people loved it. Now I had that under my belt and that song I wrote after I fell off the dock, so I had two new songs and all these other songs that had never been recorded. I said, “I need to do an album.”

Q: I see in the credits that you enlisted the talents of Bob Colwell and his Root Cellar studio in Hallowell for this project.
Clark: Bob did most of the recording on my “Big Water” CD. When I told him what I wanted to do, he said, “Get up here.” So I went and my plan was (to) go the simple route and record everything live, and I (planned) to do half of this album just solo — guitar and voice. I’ll play some on 12-string and some on my little baby guitar — that sounds like a cross between a mandolin and a ukulele. I wrote a couple of songs on that, too. I had already recorded the “November 1963” and the “Greta” song there with Bob and the Boneheads before, so I pulled them in the studio to do two more tunes. Then I pulled Robby Coffin and another bass player, Tony Simmons, in to do three other songs — very acoustically, very laid back and no drums. The whole thing, as a body of music, for me works really well.

Q: It has all the earmarks of a concept album — I loved those back in the day.
Clark: It is a concept album. I was doing it during COVID and so all of the themes in each of the songs are connected in a certain way. It tells a story that needs to be told right now due to the pandemic and what we’re all feeling and dealing with, and the adjustments we have to make. It’s a crazy, sad world. It was an incredible project, but I think you can sense the hope throughout this album even though it’s dealing with some pretty heavy issues. This body of music began 11 years ago, but it took me falling off a dock to realize I had to do it.

Q: I think I understand. Is there anything, Anni, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Clark: Absolutely, the official release of “Will It Ever Be the Same” will be celebrated with a 7 p.m. Facebook live Friday, Sept. 25, hosted by One Longfellow Square of Portland. And the direct link to the OLS livestreams is facebook.com and that’s where our show should appear once it goes live.

 

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 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.

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