I met Anastacia and got to interview her when the album Resurrection was released last spring. Three videos were published on Closer.fr but I realised that I was left with many questions (and answers) unused and unrevealed. So I decided to publish the entire interview as Anastacia prepares to go on tour through Europe.
Lire l’interview en français.
When I heard some of the songs from your new album Resurrection, it reminded me of some of your previous songs, especially the ones from the album Anastacia (2004). Did you feel the need to go back to what made your success?
I never left that artist in me that brought the sprock sound out (soul, pop and rock music). When I went to another record label was when they changed a little bit of my music. I really did feel that that was who I was. It’s not hard to do that music because it’s in me and even though it not me necessarily everything that is on the radio right now, I just feel that it represents who I am, so I definitely stuck to the music I know.
You just made a reference to your 2008 record, Heavy Rotation. Don’t you like it? Do you regret it?
No I don’t regret it at all! It was an experience. I went to a new label with all intention of leaving because I was following my A&R guy. Their passions were more R&B music and I didn’t really have a problem taking advice from such amazing talents. But it just didn’t really work for me. It was not what my fans liked nor wanted to hear. It was just a pretty simple decision to say: « I don’t think that we are on the same page ». That’s all.
Last year, you released the cover album It’s a man’s world in a few countries only. Is Resurrection a real comeback now that you are back on a big record label with an international release?
When I released It’s a man’s world, it was the way that me and BMG could test the grounds. It was a fun project; it was something that I had always wanted to do. I got to sing men’s rock songs. I always had this big desire to do that. I was really grateful that they allowed me to put out an amazing project like that with the phenomenon producer Glen Ballard. It couldn’t have sounded any more right musically.
I did that album hoping to go on tour and then I ended up getting diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. I had to put everything on hold for much longer than I thought I was going to because I didn’t realise how much surgery I had to do when I decided to have a double mastectomy.
However I was able to really heal properly and write some amazing songs on Resurrection. I don’t know if I hadn’t been through this journey some of those songs would have been created. So I always look at the positive side and I say: « It’s a good thing ».
I’d like to talk about some of the songs of the new album, and I’d like to start with Lifeline, whose lyrics are very deep and sad. How was it created?
In truth, I did not write this song, which I very rarely do. Jamie Hartman did. I usually put my own songs on my albums but it called to me in a big way. I wrote a few songs with Jamie but when I heard that one I was so drawn to it. It really meant a lot to me especially since where I was at the moment. He was nervous about some of the words in the song, like « killing a friend ». I was like, « no, it’s perfect because to be honest with you Lifeline is a song I could sing to cancer ». And he was like: « Oh, I never thought of that ». So I sang it to cancer and « killing a friend » is getting rid off a part of my body that I’m pissed off at. I felt so connected to that song in the right way because it also has hope. Even though it’s a sad song, there’s a lot of hope in it. You want a lifeline. You don’t want to go. And that was what drew me to that song and it’s epic. I knew I could sing it with the drama I wanted to sing it with and we could build it as if as it is part of a movie. To a certain point I do feel like it was the perfect song to represent the movie of my life.
I noticed that there are many love songs, many ballads. After all these years, is love still a good inspiration to you?
Love has always been a good inspiration to me. I think that I have a lot more love inside than I probably did before. I was always searching for too much love outside and at the end of the day you really have to love who you are and what you are. That makes you a better partner, a better person or a better person to work with, who knows? I think I’ve grown a lot in the last few years, with record companies, with relationships, with the cancer struggles… Truthfully it made me become softer in a way that I didn’t even realise until I listened to the album. And I was like: « Oh my God! I’m like this ballad queen! I’m just singing ballads all the time! What kind of artist am I turning into? »
But I loved it. I loved being able to search for that. Especially since I still have that rock chick in me. On the deluxe album, there’s a great Aerosmith sounding song with serious guitars. There’s a lot of who I am, even in the lyrics. On the song Evolution, I start it off with: « Tell me I’m so full of shit ». That’s Anastacia‘s lyrical brilliance right there… Keeping it real!
Can we talk about the song Stay? When I first listened to it, I found in it a double meaning. It can make reference about a relationship, which ends badly, or to the cancer struggles. Am I right?
Yes. And you know, as a writer, I never want to alienate my listeners. When I write, even though I’m writing specifically about something that’s about a certain something, I do want other people to relate to it. I try to use words, and I try to use metaphors, so it can give people the relatable quality. That song Stay was actually written about the day I found out the news I had to get rid off cancer and I probably had to have a double mastectomy. It’s a weird decision to make. I said: « Okay, okay, got the news ». I was in the studio with Jamie Hartman and he was like: « Oh, okay, do you want to end the session? » and I replied, « No, I want to write a song ». And Stay was the song we wrote. That was exactly what I wanted to say: « I don’t want to go, I’m not ready to go yet. There’s so much more for me to do. If this is it, I just thought I’d do so much more, so hopefully this is not the end ».
And it is a beautiful, simple song. It’s not filled with drums. My ballads are not really drum-driven. They’re very string-section-driven. That represents the emotion I really want to give off as a singer, as a lyricist. There’s something that’s typical when you put a drum on there and then you take it away… I don’t want to say that it’s « cooler » but there’s something that just gives a different flair and that’s what I was going for on this album. I didn’t necessarily want to make it the typical Celine or Mariah ballad – which are phenomenal ballads that I never thought I could do. But because I did them this way I didn’t feel that they sounded like there were only ballads. There were just emotional songs.
Talking about emotional songs, I’d like to talk about Dark White Girl, whose lyrics are once again very sad…
Yeah. You can definitely feel all you’ve been through has inspired it…
Yeah, but to me, I just wrote it about my fans and me. They go through a lot of tough things and they express it a lot to me so I wanted them to know that it’s okay a sad, dark person sometimes. You don’t have to be so happy all the time.
The melody is very happy, it’s almost an up-tempo…
That, to me, is the beauty of how I look at life. I don’t write a sad song to sing it as if I were desperate because that’s not my ultimate core. If you listen to the chorus of it, I sing: « I can see the light of day, even through the rainy haze ». It really is about that through all of this darkness, I still see the light. That’s the positive part. It’s a dark white girl but she can still see the light at the end of the rainbow, she just has to go to a couple of clouds to get there. And that’s how my fans and I really speak to each other. I wanted to make sure that I got a song that could speak to them in their times when I’m not around, or not touring, or not writing an album.
We can feel an evolution all throughout the album, with sad songs at the beginning and hopeful songs at the end, until the very last one, Broken Wings, which I think could be a real anthem for your fans. Does the album Resurrection sum up your search of happiness?
The interesting part is that albums to me are like books. They used to be and they tend to go back to that. I love being able to do an album where the journey is what you experience and you don’t feel like you need to fast forward because you need to hear that one to hear the next one.
Broken Wings was a very important song because having a double mastectomy was extremely intense. They actually had to use muscles from here (she shows her back), and they had to cut open here, and bring them here (she shows her breast). It was really crazy. I have a tattoo on my back: wings. I almost kept a metaphor that even with the broken wings, even with the scars or whatever it is, I still can fly. I still can find a way to make it out there and be part of this world.
Even if you lose a limb, or you can’t see, or something like that: find a way to get through it. A divorce, a child dying, these are all things that are deep and heavy stuff that we all have to go through. But we have to go through it. Once you go through it you realize life is wonderful.
On the deluxe album, there is a new version of your 2004 hit Left Outside Alone. Why did you decide to record it again?
Interestingly enough Left Outside Alone was written in the first cancer experience. It was a harder song, it was tough, and it was very successful. I had always wanted to try to do a broken-down version of it in a way because the song itself was drawn in the music. The lyrics were lost in a certain way.
Having cancer again, I felt I should reintroduce that song and I got to go in and reproduce it. I wanted to show, ten years later, how I interpret that song. It was an interesting way to show my fans: « this is how I wrote it and saw it in the first cancer and this is how I see it in the second cancer ». I think that artistically and musically, it really shows a big difference.
Anastacia will be touring in Europe from October 19th to November 20th. She will be in Brussels (October 19th), Zurich (November 3rd), Paris (November 16th) and London (November 17th). Out now: album Resurrection and single Staring at the sun.