From time to time we like to share an inside look at one of our TuneCore Artist’s career, growth and aspirations. As you well know, the TuneCore Community is home to artists of all genres and career levels, ranging from hobbyist songwriters to full-time touring bands & MCs!
Kicking off the new year, we got the chance to interview New York City-based Ava Anderson who writes fun, energetic and relatable indie rock tunes. She’s an inspiration to some of our younger artists – at only 21, she’s been writing, recording and performing for almost a decade. Ava broke the glass of the typical college student scenario by making the decision to leave business school and pursue an education – and her dream – at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston. Read more about her musical journey thus far below!
When did you start performing & recording?
Ava Anderson: My musical life started with piano lessons as a foundation. When I got interested in guitar, I taught myself. Without my own computer and little access to the Internet at that time, I went to the local music store near my hometown, Oldwick, New Jersey, and bought a basic book on guitar chords. Prior to this I would just play a really simplified version of barre chords to get the sound I wanted. This is what I did when I performed for an audience for the first time, at 12-years old for about 500 people at my school talent show. That was also the most nerve-racking day of my life; even my legs were shaking. A couple of Christmases and one electric guitar later, my parents bought me my first acoustic-electric Takamine guitar, which I still own.
By the time I was 13, I recorded my first EP at Gotham Inc. in New Jersey (Gotham created, produced, and performed all of the American Idol music intros and exits. The owners were writing a musical at the time). Sitting in the booth with headphones on, surrounded by fancy equipment, I must admit I felt pretty awesome. I played guitar and sang two original songs. Months later, my family and I relocated to North Carolina where I tried to make a name for myself and made some very loyal and supportive friends. During our four years there, I recorded a second EP, again with two songs, that had more of a “rock” sound. I arranged all parts and sang all vocals and played rhythm guitar parts. I performed at many school events and festivals before moving to New York. Coming into high school as a new student, and as a junior no less was nothing close to easy. I had come from a completely different part of the country in terms of lifestyle, so New York definitely kicked my ass. Making friends was hard but I still had some fun, and performed at pep rallies and town festivals, even in the bitter New York cold when I couldn’t feel my fingers. I’ve been doing my own thing for the most part ever since I moved to New York – I’ve also been alone a lot in terms of performing, writing, and making things happen for myself musically.
How have you generated your fan base? Have any tips for new artists?
Generating a fan base is a lot easier said than done, especially in New York. These days I do the best I can with using social networking to my advantage. I have a lot of extremely wonderful fans, including everyone who has followed me from the beginning, to the ones who just heard me on Internet radio. I think it’s really important to work as hard as you can by acknowledging your fans, because no artist would be anywhere without them. Especially if you’re just starting out – I’ve been at this for almost ten years and I still give albums away for free sometimes.
At this phase in your career, what is most important to you?
At this point of my career, I have a totally different head on my shoulders than I did when I was 18, or 16, or 14-years old. If you asked me then, my answer would be “become a famous rock star” every time. Now, I write music for myself, but even more for my fans and people of the world. There are billions of people here and the majority of us experience the same feelings at one point or another – heartbreak, happiness, depression, etc. My goal as an artist is to make sure people understand that no one is ever really alone; there’s always a glimmer of hope.
You released music through TuneCore, how was that experience?
TuneCore has helped make all of this possible for me. Without being able to buy my music on iTunes or stream it on Spotify, I’m sure half of my fan base wouldn’t have the opportunity to listen to my songs.
How did you come to decide to go to music school?
Finding the motivation to go back to school wasn’t easy. When I graduated high school I went straight to college like many others. I studied business at Marymount Manhattan College in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I wasn’t happy. I hated school and felt like I was wasting my time there. I knew I wanted a future in the music industry, which is something I’d been so passionate about my entire life. So, I did what any rebellious teenager would do and dropped out, and got a job.
For two years I was out of school, almost two and a half now. I knew I needed to get back but every school I applied to, even state schools, were rejecting me. I hated the idea of community college because I didn’t want to have to transfer that many times. So I decided I wanted to go to school for music. I knew I wouldn’t be focused if I were studying anything else. Last year, I worked my ass off, and applied to Berklee College of Music. I had lost so much hope, being nearly 21-years old, and out of college for so long. My audition was terrifying, but I tried to make them see the real me. And as luck would have it, they did. Without any classical training, or much training of any kind at all, being accepted into this school is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I can’t wait to meet all of these talented musicians and start a new life. My goals are still the same and I still have the drive for it.
What are your goals at Berklee? And post-graduation?
Obviously in a perfect world I would have my name in lights and a million screaming fans. Who wouldn’t? But that isn’t the goal anymore. The goal is to make money making music, in whatever sense that would be, whether it’s writing for other artists, working in a studio, etc. If I can make a small dent in the industry that’s gotten so twisted, I can call that success.
Will you continue to record and release your solo material while in school?
Of course while attending Berklee I hope to continue recording and releasing new material. I’m still learning new things about the industry and music in general everyday, I am progressing as an artist and I want to share that progress with everyone.
Tell us about your live performance, and what you think makes a live show successful.
Any truly sincere musician will agree that live shows are the best part about being an artist. That’s when we get to deliver our music right there in front of you, and for a few minutes, go back to feeling how we did when we first wrote that song. The energy a (sometimes drunk) crowd gives off is sensational and unlike anything else.
Personally, I’ve struggled to get live shows. I’ve played some really awesome venues, but there’s always some kind of catch. “Sell ‘X’ amount of tickets to play, guarantee that crowd, and make sure everyone knows there’s a two drink minimum.” Even with these obstacles I’ve still managed to perform at venues like The Bitter End, The Studio at Webster Hall, and even New York Comic Con. For the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of performing fairly regularly at an Irish pub on 2nd Avenue called Paddy Reilly’s. There’s no cover, no worrying about tickets, just really awesome cheap beer and always an amazing crowd. That’s why I think artists individually determine what makes a successful show to them. For me it’s just having everyone listening, cheering, seeing a familiar face or two, and having a really great Saturday night.