The Big Issue : Edition 570
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 7–20 SEP 2018 31 “I’M HUNTING FOR something – I want experiences, I want agency, I want sexual freedom, I want intimacy, I want to feel strong, I want to feel protected and I want to find something beautiful in all the mess,” declared Anna Calvi, in a public statement to mark the release of her third album, Hunter. It’s these themes the UK singer is also keen to discuss in conversation. “I had this urge to be braver, to take some more risks. I was imagining: ‘If this was the last music I ever did, what would I want to say? How would I want to leave things in my musical world?’ I really wanted to do something powerful and visceral, something ugly and brutal... I was really trying to find the most animalistic part of myself, in the most beautiful way.” Calvi’s albums have long carried that contrast, between the beauty of her near operatic voice, and the force and fury of her guitar playing. Her music is routinely called “dramatic”, though Calvi doesn’t like that the “the word ‘drama’ implies something that isn’t true, that is exaggerated or theatrical”. Her approach, instead, is to take a truth and push it to a grand extreme. On Hunter, that meant tapping into her own truth, and making something less cerebral – more emotionally raw – with lyrics that communicated clear ideas and personal sentiments. It’s this “bravery” she had in mind when making the album. “Unconsciously, I had [previously] been a bit reserved with lyrics,” Calvi admits. “I’d seen them as only part of the picture, describing what the music is describing. This time, I wanted them to be direct enough that people who heard them would know exactly where I was coming from, what my intimate feelings were. I’m a quiet person; I usually don’t share my inner thoughts publicly. But, I felt so passionately about the ideas on this record, that I really wanted to give to the world this whole person, and I wanted to say it in a very honest and intimate way.” This inspiration came to Calvi when, after touring her records One Breath (2013) and the covers EP Strange Weather (2014), she found herself living in France, having moved across the Channel to live with her French girlfriend. She “didn’t really know anybody”, and is, still, “actually quite bad at French”, so she would find herself retreating into isolation. In turn, the songs she started writing were examinations of self: of womanhood, gender, sexuality and art-making. “These songs started coming that were really questioning my gender,” Calvi recounts. “When I wrote the song ‘Hunter’, the themes that was about – seeing women as the hunter, as opposed to how we usually see women in society, as being hunted – really resonated with me, and felt important to me. I wanted to write songs around this idea of freedom, as a woman, to be and do what you want.” These are sentiments that Calvi had long been thinking about, but failed to see reflected in the public discourse, or the art the world gave her. “Rare is it that I see a woman in a film that represents any of the women that I know; women who are imperfect and funny and messy, who knows what they want, knows what they needs,” she offers. “As well as rarely seeing queer women on screen. It’s always something that I’ve found frustrating.” Calvi imagined, then, making Hunter for “the teenage version” of herself, feeling as if an album like this – “a representation of womanhood that is more realistic, and less the impression of a woman through the perspective of English singer-guitarist Anna Calvi cuts loose on her third album, freeing herself from all sort of shackles. PHOTOBYMAISIECOUSINS of Hunter “I wanted to write songs around this idea of freedom, as a woman, to be and do what you want.” – A NNA CALVI THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 7–20 SEP 2018 31 a man” – would’ve meant so much. So many of her formative artistic figures – songwriters like Leonard Cohen, guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix – were men. “I remember hearing ‘Gloria’ by Patti Smith, and I think it was the first song in which I really recognised its depiction of a woman. It felt real and honest, and it really moved me,” she recounts. “I didn’t have many female role models, otherwise, that I felt like I could really relate to.” Even though on Hunter Calvi has pushed past her natural shyness to deliver something very personal, she still doesn’t like to think of herself as a public figure. Seven years since the release of her self-titled debut LP, Calvi has yet to get used to the phenomenon whereby her own name is no longer her own. “When you use your own name,” she explains, “[it] takes on this meaning, and stops being yours, in a weird way. It’s like I can’t say my own name now, without it being my music. But then, when you’re an artist, your work is your identity. It’s not completely healthy to have your identity completely intertwined with the work that you do. But, sometimes, it’s impossible to separate it, because you care about it so much, and it’s so central to who you are, and to your life.” by Anthony Carew » Hunter is out now.