Anna Belle - Tokyo

Anna Belle – Tokyo

 

ARTIST NAME: Anna Belle

 

SONG TITLE: Tokyo

 

RELEASE DATE: 02/02/2020

 

GENRE: Retro-Pop/Singer-Songwriter

 

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Discuss your music process and recording in full detail.

Songwriting and production aren’t usually independent for me. Usually, I will sit down at my Roland FA-06 and try to work something out through experimentation – roughly building a track as I go.

 

Other times, I will already have a lyric or melody idea, and recording the instrumentation is how it solidifies.

 

Although lyrics usually come with a melody for me, some don’t, so the genre and feel I’m going for will inspire that as I build a track based on my lyrics.

 

From a technical standpoint, I record all my MIDI tracks on my keyboard’s sequencer, fix them with plugins, export as audio, and then import them into Pro Tools.

 

I’ll usually export a rough instrumental mix from there, then import that into Audacity to record vocals since it tends to be a lot faster on my PC, and I don’t need all the bells and whistles just to lay down vocal tracks. I export those and open them back up in my Pro Tools project where I work on the final mixdown (sometimes for months.

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Discuss how you get involved in music.

When I first got involved in music – well, I could go back to getting a toy keyboard and microphone set as a toddler – that seemed like the only option for me. What else could I possibly like more than this? I wanted all kinds of involvement in music, but I decided not to do private lessons of any kind. It was something organic that I wanted to learn and build on my own. I regret not taking lessons.

 

I found out later that it doesn’t matter how you learned something, you just need to be better than the next person at what you do, so right now it’s like the way in which I got involved was not carefully considered. I was probably 10 though, what was there to consider? What flavor of Capri-Sun I wanted and how long I could play Lego Star Wars without Mom telling me to take a break?

 

Music was my “passion” but not my focus. Now it is absolutely my focus, and I’m still trying to bring it in tighter.

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Elaborate on the secret to success.

I’m not sure if I know this yet, but I’m hoping the secret to success is being original.

 

I hear a lot of people say things like “my friend is the next John Mayer” or “my niece sings just like Taylor Swift.” We don’t need copies of existing artists. We need something new. If you know the right people, treat others decently, and have something to offer in your art, that’s the best bet in my opinion.

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Discuss how you distribute your music.

I initially used CD Baby and was happy with it, but I was recommended DistroKid several times and decided to give it a try. That’s how I released my first EP.

 

However, I was looking to cover more international music services since I have a small following in various countries through my Livestream platform.

 

I found RepostNetwork and got approved– they help with playlisting and partnerships a little bit. I’ve never had a bad distribution experience, nor do I have a preference right now for a particular service.

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Describe your vocal ability.

I’m still lacking some confidence when it comes to my voice. I always had a small, light tone with no low range or chest voice, and I’ve spent the last few years trying to improve upon that.

 

At one point I felt I had a hold on vocal control and was powerful in my “money range” (the strongest part of my voice) but I do not sing often anymore if I am not recording or live-streaming. I might do around 20-25 hours of singing per month which isn’t a lot for an artist, so it’s hard to maintain my natural tone and strength.

 

The first time I did freelance work for an independent songwriter, the client compared my voice to Diana Ross which I took as a major compliment.

 

Now I get compared to Disney princesses which I also try to take as a compliment, but it fits even less so with my target genre obviously, so I’m trying to work through that.

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Tell us how you develop the instrumentation for this song.

I went through several versions of the instrumentation, trying to serve the song but also offer something new in contrast to the work I released last year.

 

I did not have a reference track and just worked from scratch, knowing that it was going to be a piano-based track.

 

I found an adorable, dreamy electric piano that I knew needed to define the sound of the track, and after trying different instruments across various parts of the song, I chose a pseudo-gated string section and then lo-fi synth keys for the big finish.

 

It took me a bit to get the effects right, and of course, I did tweaks using Pro Tools plugins. It’s airy, light, and subdued, so while it’s not what you’d call a “commercial” track, it’s how I wanted it.

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Go into detail on how you create your song.

I wrote this on my phone before I went to sleep one night. I was under my covers feeling disappointed in myself and the surrounding music community, as I had been told in a passing comment that the music I make wasn’t going to fit in my local market. It was upsetting but made me ponder on the fact that everyone has a place that is ideal for them and many of us aren’t there.

 

I used the city of Tokyo, which is about 6000 miles away from me, as a representation of that “place” which I felt was colloquial while still having some character. I haven’t ever been there, but it fit in the delicate “poem” I was writing which became a song as soon as I decided to create a melody at the piano. It came very quickly, so it’s possible that I either plagiarized or subconsciously had the melody in my head and didn’t reveal it until I came up with that chord progression. It’s one of my favorite chord progressions I have ever written.

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Discuss your musical ability.

I wouldn’t consider myself “classically trained,” but the choir was my main hobby in high school. I got a lot of valuable education out of that which has been my foundation in all my writing and performance.

 

When I was approaching my teen years, I would listen to classical music, Michael Jackson, and K-pop (all of which I still avidly listen to today) which bolstered my understanding of music and its technicalities. I like to express that through my recordings and performances, that I understand rhythm and harmony, while also getting as funky and raw as I can with my single keyboard instrument.

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Elaborate on the lyrics of the song.

This song is from the perspective of a girl who hears Tokyo calling to her- she doesn’t belong wherever she is now.

 

It’s very explanatory as if she is telling a friend she is leaving and justifying it as she goes along. The girl is excited, hopeful – but sad. Abandoning anything can be a sorrowful experience. She wants to go wherever she feels loved, accepted, and comfortable. That is a sentiment I shared when I wrote this. I’m a little friendlier with my city now, as I wrote this song a year ago, but those feelings are familiar to this day, and I know that there are people who would say the same. My favorite lyric is “Tokyo calls me to skyscraper gardens; no heart may harden under the rising sun.”

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Discuss the structure of the song.

I had made a bold decision with the initial structure of the song that I was absolutely going to go with for recording, and then I decided to make another less-bold-but-interesting decision to replace that.

 

Initially, I jumped from the second verse directly to the bridge, then back to the chorus, a new pre-chorus, and the outro.

 

The song was a shorter length, and my intention was to keep the listener waiting for the chorus so they would play it all the way through.

 

I decided I wanted a longer song instead, so I added an interlude and another chorus instead of jumping to the bridge.

 

I like how it turned out, but I do regret the length a little bit.

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Discuss your performance.

I want the audience to see a performance rather than a singer-songwriter.

 

I like to dance, take a commanding presence, mix live sounds with pre-recorded as to show off my production skills.

 

What I wear is very important; it’s like I adopt a different “theme” every time I am on stage. It has caught the eye of audience members for sure.

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Tell us how you prepare for a show or recording session.

Except for unusually coordinated performances – I don’t really! I zip up my keyboard, put on a ton of makeup, slip on my chosen outfit, and head out the door ASAP.

 

If I’m performing an original song, I usually know it by heart with minimal practice. The recording is the same way. If I’m recording my song, I won’t need a lyric page by that time. It all comes together over time using the tools I have worked so much to strengthen, so individual performances and recording sessions don’t take too much prep.

 

Sometimes I will literally throw my backpack down and put my headphones on, having my recording program up and ready to go in 30 seconds. I don’t think much of it.

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Tell us how you coordinate other musicians or how you relate with your producer in bringing the best out of your song.

I am my own producer, so I can’t say much about coordination. I have collaborated a few times in an academic setting with co-writing, and I worked on a couple of demos with someone from a production class as per a requirement.

 

What I like to do is contribute everything from my end first, then my partner fills in the cracks where they deem appropriate. I’m still trying to get comfortable doing that and seeking out help on my own accord – everything I’ve released has been done entirely independently so far, except for my boyfriend and other friends helping with a couple of my videos.

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Tell us how you entice the listeners with your music.

It’s something different. The genre is difficult to identify. My voice stands out well, and hopefully, it’s evident that I care about musicality.

 

I also tend to address things that aren’t typical song subjects. Disappointment and rejection might seem basic, but those themes are usually only used with a love component in commercial music.

 

“Have Fun” is enticing to me because it outlines an entire situation where one would feel like an outcast, but also be genuinely sad over what has transpired.

 

I have an unreleased song called “Biased” that is about – no joke – getting rejected and fooled by various authorities like casting agents and loan sharks. Those are real things, and maybe not things that hit the heart, but things that make you clench your fist and need a little therapy.

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Discuss how you promote your music.

I’m still trying to figure out ways to effectively promote my music, but I also think it’s something on the backend. I need to make “promotable” music without giving up my artistry. It will come easier once I figure out how to do that. Right now, I am working my hardest on playlisting and finding outlets that aren’t rude to me or closed-minded on what people might want to hear.

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Tell us how you ensure your vocal is in harmony with the instrumentation.

Recording harmonies is a huge trial-and-error task. There are still some vocal lines in “Tokyo” that aren’t quite centered on the pitch, and it is likely because the song doesn’t have a bass line. That’s usually the best way to center your vocal. Intonation can be difficult on songs that aren’t too tonally “thick” and have shallow, floaty instruments like the piano in the song. It took far more work than I was expecting. I don’t use Melodyne.

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Tell us how you build your vocal melody.

For this song, I wanted a melody that was vaguely Japanese-inspired without getting too hokey or cliché – actually, it probably does in places. I chose a lot of pentatonic movements. Honestly, very little of the melody felt deliberate. It’s kind of built itself. I like sweeping intervals and notes that fall outside the triad of the chord.

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Elaborate on the song.

I’m considering it a retro-pop/singer-songwriter piece with New Age and synthwave influences. It’s taken several weeks to come to that conclusion. I wouldn’t argue with anyone who calls it ambient, dream pop, art pop, alt-pop, etc. It’s just a dramatic song with some simple production techniques, and it makes it hard to pin down.

 

I have several friends who had been begging me to release it, so I got the ball rolling a couple of months ago and finally finished it. It’s not my best work in my opinion, but it’s the work I have been most satisfied with so far. I hope it inspires someone out there.

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Elaborate on your artist’s name and the title of the album.

Anna Belle is my real first and middle name. I decided to name this song “Tokyo” because that’s the focus of the character.

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