Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter Anna Shoemaker's highly-anticipated debut album, Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire), is out via +1 Records. Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) elaborates on the intricacies of coming-of-age subjects in its compelling display of experimentative sounds, catchy yet deep hooks, and relatable lyricism. Throughout the album, Anna traverses through the emotional journey of growing up, reflecting on love, loss, and the importance of mental health. Overall, the album is a piece of Anna’s growth representing her life over the past few years, as both an artist and as a human being. To further discuss the album and its composition process as well as the meanings behind it, Variance’s Ethan Ijumba sits down with Shoemaker for an in-depth discussion about her debut album and aspirations for the future. Be sure to stream Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) on all platforms, and scroll below to read their full conversation below.
EI: Known as indie-pop artist Anna Shoemaker, your debut album Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) just dropped on March 4. The last we heard from you was your EP everything is embarrassing, and you've been making this huge jump with the indie-pop alternative sound where you have this real, new, innovative, and unorthodox sound that a lot of people can relate to. Such as lyrics towards your mental health, everything you're going through as well as maturity and growing and such like that. So with that being said what was it like making this album and what was the influence behind it?
Anna Shoemaker: Making this album was very challenging but also really fun. I got to work on it with a lot of my best friends which was really cool and they're all artists that inspired me. I got to work with my boyfriend for the first time on a lot of the songs um and his name is Andreas Kristos when I also had to work with my friends Middle Part, Richie Quake, Invisible Will, and Mikey Freedom Hart. Just a lot of my friends who I also really admire and inspired by how they work and I don't know it's cool working with your friends because you're in such a comfortable place that it doesn't really feel like you're working, you know, you can kind of just be yourself and it's really like a safe space.
EI: Were there any methods or different approaches that you did on this album compared to your last one or anything that you utilized that was the same or anything you did differently as well?
AS: You know I still think that I pretty much always have written similarly, very much like a stream of consciousness and I think maybe this time around. That's a good question, I think that this time around maybe I was a little more confident because I think that just comes with making music a lot, kind of like 10,000 hours or whatever. Like once you start to feel confident in something you can kind of do it a little bit better if that makes sense.
EI: A lot of the writing process on this album was based on a lot of just issues that you were going with from what the songs reflect on growing up, everything that you were going through, and just life. Are there any songs from this album specifically that kind of let you have your emotions just go from pen to paper to the paper to the recording studio and that was just easy for you to make or just was fun to compose?
AS: Yeah, for sure. I think that “Long Drive Home”, which is a song on the album that started as a freestyle, almost I just kind of wrote it out and I had originally written it over a friend of mine. He had written this beat and I originally just wrote it over that. It just kind of came from somewhere in my head and it felt really good to write it. I felt like I was kind of coming to terms with growing up and stuff.
EI: So how does it feel now, going from having this experience of being in music since you were young, and then now trying to finally get into your debut album because it's very rewarding to finally see the amount of time you put into progressing. So, how does it feel to go from all these years of just singing, working, and now letting everyone see your first body of work?
AS: It just feels crazy but it also just feels like I've been working towards it. So, at first, when I was working on my album, I was like, well this is kind of crazy. I'm working on an album, but I feel like now we've been talking about it for so long and we've just been planning it and planning it and going over it, editing, choosing the tracks. When I first came to my label it was a completely different album and it's changed so much over the past two years and I'm just like, really excited to put out this version of it. I'm really proud that I followed my gut and I made the decisions that I did.
EI: Is there anything that you want to specifically continue after this album now that you plan to do such as touring or taking a bit of break, creating some visuals, experimenting with different sounds, or just overall, just finding some other endeavors in the meantime, after this album finally drops?
AS: I think touring, I definitely want to explore that and perform more because I've been making a lot of videos and obviously a lot of music. So I think with live performances I'm just excited to get back into that, especially after the pandemic and what not.
EI: So when it comes down to what's your favorite part in the whole range of being an artist. You have so many different hats to put on. Sometimes you have to be an instrumentalist, sometimes you have to be the singer, sometimes you have to be the songwriter. Is there anything that you enjoy the most and the least from all the different roles that you have?
AS: There are a lot of things I would want to take out, but I would say that the things that I really do love are just when I'm allowed to be myself all the time, you know what I mean? I feel like a lot of my friends who work like 9 to 5 jobs and have to put on a professionalism kind of thing and there are definitely moments where you have to put your business hat on. I just think that I love that I can just be myself and I don't think I could do anything that wouldn't allow me to just be myself all the time.
EI: So aside from the artist part of you then what do you feel like is the side that your fans and listeners don't see? What kind of characteristics and traits would you describe yourself as being yourself as an artist and also as a human being in general?
AS: I'm really introverted, I don't know if shy is the word but if I spend a lot of time around a bunch of people or something or new people, I need to recharge my batteries and I think that that's maybe a common thing. Maybe I don't come off as shy, but sometimes I feel just really socially drained and awkward.
EI: Do you feel like with being an artist on an independent label, it's easier for you to finally be yourself more compared to like, that major label setting then, since you kind of have a little bit more freedom as well as leeway to just overall showcase the different sides of your emotions as well as your music?
AS: I think with where I am now with the label, I feel grateful just because I feel like they're almost they've almost become my family. So it's like, there's not really a comparison, it's not that I had a problem with my label before. I just wasn't as close to them as I am now. Like, I'm really good friends with my A&R and the president of the label too, he's just so great and I do feel like I trust them and also like their opinions. For example, they chose the album art because I was struggling so much with it and I've never worked with a label like that but they just care so much.
EI: Yeah, it's not like caring too much or caring too little. Just like a good kind of care where it's not just listening to you but hearing you and wanting what's best for you solely as an artist versus wanting what’s gonna sell and make money for us as well as you.
AS: It's hard for me to get out of my head sometimes as an artist and I'm not in a band or anything, so there's no one else making these decisions with me. So to have people that you can trust, that almost feel like you're in it together. So comforting.
EI: Additionally, do you feel like a lot of people in your career as well as just not like your life, but the people that you choose to do business with as well as just make certain personal connections and professional connections with? Do you normally take that approach in terms of letting me work with the people that I know I can be myself around in terms of making the best kind of music as well?
AS: I think that it actually happens the opposite way because I didn't know them that well when I signed with them and then my friends who I worked with became close through working together. I think that the important thing is to develop great relationships with people that you work with and when you’re vulnerable with people, it can be really rewarding because you can just have a deep relationship and it's really cool. I’m grateful to have that with the people I work with and when to work with them again and again and again because you know, we already have that relationship but I'm always looking to work with new people too and you know, do it all over again.
EI: So with that being said, is there anyone on your bucket list that you plan to want to work with one day whether it's another artist or an influence or just any sort of person that you've always looked up to and been inspired by.
AS: Yeah, I mean there are tons of people that off the top of my head, someone that I really love as a songwriter when I opened up for Julia Michaels when she played a Bowery Ballroom and seeing how she carried herself on and off stage and her as an artist was really inspiring to me. So I would love to work with her again.
EI: So aside from that, is there any specific kind of impact that you want to have from your career or just with other people that you plan to accomplish or any achievements that you have set for yourself as well?
AS: Yeah, definitely on a small level I just hope that people listen to my music because I just want everyone to feel that their feelings are valid, their emotions are valid, and kind of on a bigger level too. I want to be able to give back to my community too in New York because coming up in New York and living here for the past like four years has shaped me as an artist, so I want to be able to give back to the younger arts’ community here.
EI: So, similar to your album Everything is Fine (I’m Only on Fire) you previously released Everything Is Embarrassing. So when it came down to the songwriting standpoint, you said “Long Drive” is one song that just flowed easily from you. Were there any times when making this album that it became a struggle to figure out if a certain song is good enough? Or is this song right? How do you guys feel about this? What was the mentally strenuous part of this process? Was there ever that at all when you were making this album? Or did this album feel like this was easy to make?
AS: Yeah, for sure, ultimately the hardest part for me was there were some songs about a relationship that didn't end in a great way for my label, friends, and people who have shown us who loved the songs because to me they just held a different meaning. I think there are two songs on the album that I just really didn't want to put out and I just felt like I had moved past it, but ultimately I feel like I realized I should tell the whole story. Kinda like, you can talk about your past and it can be hard and it's okay to share those moments; I think that ultimately I'm glad that those are on there. But it was hard at the moment to even explain to people why I didn't want them there, but I think that I'm happy with how it came out.
EI: Not only that, but I think there are some songs that people just have to make to let out whatever they're feeling. And it's just those personal songs where it's like, hey, no one's ever gonna see this file and it could be a whole hard drive of just music that it's all personal and it's sometimes just therapeutic for the artist itself to release that and put it into words. It’s a beautiful mess is the best way I can put it, but when it's done, it's cleaned up, it's like okay let's keep it going back to our regularly scheduled program and make some great music