Annie Stela’s new album Whiplash Blues, the singer/pianist’s second full-length release overall, begins with a scream. But not to worry, the shriek comes (apparently) from a little girl and falls somewhere between “Eek a spider!” and “Dad bought me a pony!”
The juxtaposition of conflicting emotions is nothing new in Stela’s music and “Liar,” the song with the scream, is a perfect example. Even while she’s pointing an accusatory finger, Stela sets the song to a rocking piano and guitar melody, giving the tune a similar vibe to one of Warren Zevon’s potent yet fun put-downs.
Stela has said that the songs on Whiplash Blues are mostly about others and not herself; regardless of where her inspiration comes from she proves to be an incredible storyteller with songs like “Lucky,” a tearjerker set in the days when farm women had their babies in barns and when a house fire could decimate a family in a matter of minutes.
In exclusive comments to AXS.com, Stela gives some insight into her songwriting process for two of the songs on Whiplash Blues. “This song is a big departure for me sonically,” says Stela about “Any Time Any Day.” “I wrote it on piano but I knew from the beginning it wasn't a piano song. When we recorded it, we ended up using no piano and all guitar, something I've rarely done. My favorite part of recording this song was singing the harmonies with my friends (Angie Engelhart, Sara Sinclair) who came in to sing back up. It took some pressure off me to have a couple fantastic singers next to me in the booth. It felt like a party! This is a favorite of mine to perform, since I get to stand up and sing instead of hide behind the keyboard.”
About the Linda Ronstadt-recalling “Love Me Still,” Stela says, “This is the most honest love song that I've ever written. It's pretty easy for me to write a snarky, pissed-off relationship song (I've had a lot of practice), but much more difficult to write a song about love that's positive. Somehow when I wrote this it came from a real, vulnerable place, and it ended up being hopeful. It's the first track from Whiplash Blues that we filmed a video for as well, and seeing the director's take on what the song meant was fascinating. To see the song resonate with someone else helped me understand that maybe hope and love don’t have to be at odds.”
Stela is originally from Michigan but she lives in Los Angeles now and with Whiplash Blues she’s struck a comfortable balance of Midwest sensibility and big city cool that, when discovered by new fans, is likely to make them scream.
Go here for more about Annie Stela.