James Alger of One Drop and Jazz Songbird Anna Danes
When Anna Danes saunters onto the stage, every member in the audience sits up straight. It’s not often a blonde- bombshell belts out an Edith Piaf hit with such intense precision, clarity and grace. One forgets the Marilyn Monroe-like Anna is actually singing something the famed French singer made famous many eras ago. Indeed, Anna makes it all new while maintaining the depth of meaning in the lyrics. Here we take a look into what makes this renowned singer unforgettable.
You’re an exceptional singer; you take the audience to another dimension. Do you find yourself “going somewhere else” when you sing?
Of course. That place is the central meaning of each song. It’s about understanding the song and telling its story – but not “acting” it out – it’s about making the feelings embedded in the song wholeheartedly your own. That’s why it is important to always sing songs that only truly have personal meaning. Maybe that’s why I ultimately turned to writing my own songs – no one can tell your own story better than you. Then again, today, I had the honor to sing the National Anthem in front of a very large audience – and let me tell you, prepping for the song this morning, I had tears in my eyes and my voice choked every time I rehearsed the lines “whose broad stripes and bright stars…” That has so much meaning to me, too. Someone else wrote that – in 1814 – but that flag means that much to me today.
How does music break the barriers of language? How does it speak to our hearts?
The song that I most asked to sing is “La Vie en Rose.” Funny, people asking for it don’t usually know French. However, maybe the language is a non-issue for me and the listener. When I sing in French, I let it all out, because “no one” probably understands. But here is the magic – they do – they hear my ultimate honestly, without ever knowing the language! It’s incredible. Maybe it’s about singing honestly, that’s all, no language barriers then exist.
Tell us how you relate with the lyrics of “La Vie En Rose.”
Well, that song was written in 1942 by Edith Piaf, in a time of war, World War II. When I first introduced to the song, my “home” situation was also in a state of upheaval; Poland was controlled by Russia. Life was harsh and resources were scarce; choices limited. Seeing life through “rose-colored” glasses is something I grew up with. It didn’t get easier after that: I went through three immigrations, three languages to learn, new social spheres, my parent’s ultimate divorce and having to leave my family behind in Poland – not to mention some other rough adventures along the way. But here we are. I choose to see life through rose-colored glasses, every day. And now, it’s become the real thing. Life is good. Life is how you see it.
You’ve made huge strides in just a few years. How does it feel to be asked to sing the National Anthem (again) tomorrow?
No words. It’s a deep down feeling of appreciation and recognition and I am simply humbled by it. As a musician – as an artist –you are simply telling a story, or re-telling it in the hopes that it will resonate with others. The Anthem speaks volumes to me as a relative new American – I received my citizenship just about five years ago after, as mentioned, two prior immigrations. This is home. I am honored to sing the Anthem every time.
What inspires you?
I guess I am mostly inspired by truth, honesty, integrity, hard work – and also, beauty. To thy own self be true – and be good at it. Really good. And besides that, I love love. Yes, I love my friends, my family, my guy, my home – I love when my rusty old Bug Convertible squeaks on the road. I love life as it comes at me and I love it for what it is, and for all the daily meaning and substance I squeeze out of it. With that said, I love art, fashion, fine cuisine, amazing travel – essentially, living elevated. Life’s beautiful. Live it that way.
Finally, what would you say to an aspiring artist?
Follow that dream. Work very hard, keep an open mind, learn all you can learn – from everywhere and everyone. Keep re-evaluating your dream as you learn. Never look at a “missed” or “bad” anything as more than an opportunity to learn – and maybe the universe sending you a message that you’re still working towards your true path.