Lotte Kestner

Anna-Lynne Williams‘ voice became one of my biggest musical obsessions in the last couple of months. The first spins of her ‚I Want You‘ (Elvis Costello) cover made me float through the isles of a supermarket and weep in front of a bunch of yoghurts. The songwriter from Seattle made her first footsteps in her band Trespassers William, followed by her first solo effort ‚China Mountain‘ and various cover releases, which are available via bandcamp. We did a little Q/A session with Anna-Lynne in order to find out more about her music and her future plans.

S-R: First of all, What´s the story behind your German rooted moniker Lotte Kestner?

Anna-Lynne:I was wary of using my own name when I started recording solo songs, because you never know how many bands and projects you’re going to have in a lifetime. One of my favorite books is The Sorrows of Young Werther, and I was reminded of it when I was in a book store and saw a copy of Lotte in Weimar on the shelves, about the real woman Charlotte Kestner who was Goethe’s muse when he wrote his novel. I love the sound of her name, and the beautiful story. I bought the book and borrowed the name.

S-R:When you think back on the time since you´ve started making music. What would be the happiest memory associated with your career?

Anna-Lynne: Oh this is making me think of lots of nice things… Recently Damien Jurado turned one of the poems I wrote into a song, and sent a recording of it to me as a surprise. That really moved me. I love his voice so much. And the Trespassers William European tour in 2009 was the best time I’ve ever had on the road. But above all I’d say the very happiest moments are probably when I’m at home writing a song and I can tell it’s working and I immediately record it and go to bed feeling like I’ve completed a huge part of a puzzle that I’ve been working on for years.

Anna-Lynne: The Bluebird of Happiness is the full length that’s coming out on Saint Marie, and I’ll also be releasing a pretty long EP in conjunction with it. Probably this fall. So, 21 songs in all. My last proper album was all covers, so I’m really eager to get these originals out. I wrote a lot last year, right before I got tendinitis. I had to wait for my wrist to recover enough to be able to play guitar for a few minutes at a time so that I could finish recording the new music. The Bluebird album is my favorite thing I’ve done, I think. It’s kind of quietly epic. A bit of strings. More romantic than depressing. The Bell Under Water EP is more diverse, with one full band song and some synthy stuff and some shorter tunes. So, I love the full length for its consistency and I love the EP for its lack of consistency.

S-R: Are the new songs also based on home recordings?

Anna-Lynne: Yeah I do all the recordings at home, but then I recorded all my parts for the last few Trespassers albums at home too and I don’t think they fit into the typical home recording sound. It has so much to do with what you do with the tracks after you record them. But I mixed these 2 new albums at home as well, so they stayed intimate and pretty unadorned. Except for two songs that were mixed by Robert Gomez, and one that was mixed by Buddy Ross from Motopony. Those ones sound more „studio,“ even though those were mixed at their respective homes as well.

S-R: Do you have any rituals or habits when it comes to recording songs at home?

Anna-Lynne: Ha, yeah I actually do. I always turn on this green lantern lamp that’s on the floor of my room when I’m going to record. And I put on really comfy clothes.

S-R: You have recorded beautiful cover versions of some songs I thought no one could ever cover properly. Are there any songs you would like to cover but couldn´t tame so far? If so, which ones?

Anna-Lynne: Thank you! There have been a bunch I’ve tried but I guess my subdued sound just didn’t work for them. „Toxicity“ by System of a Down, „Amber“ by 311, and „Weak and Powerless“ by A Perfect Circle are some that I messed around with in my room but never felt ready to record. One day.

S-R: And what would be your current faves?

Anna-Lynne I’ve been listening almost exclusively to my friends‘ albums lately. Mike Dumovich, Bill Patton, Simontronic, Damien Jurado. Those are on constant repeat.

S-R: Are you able to make your living with your music and poetry or do you have a dayjob?

Anna-Lynne: No day job, per se. I keep myself busy singing and writing for myself and for other people. Running a little record label and performing and all of that. Sometimes I make a „living“ and sometimes I don’t. Last year was rough because I couldn’t play for half the year and had a ton of medical bills, physical therapy for my left hand and arm. I’m still recovering from that, physically and financially.

S-R:You live in one of the most amazing cities around the world. I´m still in love with places like the twice sold tales bookstore, the view of Mount Rainier or the Issaquah area. What are your favorite spots in Seattle?

Anna-Lynne: Yeah let’s hope that some of the book and music stores stick around. There are way less than there were when I moved here seven years ago. One of my favorite places is Gasworks Park, which is at the end of the street I live on in Wallingford and overlooks Lake Union and downtown. The other one isn’t officially Seattle, but it’s at the south tip of Vashon Island, on the coast, with this gorgeous view of Mount Rainier. I wrote one of the songs on my new album out there.

S-R: Looking at all the stuff you´ve covered, you seem to be a big music lover yourself. What do you think about the state of the music industry?

Anna-Lynne:I love music to bits. I don’t know what to make of the modern state of things. There are so many pros and cons. I love recording my own music and being able to share it with people 5 minutes after I track it. On the other hand, of course I wish people still liked shopping in record stores. I’m right on the cusp of the old and the new school. So it doesn’t seem weird having a recording set-up in my living room. But it does seem weird that people get albums for free now.

S-R: And what do you prefer buying, CDs/Vinyl records or collecting MP3s?

Anna-Lynne: Strictly CDs and vinyl!

S-R: You´ve been on tour in Germany with Trespassers William once. Any chance to get you back for a German tour anyday soon?

Anna-Lynne: Yes please.