Annie Clark always gravitated toward taking on other personas. Since her 2006 debut, "Marry Me," she recorded under the name St. Vincent. So it's fitting that her follow-up album, which will be released May 5 on 4AD, is called "Actor."
The 26-year-old Brooklyn (by way of Dallas) singer/songwriter channeled her love of film scores, particularly those of Disney and Woody Allen, on her sophomore release. The 11-song set features Clark's sweeping, soothing voice atop orchestrated pop, a departure from the more guitar-driven rock of "Marry Me."
"I was president of my theater club," Clark says. "I did high school plays. It's something that I absolutely love, but I'm absolutely abominable at. But being good or not didn't hinder my enjoyment of it. I loved everything about it, from the staging to the lights to the underpinnings."
Early on in her musical career, she exercised that theatrical side as a touring member of the joyful rock troupe Polyphonic Spree and with Sufjan Stevens, both of which incorporate theatrics and elaborate costuming.
On "Actor," Clark's writing process was esoteric. She used Apple's Garage Band software to orchestrate the elaborate, whimsical arrangements, then worked backward to create pop melodies and lyrics. "I didn't write it on guitar, I didn't write it on piano. It was really, really weird," she says.
Clark believes the new album's music would lend itself to film or TV. "The little seed to every song was envisioned as a film score--or scoring scenes from movies that I love," she says. "At some point, I would like to try my hand at a proper film score."
After hearing the record, 4AD realized it had a budding film composer on its hands, so it scheduled private performances in Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, with an eye toward showcasing the songs for film and TV supervisors.
In addition, 4AD lined up a private showcase for executives and supervisors at Fox and is fielding requests from three ad agencies in New York. "Where we won't necessarily get immediate results from having her do these, they're certainly important to do," says Miwa Okumura, senior product manager at 4AD parent company the Beggars Group. "Especially for someone like Annie who makes a very strong first impression."
4AD is offering the record for pre-order six weeks before street date with a bonus 7-inch included with orders. "Actor" will stream in its entirety through NPR's "First Listen" program two weeks before its release, and AOL's Spinner debuted the video for "Actor out of Work" April 10. Major festival appearances (Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, All Points West) will be included on a larger, headlining tour.
Watch Billboard.com SXSW interview with St. Vincent: