Bursting back onto the scene in 2020 with an exquisitely addictive new single that expertly combines her relatable lyricism, stunning vocals with an impeccably catchy and colourful sound – San José Pop sensation Anja Kotar shares ‘Simple’ November 11th.
Anja has been killing it over the last 12 months, releasing flawless pop tracks that address modern day issues such as online dating, toxic beauty standards and our generations relationship with technology. Her relatability has led to her fan base growing faster and stronger than we could have ever expected, now 23,000 followers strong on Instagram and over 22,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. As well as her fans, the industry have shown huge support, with features in The Line of Best Fit, a USA tour with Sofar Sounds and making VEVO’s best pop list.
Northern Revive introduces Anja Kotar! Please introduces yourself in less than 10 words:
AK: Pop artist who writes about millennial generation and technology.
NR: What’s the writing process?
AK: All of my songs usually start with me sitting down at the piano and playing around with different chords and ideas. Most of the time, I have a pretty clear idea of the concept I want to write about and have some sort of visual representation of it (either a photo or scene that I end up describing). Having that visual in my head is crucial as it really helps the writing process along; once I see it, it’s just matter of describing of what I see in my head 🙂
AK: What come first lyrics or music?
NR: That really depends – sometimes, I have a particular phrase or title in mind, but more often the melodic ideas come first. I approach songwriting a lot like scatting or improvisation in jazz; I come up with a general chord structure idea then improvise over it until I settle on a final melody – I either do this with random syllables or with words that end up being incorporate in the lyrics. Once the melody is set, I sit down with my phone (usually stare into nothing or pace around) and write the words for what I had just written. I often go back and forth, editing, replacing, and switching around words (often for days after I write the first version of the lyrics) until I’m absolutely happy with everything.
AK: What has been the best gig you’ve ever played and why?
NR: One of the best ones has definitely been an intimate acoustic SoFar show last October in Seattle. It was a stop on my US West Coast Tour and held at this beautiful winery in the city. It was a few days before Halloween and everyone was excited for the upcoming holiday season (plus, there was free wine which is never a bad thing hehe). I always end my set with ‘House Party’ and turn the post-chorus in to a sing-along. With the combination of all of the aforementioned variables, the singalong on this night went particularly well. So well, in fact, that they started chanting to play the song again (mind=blown). Round 2 of ‘House Party’ went even better, with people singing along through the *whole* song and pre-period me being on the verge of tears. I remember looking back at my great friend and fantastic guitarist Dimitri Morris who was accompanying me that night and being like “can you believe this right now?!?!”. Ah, ’twas a really good night <3
AK: What was the last track you played on Spotify?
NR: ‘Nothing’ by Bruno Major. The songwriting is just absolute, pure perfection; it takes the simplest, everyday events and beautifully turns them into something so deep and emotional.
NR: What other talents do you have? (kazop playing, champion toast burner….)
AK: I found the ‘perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe’ on Buzzfeed Tasty’s Youtube channel during lockdown in May. I spent the next week perfecting my execution of the recipe and now that is the literal one thing I can do really well in the kitchen.
NR: If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
AK: I think a lot of this is already changing out of necessity this year, but I really wish the music industry would embrace technology more. I think independent artists who don’t have huge teams and budgets behind them are the ones who are most creatively utilizing the resources available to them and actively pushing the whole industry forward. As long as the big labels look towards those artists and their strategies, I think we’re headed in the right direction 🙂
NR: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
AK: Nothing that comes fast, lasts long. And nothing that lasts long, comes fast.
NR: How are you coping with lockdown?
AK: It’s actually been one of the most productive times of my life! I think that’s at least partially due to my brain pushing me to keep moving forward and distract myself with work, but so far, that’s been working out pretty well 🙂 I’ve written more music than ever before and I often joke that ever since I moved back hone with my parents and brother back in March when lockdowns started, our house has become a music, photo, and video production studio 🙂 I’ve been recording all of my new music in my mini home setup, and I do photo and video shoots with my family – my dad helps put together the props and holds the light bouncer, my brother usually holds the camera/iPhone and shoots, and my mom is overseeing everything and is also the one taking photos. As hard as it has been, I think this new environment has really forced artists to do a lot more on their own if they still want to release new music and content in general. We have to do everything ourselves, and with it, we are learning about all of these other aspects of the work of an artist, from production to video editing. Not only does that expand our skill set, but also helps us appreciate the efforts and knowledge of other people who would normally do these for us. Ultimately, I think it will also help us be more involved in every aspect of the process of creation once things start getting back to some degree of normalcy, making the end product even more personal.
NR: Talk us through the new track / video
AK: ‘Simple’ is a blissed out personal memoir written duringlock down. The track starts off very subdued, raw and almost nostalgic, then turns into a celebration of staying at home and making the best of it.
With global lockdowns, people were suddenly confined to their homes and life changed dramatically. Surrounded by four walls and a door, we were sort of forced to turn inwards and start focusing on our true selves, free from all of the distractions and busy schedules of life as ‘normal’. With so much going wrong this year, I wanted to write a song about all of the good that has come out of it. I’ve always believed that one of the greatest
and most useful skills to acquire in life is the ability to find the brightness in the darkest of spots and ‘Simple’ is my musical version of that 🙂
It’s a song about isolation, created in isolation. I wrote and recorded the vocals in my home studio while the producer, Dimitri Morris worked on the production from his home. In the outro of the ‘Simple’, there is a background ‘choir’ singing and that’s actually my brother, mom and dad! We stood around the mic in my home studio and recorded 16 takes of us singing. This detail is so special to me because I think it truly embodies everything that this song stands for.
The music video was also created entirely in quarantine, with my brother doing most of the filming on a camcorder, my dad holding the light bouncer, and my mom taking all of the photos. I planned the whole video out ahead of time with my friend and creative director Jani Ugrin who offered priceless advice on how we should shoot in order to get the best results. After the filming was done over a period of three days at locations around the SF Bay Area, I edited the video myself, once again at home 🙂
My only hope for this song is that it brings joy – I see it as something that the whole family can listen to while sitting around the fireplace, especially with the colder weather and holidays coming up.
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