A Chat With…Anna Smyrk

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After living in Cambodia for a year, folk songstress Anna Smyrk has returned to Melbourne to share her new EP. Following its release a few weeks back, we had a chat to Anna.

Your EP was recored in February 2015 but it’s only just about to be released. What’s it like hearing the songs again now? It’s actually really good to hear them now. I was a bit worried that I’d come back and hate eveything I’d recorded, but luckily that didn’t happen! They’re all songs that I’ve played in various guises over the past few years, so they kind of feel like old friends that I’m coming home to.

The release was put on hold as you were offered work in Cambodia. The job was with a non-proft organisation that uses music and the arts to engage with disadvantaged young people. I imagine that was a rewarding experience, what can you tell us about it? It was definitely an amazing experience. I think it was especially cool because I was working with artists. Some of them were young kids going to painting class or music class after school. So it was awesome to see them opening up their creativity and learning how to express themselves. But I was also working with the students who had chosen to pursue professional training in the arts, and they were incredible. Heading to a pretty rural town, I didn’t expect to come across so many interesting ideas and world-class artists. There were a lot of challenges as well in figuring out how to work in a really different context, but I really loved that process of learning a new place.

Your mum painted the EP artwork. Did you approach her about it, or did she offer? I asked her to paint it for me. She used to paint and draw a lot when she was younger, but she kind of stopped when she had me and my sisters. But she’s recently taken it up again and enrolled in art classes. She’s making some beautiful stuff, and I just thought it was cool that she had come back to it after so many years. I asked her to paint me a magpie and she sent me about 30 different versions. She’s prolific!

Then I gave the painting to a Cambodian graphic designer friend and he put together the layout and all the the lovely detail. So the artwork feels like a good representation of the EP, it connects my family in Australia with my life in Cambodia.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite Melbourne bands? Oh, there are so many! A few that spring to mind… Tinpan Orange, Hiatus Kaiyote, Oh Pep!, The Willy Wagtails, The Imprints… I’m very lucky to be launching the EP with two of favourites supporting as well: Susy Blue and Anna Cordell.

And Melbourne venues? My favourite venues are cosy, warm types of places where there are excellent beers and probably a woodfire burning in the corner. I love the Wesley Anne, the Grace Darling, Open Studio…

You’re back in Australian for two months, are there plans to tour the EP nationally? Or are you just focusing on a hometown launch? It will just be Melbourne shows this time. I would love to revisit some other cities but alas there just won’t be time before I head off on the next adventure! Plus I think my family would kill me if I come back home just to disappear interstate! This time is strictly allocated to Melbourne music and catching up with my peeps.

Anna Smyrk’s EP is available on Bandcamp now. She launches it at The Toff in Town on Thursday May 19th with Susy Blue and Anna Cordell.