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Anne-Claire Niver is one of those magical human beings that exists in our world, sure, but plays in others. She is powerful, she is talented, and she is building her debut album. Here, Soul Anatomy contributor, Katie Marshall, learns more about the inner-workings of the musician, including what excites her most about music, what Medusa means to her, and how it felt to hold a snake.
1: Origin story: How did you get started? What inspired you to create this band?
After I graduated from the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG), I promptly moved to Thailand where I was teaching English to children. It was a challenging period – – at times I felt deeply lonely and isolated. Those circumstances drove me to realize and accept that I am an artist and music is my life’s passion and purpose. One of my last nights in Thailand I was sitting at a stoplight on my motorbike and a song flowed into my brain. This time, instead of fighting it or judging it, I just let it happen. I recorded it on my computer as soon as I got home and my first song was officially born. I continued to write and my songs grew stronger until I had upwards of 30 tunes composed. I had been sending drafts out to friends and one of the contacted me and said, “You’re sitting on all these songs and you’re not doing anything about them?? Come on!!” Putting these tunes into the hands of other artists was a test in vulnerability in and of itself, and I’m so glad I did.
2: What genre of music do you do? Who is in the band, Anne-Claire & The Wild Mystics?
The genre is so hard to nail down. I can tell you that my influences are PJ Harvey, Joanna Newsom, Kate Bush, and Kishi Bashi. I have ballads, driving anthems, and folky-sounding tunes – – I really run the gamut.
The band is a rotating group of musicians. The current iteration is in a heightened state of flux – – I’m recording with a real smorgasbord of folks and whittling it down to just a couple of partners for my tour in Spring 2016. The people playing on this album are some of the finest musicians I’ve ever met – real prodigies.
3: Tell me about what you’re currently working on.
Right now I’m raising money via Kickstarter to help me complete recording my debut full-length album. I’ve been in the studio since May and the album is halfway done! I just need an extra push to get this project over the finish line. The Kickstarter ends August 13.
4: What excites you the most about music?
When I was very young I remember being fascinated with the stories told through music. It went beyond lyrics for me – – The fact that sounds could be evocative, could paint a picture, could capture all the elements of my senses, blew my mind. I still feel this way.
5: The music industry is difficult, so I’ve heard… what is your self-talk like during this process? What do you tell yourself in order to keep going?
It can be really easy to get overwhelmed. There are just so many other artists out there trying to do exactly what I’m trying to do. I try to stay dedicated to doing the best that I can do and forgiving myself for not being able to do everything. I can’t pretend that I’ve got it completely figured out, but I’m getting better at prioritizing my self-care. I can’t work if I’m too hungry, too tired, too stressed-out. The industry is easier to manage if your roots are deep.
6: Give me three of your favorite lyrics that you’ve ever written and why.
What I’ve been told to do/ I’m resigning to/ I have elbow room/And a pair of old boots/ I am all in bloom.
This is a summation of end of my early twenties. Becoming aware that I don’t have to run away anymore — I already have what I need.
I am grateful for the cool green canopy/ and the dew that lights on holy panoly/ in saecula saeculorum
I went through a period of writing sad, sad, sad songs. I wanted to write a song about celebration and exaltation and triumph.
Can’t get out of my body/my soul trips over my tongue
I think it’s easy to get caught in the pattern of limiting yourself because of the ways you perceive your body. It’s a very old cycle that I’ve worked very hard to eradicate in myself.
7: You use beautiful snake symbolism in a lot of your artwork. Where did that come from? What does it mean to you? (Also, what does it feel like to hold a snake?)
It happened organically. I felt very drawn to the Medusa myth and began incorporating it into my work. I was going totally on intuition with it and only recently began to reflect on why I would make that choice.
I think it stems from a feeling that lots of women are taught in America. I’m too much. Too loud, too direct, too big, too fat, too much. This prevents people from getting too close to me — I paralyze them like Medusa. Of course the answer is to ignore the haters and examine where that voice is coming. I want to show myself embracing that which makes me have an edge. Performing allows me to be myself x100, an amplified Anne-Claire.
I am terrified of snakes, actually. I just swallowed my pounding heart and breathed. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.
8: Think about yourself five years in the future. What would you tell your present self? What advice would you give from the future? What have you accomplished?
Future Anne-Claire would tell present Anne-Claire to not use screens at least 30 minutes before bed, to floss, and not to worry so much. In five years I hope to have a career built on quality songs, fine-crafted singing, hard work, and multiple tours.
9: Secret time – what’s one hidden talent that you want to reveal?
I’m a great lip-reader.
10: Tell me about a time when you wanted something very badly (personal or professional) and you didn’t get it. What did you learn?
I can think of relationships that I’ve really wanted, friendships or otherwise, that didn’t work out. No matter how much I tried to change myself into someone they could love, it never stuck. I could only pretend for so long before it became suffocating. I’ve learned the lesson of the ugly duckling — I can’t be a duck because I’m not a freaking duck, I’m a freaking swan.
11: What does success look like for you? What does failure look like?
Success for me is working really hard, seeing progress, and being able to be present enough to enjoy the ride. Failure is not trying.
Keep up with Anne-Claire & The Wild Mystics through their website and Instagram. Donate to the debut full-length album and tour Kickstarter here and learn more about the amazing Anne-Claire here and here.