Anna B Savage is in possession of one of those voices. The ones that vibrate that tiny bone in your ear at just the right frequency to inspire awe and magic. The ones that swoop down and lift you up and transport you to another place. These voices are scarce and precious, and even less common is someone who, like Savage, can keep theirs under just the right amount of control, giving it the freedom to roam the emotional spectrum while avoiding unnecessary vocal acrobatics; focussing its depth and richness into one pure beam that can prick that precise point in your brain that unleashes all the feelings. Rarer still is an artist who can forge such a voice into songs of such sadness and joy and beauty and ugliness, songs that permeate through the layers of artifice and pretension that we build up as a defence against the world and seep into the very core of our being, bringing to the surface those things you thought long buried, through the tears that you hadn’t realised had started to well in the corners of your eyes.
These were the feelings that hit me when I first heard Anna B Savage’s extraordinary debut LP A Common Tern, a record so emotionally raw, open and honest that listening felt like surreptitiously flicking through the pages of her personal diary. To say that my expectations of it’s follow up in|FLUX, released earlier this week via City Slang, were high might be something of an understatement.
Thankfully and quite astonishingly it meets them on all levels. There’s a little more variety in the instrumentation, with Savage dusting off her clarinet and saxophone – instruments she hadn’t played for 15 years – and adding an electronic-kalimba, gifted by a friend, and everything is lifted a notch by Mike Lindsay’s empathetic production, but that voice and those words remain front and centre. The emotional tone has shifted however, with acceptance of the constantly changing nature of life and its many imperfections joining the forensic self-exploration of its predecessor. “I came to accept that inconsistencies and hypocrisies were a part of human nature,” explains Savage, “they all work together to form a whole.” These dualities run throughout the record, with the singer-songwriter “Trusting that often my instinct is enough, trusting that I am allowed to be multifaceted, and that I can embody and express my dualities and multitudes. Trust I can express this and be understood…trust myself to be able to write songs again”.
One key influence on the record cited by Savage is the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which encouraged her to write her ‘morning pages’ – a written stream of consciousness, which helped her to tackle feelings of negativity. Today, she adds this title to our ever growing reading list for The Joyzine Book Club and explains how it helped her to create in|FLUX.
Obviously not an entirely inspired answer to this question, but exercises within this book helped me hugely in the process of writing this album. If you haven’t already heard of this cult book then please go and get it now, find a couple of friends who are willing to do it with you, and get started. It’s equal parts spiritual and pragmatic: in order to live creative life, you need to show up and work at it. The book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) helped me write my first album because, repeatedly, it told me that in order to create work I needed to just… keep on working and trying. Previously I’d just assumed – like all the narratives had told me – that I’d dream up my songs, or someone would just discover me, or I’d get sad and depressed and tortured enough and suddenly my work would pour out. Unfortunately for me (and everyone else) this doesn’t happen. When I’ve been at my saddest, I can’t write, or do much at all. The only time I’ve had a song just ‘arrive’ it was after I’d been trying to write songs every day for about six months, and no one discovered me – I had to keep telling anyone who’d listen that I was a singer songwriter.
At risk of being a little too fawning, the book changed my life. Not least for its contents, but because every time I’ve done it I’ve been accompanied by other excellent creatives who have inspired me or taught me lessons I didn’t know I needed. The exercises in this book while at times can feel like a slog, they regularly just encourage you to play. I love playing. If any of you out there feels like you’d like more play or more creativity in your lives, you’d be hard pressed to find a book that would have more of a tangible impact on you than this one. Please borrow or grab a copy and get started (even if you’re not being creative right now). Creativity for all! yay.
in|FLUX is out now on City Slang Records
Find out more on Anna B Savage’s official website
See Anna B Savage live at the following dates:
16/03/2023 – Margate, Elsewhere
17/03/2023 – Bristol, Strange Brew
19/03/2023 – Bodega, Nottingham
20/03/2023 – The Cluny, Newcastle
21/03/2023 – CCA, Glasgow
22/03/2023 – Yes (Pink Room), Manchester
24/03/2023 – Whelan’s, Dublin
25/03/2023 – Black Box, Belfast
27/03/2023 – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
28/03/2023 – Village Underground, London
29/03/2023 – Patterns, Brighton
Introduction by Paul Maps
Photograph by Katie Sylvester