Canadian-Guyanese singer and performer Anjulie is not your average Pop star. After years running the industry circuit, an independent album and a move to the States, the completely raw and humble artist is gearing up for her debut album on Universal Republic records. And she promises to hold nothing back, well, almost nothing.
CMJ was the first time I saw you perform and you rocked it…
Aw thank you!
You have such an energetic presence on stage, which I wasn’t expecting. So much combustion! Do people often underrate you before seeing you in action? What fuels you?
Yeah, people always ask me that [about my energy]. I think that’s just the nature of performance. If you’re a performer, there’s just totally something that makes you want to be a performer and it’s probably something inside of you that you have to get out. And for me it’s very much that. I’m a pretty normal person, but I’m not normal when I’m performing. [Laughs] Like I really do feel that I can just unleash whatever I want to [when I’m on stage]. It’s the one place you can be really like raw and confessional, and just out.
Yeah, and you had choreography, wigs, dancers, costume changes—the whole shebang. What was your vision behind that, and why so important to do now? Usually, artists want to come out as themselves for their debut and eventually evolve into the other stuff, but you came out guns blazing. [Laughs]
[Laughs] I feel like the music is Dance music, you know, and I love dancing since I was like a little kid. So that’s definitely a really big part of the show, but more than anything I feel like if people come to your show, then you should put on a show! I’ve always been into artists who’ve really been known to kill it live like Madonna, Prince and Mick Jagger, Tina Turner… those are the people that I want to watch live you know. I don’t really want to watch someone standing in one place, so that’s kind of what I try to bring to it.
Growing up, were you the kind of kid that was in dance or performance arts schools or anything like that?
I went to a performing arts school for like a semester and I kind of dropped out of it. [Laughs] I felt like it was a little too cheesy, and like it was really focusing on Musical Theater. I shouldn’t say it was cheesy, but it was just not my thing, you know. I wanted to like write original songs and do Pop music, and get into new sounds and stuff like that. It just wasn’t my thing and I guess I kind of developed [my style] through watching. Like I remember seeing [Janet Jackson’s] The Velvet Rope Tour and then getting the VHS of that, putting it on slow motion so that I could learn every single dance move. [Laughs]
Wow. And since then your music has been featured on television and in films, which is a rarity for many newcomers. Was that part of the plan or did that happen accidentally?
It’s always part of the plan, getting your music on TV, in films and in commercials even, whereas back in the ’80s it was kind of like being a sellout if you cut your song for a beer commercial. I’d honestly be honored if that happened, because the platform is so huge, especially in today’s market to have your music featured. So yeah, it’s been great.
Yeah, and it happened for you before you even released anything official, right?
Yeah, I had an independent record and it kind of happened a lot with that one. With “Brand New Bitch” it’s kind of been popping off with a bunch of shows like Charlie’s Angels and stuff like that. It’s really cool and it wasn’t necessarily like the center of the plan, but it’s getting attention, so I’m happy.
How did you go from being an aspiring Pop star, to where you are now?
The most interesting thing is when you’re a little girl and you’re seeing whoever it is, for me Madonna and Janet Jackson, but you’re seeing someone and you’re aspiring to do what they do—like, “Oh my god, that would just be an incredible life!—and then you sort of pursue it and you’re faced with brick wall after brick wall after brick wall. I think for some artists it has been a lot easier. I actually know because I have a couple of friends of mine who are doing their thing, where for me it was hard just getting signed to a record company, you know. Like that was really difficult. I got told that “Brown girls aren’t Pop stars” and that I couldn’t sing or I should look like this, or whatever, people just had so many things to drill at you. The thing that got me through it was really strength and resilience. It’s like whatever you want to do in life, if you want to be great at something, you have to have a lot of that. That’s probably been the biggest learning lesson of the whole experience.
Talk to me about Canada, so much is popping right now that has come from Canada, and you seem right on time. What is it about the region that is kind of cultivating this bucket of phenomenal talent?
I think Canada is a really big breeding ground for artists and it always has been. What’s cool about it is that the government supports music, art and education, whereas a kid in America, their main concern might be survival. There, you have a little bit of a cushion, so you can focus on what it is that you really want to do. I love Canada; it’s an amazing country. But what’s amazing about here [the US] though is that the sky’s the limit where there is a cap on it in Canada.
You play percussion, guitar, piano, but what’s computer music?
I program stuff on my laptop, so I joke and say that I play computers [Laughs], just because honestly it has become such an instrument and tool in music. I do like Garage Band a little bit and Logic, but I usually work with a lot of producers who help flesh out the sound.
Would you consider yourself a musical collagist, someone who is a hybrid of sounds or even better, a hybrid of genres?
Definitely, and that’s a cool word actually. Yeah, I definitely love to genre clash and mix things up, where it’s like a bunch of different sounds. Once the second single comes out and the rest of the record comes out, it will be really apparent.
So tell us about the concept behind your upcoming album. Who is Anjulie?
The concept that I have for it is Rainbow Bullets because of my sound— the timber of my voice, which comes across as very sweet, but the words I am saying, the lyrics, and the beat, are really hard. So it’s kind of a juxtaposition of two completely contradicting things, which I think makes for really amazing music and really amazing art.
What was the thing that inspired “Brand New Bitch”?
I had been going through a lot of transitions in the music industry actually and also a relationship, but that wasn’t the main thing. The main thing was I was going through it in the industry; I was trying to get off one label and getting on another one, trying to switch up my manager—just do all this stuff. And I really felt like with this new record and this new sound that I was coming out at the other end of it [the drama] being like a brand new bitch. So yeah, the song is about losing a whole bunch of people that I cared about a lot, which happens a lot when you’re an artist.
Who makes up your production team?
It’s really varied. I worked a lot with a producer named Jonas Jeberg, who is from Denmark. I also worked with Swedish House Mafia, Swizz Beatz—more well-known producers and stuff. I also worked with this guy named J.O.B., who I think was really great, so it was kind of a combination of a lot of electronic producers, up and coming and the really established.
What was your favorite record to make?
Honestly, the writing process for me is really intimate and extremely heartfelt, so I don’t like favor another song over another one. The only difference is that some of them might be happier subject matters or songs about sort of being free to be yourself as opposed to songs about heartbreak and kind of going through it. There is definitely an emotional range on the record, but I wouldn’t say like one song was more fun to make than another.
Why are you so honest on your records?
I relate to honesty, you know. Like when people let their guard down with me, even if I just met them and they tell me something kind of like quirky, interesting, off-kilter or deprecating, I find it refreshing. It’s pretty difficult in the entertainment industry—in any industry— you just gotta keep your head up and put your happy face on. But I’m really interested in the realness behind that front.
Do you think that’s what’s missing, that you’re bringing?
Yeah, I think lots of people bring it to the table. I think Eminem brings it to the table. Lots of people I look up to like Alanis Morissette really brought it to the table. And there are great artists that are out right now like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga who I think are writing their own songs and just truly being who they are, that’s inspiring to me. What I don’t find inspiring is Pop puppets, just people who don’t seem to have a lot to do with anything they put out, but are always hot.
Do you think there is such a thing as TMI?
Yeah I do, that’s why I’d never talk about my private life and stuff like that. I think reality shows are TMI for me. I don’t really want to know all that stuff and I’m not particularly inspired by that kind of stuff. I think being real and being honest like bands coming up like Frank Ocean and Odd Future, a lot of stuff that is popping online is just basically pulling down that wall that has kept us all in a box.
What is one thing that no one knows about you that we should know?
I used to make juice professionally. [Laughs] Yeah! Have you ever been to that place called Pure Food and Wine on 16th Street [in New York City]? You should go because it’s actually amazing. I used to work there as a juicer girl. It was when I first arrived in New York and I was just trying to get in there. Unfortunately they fired me when they found out that I wasn’t legally allowed to work in the United States. [Laughs] But I got away with it for a little bit, like a month. I loved it. In fact, if I didn’t do what I do, I would probably juice.
Download a copy of Anjulie’s EP
Follow Anjulie on Twitter, @Anjulie