Lingfield-based singer Anna Howie on her new EP

PUBLISHED: 11:23 15 October 2019

For her latest EP, An Idiots Guide to Love, Lingfield-based singer/songwriter Anna Howie travelled to the heart of country music

How would you describe the music on your new EP?

It’s got a real country slant to it because I recorded it in Nashville with some of the best players out there, which was fantastic. As I’m a Londoner, although I do now live in Lingfield, the lyrics are very London inspired but the music has an Americana vibe with lots of twangy steel guitars. The EP was released in June and went straight into the UK country album chart at number seven and then rose to number five. It’s so lovely to get recognition like that for something that you have put so much time and emotion in to.

What is it about country music that you love?

Well, I’ve always loved country music for its storytelling. I just love to get hold of a story and try and put it together with music for three and a half minutes! One of the songs on the EP is called Pull up a Chair – it was written after the sudden death of my dad and focuses on imaginary conversations I still have with him. My sad was the best listener. In my head, I talk to him all the time and I meet so many people at gigs who say they talk to people they have lost too. One of the challenges when writing it was that I did not want to dwell on the sadness of loss but focus on the essence of the person which stays with you always. My dad would not have wanted me going around the country singing sad songs about him; he was a very positive person.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?

I’ve always loved listening to Dolly Parton, but I listen to more current country music too, like Brandi Carlile and Gretchen Peters. I actually went out to America a few months ago to do some writing with Gretchen, which was amazing. I like other stuff as well and take inspiration from people like Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and Kate Bush.

Why did you want to record your EP in Nashville?

I’ve made two other albums, but I never released them. So, for this one I just wanted to do something a bit different. I’ve been song writing with some people in America for a while and they kept on encouraging me to go there to record it. It turned out to be a really fabulous experience, so I’m glad that I did it.

You also work as a teacher, have your students heard your music?

Yes, they have! I’ve been working as a vocal coach at Sackville School, just across the border in East Grinstead for about five years. The school has a really great music department and I get to go in and basically just sing with the students. When the EP was released the school choir even joined me during one of my shows in Tunbridge Wells. I also recently had the school band as one of my support acts. They’ve been involved the whole way through, so it’s really lovely that they get to see this bit too.

Do you still enjoy performing live?

I do enjoy sitting and writing, but the live gig side of it is one of my favourite things to do. I’ve got a great live band now too and we’re really enjoying going round the live circuit. I have also been running the Hop Sessions at The Hop Yard in Forest Row for three years, which is an acoustic monthly showcase for singer/songwriters.

What’s next?

I’m going to be gigging the EP for a bit and then I think I might attempt writing another one. I’d love to go back to Nashville too. 

– Surrey-born Ruth Wilson on her role in BBC’s His Dark Materials – Smart, self-assured, and immensely talented – after putting her name to a string of cult TV shows, Surrey-‌born Ruth Wilson is gearing up for her biggest role to date in brand-new BBC spectacular His Dark Materials