Sweet. Quirky. Fun. Talented. Cute. Folky. These are just some of the words you might use to describe Anya Marina… but don’t tell Anya that. She’s more comfortable labeling herself “Miss Almost” or “Miss Maybe” as she does in her hit song “Miss Halfway.” But perhaps “Miss Out-Of-My-Way” would be more appropriate.
Anya Marina’s debut album “Exercises in Racketeering” won the San Diego Music Award for the best local artist. Her music has been used on several TV shows including MTV‘s The Real World, Numbers, and the hit ABC-TV drama Grey’s Anatomy.
When Anya Marina isn’t serenading millions of TV viewers, she still finds time to do stuff like act in the Lions Gate romantic teen comedy 100 Girls and fill the morning drive DJ slot on San Diego’s 94/9 FM. Not too shabby for “Miss Halfway.”
In between DJ shifts and recording sessions Anya Marina found a little time to sit down and answer some of our questions.
Most people probably know you as either a DJ or a singer/songwriter, but you started off as an actress. I just watched the movie 100 Girls. The film stars Jaime Pressly, Jonathan Tucker and… you, Anya Marina. In 100 Girls you play an obsessive eyebrow plucker named Rhonda. How did you land the role? Do you plan on doing more acting in the future?
My friend knew the producer for 100 Girls. Apparently they couldn’t find a girl who was willing to wave goodbye to her eyebrows for the role. I said I would do it. They needed to cast the girl within 24 hours.
After years of study in theater and acting, it turned out that my first role in a movie came about because I was available for a 10 pm meeting in a tequila bar in West Hollywood, where I successfully walked up and down the length of the bar (the scene in question called for me to walk up and down the hall of a dorm), had a margarita, and vowed to shave my eyebrows the next morning.
NERD NOTE: Anya Marina’s character in 100 Girls probably suffered from Trichotillomania (TTM), or “trich” as it is more commonly known. Trich is an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pull out scalp hair, eyelashes, facial hair, nose hair, pubic hair, eyebrows, or other body hair.
Have elements of your acting and improv comedy experience worked their way into your stage presence or how you present yourself on the radio?
I think it’s all intertwined and each vocation feeds and helps the other.
Talk us through your first live gig.
Horrible. Shaky hands. Quivery voice. I opened for a crazy, wild, married punk/folk duo called Bugguts. They make the strongest pot cookies (shaped into gingerbread men) you have ever tried in your life. They kept telling me I kicked ass after I was done. I think they saw something weird and interesting in me (or maybe it was the pot cookies).
In the song “Miss Halfway,” you talk about all your friends getting jobs on Melrose Place and investing in IRA’s. Meanwhile, you’re sighing lyrics to the song “Waitress in the Sky” by the band The Replacements and making airplanes out of resumes. Who is “Miss Halfway”?
Miss Halfway is the weaker self/personality. If there was a fight between your inner “evil twin” and your weakest side, Miss Halfway would be the name your evil side would call the other. It’s the part of you that ends up reigning supreme in the end. So, I guess she was me at one point.
NERD NOTE: “The Replacements” was an alternative rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band featured guitarist and vocalist Paul Westerberg, guitarist Bob Stinson, bassist Tommy Stinson, and drummer Chris Mars. Tommy Stinson was just 12 years old when the group first formed. The Replacements released seven albums and one EP before breaking up in 1991 and toured with such artists as R.E.M. and Tom Petty. All members went on to various levels of success as solo artists after the dissolution of the band.
Your song “Miss Halfway” has some pretty impressive company on the Grey’s Anatomy, Vol. 2 soundtrack. The Fray, KT Tunstall, Gomez, and Snow Patrol also have songs on the album. Above and beyond getting thousands of social media friend requests, how has being connected with Grey’s Anatomy helped your career?
It has certainly given me an immediate, grand-scale endorsement (i.e. “Never heard of her? She’s good, I swear. Don’t believe me? She was on Grey’s Anatomy.”) Alex Patsavas, music supervisor for Grey’s Anatomy, has earned a lot of respect in the industry for being a tastemaker in music.
So being an artist on Grey’s Anatomy feels a little like being a piece of fruit that ends up in the Whole Foods organic produce section. All of a sudden you are trusted to be something that is going to be appreciated by a large section of a certain part of society.
It has certainly gotten my name out there to a lot of people I couldn’t have reached on my own.
Besides Grey’s Anatomy, your music has been used on several TV shows including MTV’s The Real World and Numbers. As an artist, how do you feel about TV licensing?
I am a fan of all of those shows, so it’s been cool. It’s always a weird mix of emotions when you experience your music set to a scene. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and sometimes it’s incredibly moving and touching. So far, so good. My favorite usage was when Izzie discovered she had slept with her best friend George (on Grey’s) and they played my song “Move You / Slow and Steady Seduction Phase II“) over the scene. The momentum in the song perfectly corresponded to the hilarity of the scene.
It is almost always weird, though, when you see your music set to a scene you didn’t write, visualize or act out. It’s odd.
Since the 4th grade, everyone from family members to teachers have told you not to sing or even speak professionally because of your ‘child-like’ voice. Your father even called your voice a “nuisance to others”? Do you savor the irony now that you make a living using your voice as both a singer and DJ?
I savor it. I do. But that stuff is always in the back of your head.
Several of the songs on your album Miss Halfway seem to touch on some of the emotions you must have felt when people discouraged your singing career. Are lyrics like, “you’ll never break me with all the things you say” directed at boyfriends, critics, family, or friends who have discouraged you from following your dreams?
When reading the lyrics to many of your songs, including “Come Back To Bed,” “Sociopath,” “Lovesick,” “Clean And Sober,” it sounds as though you’ve had some difficult encounters with men. Are you only attracted to bad boys? Have you ever actually taken a “bath with a Sociopath”?
I think the songs speak to difficulties in relationships, sure. But they are just as much about longing, self-discovery, love and devotion as they are about having a hard time with a bad boy.
Bad boys are overrated…
I might’ve taken a bath with a sociopath — I can’t recall — but I probably didn’t know it at the time. It was just a good rhyme I came up with while folding laundry one day.
Not every guy you’ve dated has been a “Sociopath” right? There has to be at least one good one. What’s the most romantic thing a boyfriend has ever done for you?
I am drawing a blank. I’m not very impressed by material gifts, but more by thoughtful, creative expressions of love. So some of my fondest memories of “romantic” things have been songs written for me or a toast at a dinner. For instance, a card with their deepest thoughts written inside.. It’s always sincerity and effort that touch me the most.
Your ‘raw’ lyrics have gotten you banned from at least one place I know about (The Mint; Los Angeles). I just downloaded a live 2001 version of your song “Millionaire” that you played at Java Joe’s with Jason Mraz. Some of the lyrics include the line “lick my pussy, lick it clean.” Do you think people find your music even more shocking because of your cute voice?
Maybe. Liz Phair had that down in “Flower Song” (Exile in Guyville). The song “Millionaire” was a joke and that line was suggested by a friend. I never even wrote it, that’s the funny part. People think I came up with that or I sang that line, but I never did. Maybe once or twice, but usually I would recruit someone to sing it for me. I haven’t done that song in years. I can’t even remember the chords.
What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve read about “Anya Marina“ online?
I’m not sure about what people are saying about me online. But I heard once from a friend of a friend that someone I knew was telling people that I didn’t write my own songs. That incensed me more than anything I had ever heard.
In addition to being a singer/songwriter, you are also a DJ in San Diego on 94/9 FM. Is radio a major passion for you?
It has become a passion, but it didn’t start out that way.
What was your most embarrassing moment live on the radio?
Probably the minute or TWO of dead air my first month at FM 94/9. I got caught in the hallway with one of the head honchos and he started chatting me up. I was trying so hard to be normal and cool that I forgot I was on the air. When you have dead-air, a pre-recorded voice starts chanting overhead, “FM 949 is OFF THE AIR.” Over and over.
So there I am, eating bagels and laughing and batting my eyelashes like a jackass while everyone is wondering why we’re off the air.
I recently read a hilarious story about how Les Claypool from Primus caught you sleeping in your car when you were supposed to be interviewing him on the air. Did you and Les ever smooth things over?
I don’t think so. I doubt he has any recollection… I hope not, anyway.
Are you an iPod or Zune girl?
You moved to Los Angeles right after high school to pursue acting. But then you decided to move back home, attend college, start a musical career, and become a DJ. What about Hollywood made you want to leave? How do you feel about L.A.?
I realized that having a degree was very important to me and I sensed that LA could suck me in for a good long time. overall, I knew I was emotionally immature and that college would help me do the growing up I needed to do.
You are currently in the process of making a follow up to your 2004 album “Miss Halfway.” What’s the new album called? What will your fans hear in the next Anya Marina album?
I’m not sure about the title yet, but I’m really enjoying the process. It’s going to be much truer to how I hear the songs in my head when I write them. The songs on Miss Halfway fit into the “singer/songwriter” genre, which is like the kiss of death in some ways. This album is much more Rock and Roll than the last one. It’s more lively and dynamic, that’s for sure. The first long-player was just kind of me going, “here are some songs I wrote that we recorded.” They are all sort of tidy and sweet.
This one has me teaming up with a different crew of people (most notably Brian Karscig from Louis XIV) for one. The songs have more piano and strings, more feeling, more thrills! More car crashes! More Rock and Roll!
Finish this sentence: I want all my fans to…
Send me a recipe or a good movie or book recommendation. Also, they might want to think about recycling!
You can find Anya Marina‘s music on Amazon or in the iTunes Music Store. For pictures, song and video samples, and booking information, check out: anyamarina.com