We challenge you to listen to Anna Straker’s ethereal vocals breathing, ‘Do you wanna go late night swimming?” and respond with anything other than a hasty affirmative. Layering her sweetly seductive voice over a synth driven instrumental, Straker’s debut single – destined to soundtrack hazy summer evenings – marks the emergence of a compelling new artist.
19-year-old Anna’s career started in the background – she sang backing vocals for artists including Rudimental, John Newman, Fono and Years & Years. Hers was a talent fated to take centre stage, however. “Late Night Swimming” premieres the dreamy musical sensibility honed in her grandma’s attic in Acton, armed with a lifetime of ambition and a King Korg. Self-written, self-recorded and self-produced, the track is quietly building critical acclaim – including a coveted spot on our Wonderlist – and we’d strongly advise you to keep an eye out for what Ms Straker’s cooking up next.
Here at Wonderland, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to chat to the lady behind our current earworm about her influences and her ambitions, although we certainly didn’t expect the latter to feature Nicolas Cage. Intrigued? Keep on reading!
When did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in music?
When I was about 8 years old I begged my parents for a piano – I was set on being a classical pianist! I always knew music was for me. I was also hugely inspired by Alicia Keys as a young girl. I wanted to be her! She had such a cool vibe; I used to learn all her songs on the piano.
You started out singing backing vocals for artists including Years and Years, Rudimental, John Newman and Fono – what are the best and worst aspects of singing backup?
Singing backing vocals is wicked! I never could believe my name was on three number one albums! It was a really great opportunity and experience. But the ultimate goal is to have my name on the front of the album, haha.
Have any of the artists you’ve sung for particularly impacted upon your sound?
I enjoyed working on those tracks, but I feel their styles aren’t very similar to mine!
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I really grew up with lots of R&B and soul. My mum always used to play artists like Stevie Wonder and D’Angelo, and I loved Amy Winehouse sooo much. In my teens I listened to loads of alternative artists like James Blake, and artists like Jamie xx and Tame Impala really influence me now.
You moved to London to advance your solo career – how has the city affected your music?
It was a bit scary and lonely at first moving here not knowing anyone/anything, but now London is perfect for me as a musician. There’s an incredible energy to the city; I feel like you can be whoever you want and still fit in. So I guess it’s given me the creative freedom to do anything. And all the great nights out and things I’ve done here have definitely been songwriting inspiration! I went to Field Day festival last year and wrote a crazy song the next week!
You write, sing and produce – how crucial is that creative control to you?
I don’t do everything myself because I want to be in control; I just kinda discovered that I could do it, and I liked everything I was making! I really enjoy making music. I love writing with others too: I collaborate with a couple of people that really add to what I do and inspire me. But I’m not an artist that wants 27 writers on the album.
‘Late Night Swimming’ originated as a track you wrote two years ago, which you remade with a 4/4 time signature and a whole lot of synth. Do you tinker a lot with your tracks before you’re happy with them?
SO much. I’ll write a song, which represents that certain time in my life, and six months later I can completely manipulate it into how I’m feeling now. It’s important for me to keep lots of original aspects, but as I’m growing up and learning more things I want my songs to do that too.
What inspired ‘Late Night Swimming’?
‘Late Night Swimming’ is a song that you’d play on a rooftop in London with your mates. It was inspired by that warm summer feeling, not worrying about what went on yesterday or what’s going on tomorrow. I was actually looking at pictures of millionaire penthouse apartments in Miami at the time and fell in love with the idea of swimming at the top of a tower in the clouds – like the real world can’t reach you there!
What are you working on at the minute? Any plans for an album?
Yes, I’m currently writing and recording my album! And I’m also rehearsing my live show at the minute, for when I start gigging in June.
What’s your biggest musical ambition?
To star in a musical with Nicolas Cage.