In 2020, Tasmanian indie-pop musician Nuria aka Anna Maynard wooed listeners with her soulful debut album Alive. Now, with a real desire to dig deeper than she has ever done before, Nuria has come up trumps with her electrifyingly beautiful new album called Silver. Interestingly, despite coming late this year, Nuria’s Silver has really made a huge impression on me and is definitely in contention for being one of the best Australian releases this year. Don’t be surprised if it pops up on my end of year lists. Anyway, I recently had the pleasure of catching Anna during a very business time in her life. Here is some of what we talked about.
Anna, first up, congratulations on recently bringing into the world your little one. How are you find juggling motherhood and being a musician amongst other things?
It’s a juggle for sure, I’ll be honest! This is babe number three for me so music and creativity have ebbed and flowed greatly over the last few years. But I love it so I always find times to squeeze little bits in. Much of the music I’ve written over the last few years has been with little kids playing in the background. Just last week I was laying some vocals for new music and had my newborn strapped on the front in the carrier – I had to warn my producer that there might be some baby breathing noises that need editing out! I love being a mum and I love making music, so I just find a way to do both.
I understand the seeds to your new album Silver were planted in 2020 during the pandemic. What do you remember the most about the creative process and how the collection of songs came to reflect what you were going through at the time?
From a creativity point of view 2020 was actually a really nice time for me. The impact for us in Tasmania was much less than in other parts of the world but we had our own little changes and in general the effect on life was that the pace slowed down. We became more inwardly focused on our home and family and that space led me into more personal reflections as well. My music always draws on experiences present, past and imagined and the songs on this album come from all those places.
No sooner had you released your debut album Alive in 2020, you went straight into the process of writing the new album. What were your feelings behind the quick turnaround?
It wasn’t much of a conscious process really. I just found myself in a creative hotspot and kept churning out new songs. I never like sitting on new music for too long before releasing it or my enthusiasm for the music fades. It might not be the usual thing to do but I just love creating music and getting it out there so I keep going!
Your latest single Red Velvet feels like one of the most important songs on the album. This is a song that feels really therapeutic. Can you talk me through the origins of the song and that incredible video?
Well picked! Its the song I always imagined being the focus track of the album, right from the moment I started writing it. The track brings together all the imagery, drama and orchestral tapestry that feature through this album. The song itself explores the performer in all of us and considers self and the observer of self. We get so wrapped up in how the outside world perceives us, and we lose site of the fact that our most important audience member on this stage of life is in fact ourselves. However we choose to live our lives we owe ourselves honesty and integrity in the way we do it. The music video shot in Hobart’s Theatre Royal moves between the audience and performer viewpoint to illustrate the ideas behind the song. I’ve spent countless hours in that space performing in musical theatre to hundreds of people and it felt amazing to use the space in a different way to make this clip.
You worked with producer Sam Phay and engineer Peter Holz on Silver. How was that connection formed? What did you learn about each other?
I love these guys and feel so fortunate to have connected with them! I first stumbled across Sam Phay’s own music which I completely adored and during the pandemic I randomly reached out asking if he wanted to collaborate. I was gobsmacked to get a reply saying yes and so it began! He connected me with Peter Holz and the work has continued from there. These connections feel very much the fruit of the pandemic – where so much in life and work became remote and internet based. I’ve never met or even spoken to either Sam or Peat yet we’ve worked for hours and hours on this music music that I’m so proud of and so grateful to have their talents in.
Do you have to do any special training to maintain your incredible vocals?
Hours and hours of singing nursery rhymes to my children, haha! Well, I’ve been singing since I was little then in high school I got into musical theatre in a big way and had a lot of classical vocal training at the time. I’ve not done much formal vocal coaching for the last 15 years but do continue to perform in musical theatre periodically. I love those opportunities to make big sounds in that strong theatrical way and to lose myself within a character. I feel like that background in theatre taught me the multitude of ways we can colour vocals to express our emotions.
Juliette is such a beautiful track. Can you talk a little bit about its emotive message?
Juliette is a love song which explores how the yearning for a person can feel like both a pleasure and a poison. How we can want someone so much that it can feel like an illness, and the love from that person can feel like the ultimate salvation.
I want to talk to you about how you bookended the album. You’ve got your opening track Closer with your sensual vocals and this cinematic feel running through it. And then you end it with one of my favourite track, Like That. What was your intention with bookending the album that way?
It’s an interesting question and something I hadn’t previously thought to articulate – it just felt right to open with ‘Closer’ and finish with ‘Like That’. But when I think about why its around the themes of those two tracks. ’Closer’ is a song that explores those primal adolescent feelings of falling in love. Its a song of freshness, youth, intensity and promise. It felt fitting to be the opening track in the album. ‘Like That’ is a melancholy reflective song that explores the defectiveness of self and how we fit those complexities together with another and maintain a relationship over time. Its about accepting who we are and working out how we manage that as the freshness and youth changes. The track has a lingering, thoughtful quality which felt appropriate as a closing piece to the album.
You are a very accomplished pianist. Tell me about your journey playing such an elegant and emotive instrument?
It’s been a joyful journey! I’ve never had any structured piano training, I’ve just played whatever I felt like at the time and that has kept the magic alive for me. A lot of what I play when I write is actually quite simple, but I very much feel that the instrument is a continuation of myself and my emotions carry through into the way I play it. Much of the piano lines in the completed tracks are developed by Sam Phay. I love that process in working with him that I can send my original demo with an idea and it comes back with a new interpretation. It makes the music feel dynamic and alive to me.
Your music is often described as Alt-pop/indie-pop. Is that a fair assessment in how you see your own music?
I think so, its always difficult to listen to my own music objectively and know where to place it! My personal tastes in the music I listen to definitely sit within that pop/alt-pop category so I suspect the music I make also lands there.
Tell me about your love of writing meaningful lyrics and how it colours and shapes your world?
It feels a little hollow to me writing a song that doesn’t mean something. It doesn’t have to be anything particularly groundbreaking but the songs certainly always come from a place that is true and an emotion that is strong – whether that be love, self doubt, regret, longing or whatever else I’m feeling at the time.
Finally, Anna, I was hoping you might tell us something surprising about yourself?
When I was eight I owned a chicken business and sold the eggs at school. When I was 25 I became a doctor. On the weekends I like to go surfing. I try not to be afraid of giving things a go, even if I don’t always get it right.