“You can take the kid out of California, but you can’t take California out of the kid.” Singer-Songwriter Anna Vaus is on a mission to tell stories in the form of songs. A recent addition to the group of Nashville’s Belmont University successful alumni, Anna graduated in May of 2018 with a degree in songwriting, but had already hit the ground running before she finished school.
During her time at Belmont, Anna was involved in many of the school’s most exciting events. She performed in ASCAP Writers Nights, Belmont Country Showcase, Belmont Best of the Best Showcase, and was the recipient of the very first Miranda Lambert ‘Women Creators’ Scholarship in 2016. In 2017 Anna signed to Black River Publishing.
Post graduation, Anna released her very first EP “The California Kid,” in September of 2018. Her raw country vibes fit right in with the classic Nashville sound, mixed with newer contemporary elements. Anna has opened for seasoned country artists such as Jon Pardi, Old Dominion, Lee Ann Womack and Hunter Hayes.
We had the pleasure of meeting with Anna to ask her about her young musical journey so far.
Music Mecca: In September of 2018 you released your first EP “California Kid.” What was it like releasing your first collection of work to the world? How was the response?
Anna Vaus: It was really cool. It was a lot of emotions at once, because it was really exciting. We had put so much work into it. It takes so much time, effort, and a lot of money to make it possible. So while putting it out into the world was really exciting, it was also terrifying because you’re basically telling the world, “Hey! Here’s my baby! What do you think of it?” So it was a mixture of all things, but I feel like the response was awesome! It was more than I expected. We got play-listed which is key these days. I’m very thankful for that because that actually gave a few of the songs on the EP a much bigger life than I intended for them to have.
MM: So what songs off of the EP were the ones play-listed?
AV: “Day Job” got play-listed on Wild Country. We just happened to do a vertical video when I was home with the band. My brother is a videographer and we were planning on just filming some behind the scenes stuff, but then I asked him if he’d film a vertical video with an Iphone, and then Spotify Playlist used it which was really cool! And then “The Ground,” got play-listed on Fresh Folkwhich is the last track on the album which was really cool.
MM: It’s been about five months since you’re latest music release. Are you currently working on another EP, single release, or album?
AV: So I’m kind of back to square one, but sort of next level square one? I’ve just been writing a lot until I feel like I stumble upon the next set of songs that are what I want to put out into the world. That has been really fun to figure out some days and really hard to figure out other days.
MM: So will your next release, whenever that may come, be an extension of the raw country sounds that we heard off of “The California Kid?” Or will you be exploring with different sounds/genres?
AV: All of the above. If I look at who my influences are, it’s a very healthy mix of old 70’s country and modern James Bay. He’s someone I’ve been listening to a lot. I’ve also been listening to John Mayer recently, but I was getting stuck in the mindset that they’re not country, so it doesn’t fit into what I do, but I started realizing that’s not a valid excuse to not include what I love into my influences. I’ve probably said her name 55 times today, but even Kacey Musgraves is the ultimate example of that. Her album came out and everyone said “I’m not sure what this is, but I think I really love it.” It completely defied genres, so that’s kind of my goal to disregard labels. BUT I will always be rooted in country music, just because I love it so much.
MM: Being from California, which isn’t necessarily a country music haven compared to other places, what was it like for you growing up with such a love for it? Do you recall where your dream to be a country writer and artist originally came from?
AV: The town I grew up in was called Poway, California, which is in San Diego County, but it’s not technically the city of San Diego. I feel like it is a very accurate representation of my experience with country music in California. The model of the town is the city and the country, so it feels like a small town. I mean you’ll ride to school and people will be riding horses. It’s tucked in a desert, in a valley. Western is the only way to describe it. So there were a lot of people who listened to country music, but at the same time Blink 182 went to my high school. So there was a weird mix of the beach punk rock and country music. One thing I always think about was how I’d wake up and always listen to the radio station from back home KSON which was what my alarm clock was set to, so it’s what I woke up to and loved. I’d really pay attention to it and listen to the lyrics. Also, my dad is a musician so I just grew up with it, and it was never out of the ordinary to want to pursue it. As I got older and moved to Nashville, I realized that California country existed well before Brett Young, with legendary artists like Glen Campbell among others promoting country music in California.
MM: It wasn’t that long ago you moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting at Belmont University. You were the first recipient of the Miranda Lambert Women Creators Scholarship. How did that all come about?
AV: So I saw an article online and it said Miranda Lambert is announcing a scholarship at Belmont for a female who is pursuing songwriting in the Curb College. I thought to myself, “Holy crap that is so freaking cool,” and then didn’t hear about it for another six months. Then in January of 2016 there was an application available for it. The application required you to write two essays. One of them was on three women you look up to in the music industry, another one asked how we thought the tides were changing for women in the music industry. I also had to submit two songs written by myself, and a creative way to introduce myself, so I chose a video. I filled it out, and they updated us throughout the decision making process. Then in June I was visiting Nashville during summer break, and a woman from the scholarship department reached out to my dad in hopes to meet if we were in town. So we met with her and she told us, “They’ve narrowed it down to three people and on July 1st, you’ll know.” Days went on and I was really nervous thinking I didn’t get it. I’d have nightmares that Drew Ramsey (professor at Belmont) was announcing the winner of the scholarship and he’d call my name and then say “Oh I’m sorry, I read the wrong name. Anna is not the winner.” (Laughs) Overall it was a very anxious experience, but a few days later, Dean Howard of the Curb College called to tell me I won. I started crying and ran to tell my parents. It was a very emotional experience.
MM: How did receiving that scholarship affect the rest of your time as a student both in the songwriting program and outside of school as a writer?
AV: Well financially I was able to finish school which was HUGE. In turn that allowed me to do some cool things at school like the Belfast Study Abroad which was awesome. It was the little things like that that trickled down financially. I also feel like I connected with my professors a lot more, and was just given a few opportunities that I was very thankful for. Outside of Belmont, the scholarship was a huge motivator and a big deal for different publishers. There were a few that I was meeting with at the time, and when the scholarship happened I think it kind of moved the needle for them to say “Okay, we want to work with you,” which was really helpful because that got me to Black River. So thank you Miranda Lambert!
MM: What is your favorite spot to play in Nashville?
AV: The Bluebird Café is probably my favorite place. The walls are dripping with history and it’s SO intimate. I like how writers still have a huge respect for the honor to play The Bluebird. I think sometimes we lose sight of things like that.
MM: Who are your top three artists you’re listening to these days?
AV: Oh wow, well definitely John Mayer…always. Probably Randy Newman, and I’ve also been loving KC and The Sunshine Band. All the 70’s disco music, I’m not exactly sure why that’s what I’ve been jamming to lately, but I’m really into it!
You can find Anna’s music on most streaming services, and for more information be sure to check out her website HERE!