Anna of the North Talks Breakup-Inspired Debut 'Lovers' & Working With Tyler, the Creator

Jonathan Vivaas Kise
Anna of the North 

While the Scandinavian pop scene has been known to produce quite a few pop queens, Norway has recently surfaced as a hub for burgeoning pop artists. The latest artist ready to break in the U.S. is Anna of the North, an electropop duo consisting of Anna Lotterud and Brady Daniell-Smith. Back when the duo was making music long distance via the Internet, their first single, “Sway,” made waves in 2014, not only getting play for its original version, but through its Chainsmokers remix as well. 

This month, Anna of the North finally released their woozy, atmospheric debut album Lovers, which seemed to come at just the right time for the duo. They were recently featured on two of the tracks on Tyler, the Creator’s new LP Flower Boy, which certainly helped increase their visibility in 2017.

We caught up with Lotterud about working with Tyler, the Creator, how her heartbreak-driven debut came about and what the album title means.

How have you risen in the Norwegian music scene?

It’s all been step-by-step. We’ve been growing slowly. I think our friends didn’t push it too much. We just did what we loved. We just wanted to see how it goes. I don’t think I would have been ready to release an album before now. When we started, we had a bigger plan. I think everything that happened was a really important process. I think I’ve become more comfortable with what I’m doing. Music is really fun, but it’s not only music. It’s a lot of things; it’s the industry, going to photo shoots and a lot of things I was really nervous about doing.

How did you end up working with Tyler, The Creator?

Odd Future’s Taco messaged me on Twitter. We kept in touch. When Odd Future played this festival in Oslo, Oya Festival, they snuck me in backstage. We met there and kept in touch. We didn’t speak a ton, but did a little on social media. When Tyler was working on his album, he reached out to me because he had a hook that reminded him of “Sway.” I think they were into the vocals of “Sway” and how it was sung. They thought of me, asked me and I said, “yes.” Then I recorded the vocals, and he asked me if I could do one more song. You know you do so many songs and 10 percent of them get out there. So I didn’t know until he almost released the album, that it was coming out.

Tell me about the heartbreak that fueled this record.

When we did this album, I was going through a breakup. Most of the album is about my own experiences, but it’s also about helping a friend through a hard time. It’s mostly about my life, family and friends. I was going through a breakup while we were writing this album. Writing the album was really hard, but it was a really good way to get it out of my system. There’s a lot of pressure in making an album, but it was really fun. It was something we really loved doing. I think it was really important.

What were you listening to when you made the record?

I listened a lot to Honne, Shura and Céline Dion. They’ve been on repeat. I’m an obsessive Spotify girl. I just make a ton of playlists. I just love music and making my own mixtapes in a way. At some point I tried to find new music and listen to pop music that I wouldn’t necessarily listen to for my personal taste, but I think it’s important to hear what other people are doing. I think it’s really important to see both sides. You can have something in your head, but you need to be open-minded. Making music is a really personal thing. You need to be able to share your ideas.

How did you come up with the title Lovers for the record title?

I don’t know where it came from. From the beginning when we started, I always referred to my fans or people listening to the music as “lovers.” It was supposed to be self-titled, and I was like, “that’s not enough.” Then there was a song on the album called “Lovers," and I was like, “yes.” For me, “Lovers” isn’t just about a relationship about two people: it’s just about people who give love. It has a lot of meaning to it. It could be family, friends or dogs. As long as you’re sharing love or giving love, you’re a “lover.”

How do you define your music?

That’s a hard question. It’s hard to listen to your own music. One thing that I would love to do is listen to this music for the first time. I would want to listen to the album and delete all of the memories of making it. I think it’s hopeful; there’s a positive vibe to making it. I don’t want to put us in a box. I’m a slow jam girl. One day I want to make a slow jam album. Maybe do an album with two parts: a happy part and a sad part. I’ve already started experimenting with new music. This is just the start.

How did you come up with the moniker Anna of the North?

I used to live in Melbourne, and they called me “Anna from Norway.” It just came naturally. When we did “Sway,” I was back home in Norway. Me and Brady were sharing ideas and music. Brady posted a song I loved on Soundcloud, and I reached out and asked him if he had anything similar. That’s how “Sway” came about. We were in different time zones, so while I was sleeping, he made me a Soundcloud called Anna of the North. When I woke up, “Sway” had over a thousand plays. It was in the big days of Soundcloud. I remember telling myself if I got 2,500 plays, I would be happy. The plays meant so much to me. It didn’t stop there.