Anne Freeman began writing her upcoming album after a lifelong study of dive bar crowds.
Although her brand of southern-laced indie rock earned her a following in her home state of Mississippi, Freeman knew from an adolescence of sneaking into venues during her older brother’s set breaks that a great setlist requires variation. A constant rush of upbeat songs bleed together, but an entirely mellow set runs the risk of losing people around the bar, merch table, and smoker’s alley.
Keep It Close is far from just an exercise in crowd engagement, instead introducing a songwriter that captures millennial anxieties as deftly as she moves between power pop, heartland rock, and jangle pop.
Born in a small town in the Mississippi Delta to a large musical family, Freeman viewed playing guitar and working on songs as a sort of eventual destiny. With the guidance of her brother and ‘60s rock n’ roller of a father, Freeman eventually started playing out and moved to nearby Oxford to embed herself in the college town’s vibrant music scene. She eventually caught the attention of Oxford-based label Muscle Beach (Kate Teague, Bass Drum of Death), who re-released her single “Days Go By” in 2020.
For her full-length debut with Muscle Beach, Freeman knew she wanted to lean more into her knack for writing timeless power pop hooks, but without sacrificing the unpolished, live recording style that defined her earlier recordings. Still, even she couldn’t foresee Keep It Close would yield some of her most spontaneous, honest songs to date.
We caught up with Anne recently for a little Q&A to get to know her better.
Your father was also a musician. What was it like growing up in a musical family in the Mississippi Delta?
Loud! Our living room was (and still is) a band room. My dad, siblings and I would play together all the time. Those are some of my best memories, and I’ve always felt incredibly fortunate to have grown up in that environment. Musicians were constantly in and out of our house, and it felt like one really long rock show that lasted several years. My family also exposed me to playing in front of live audiences when I was very young and I feel like I greatly benefited from that.
Your music video is stunning. What inspired the visual components?
Thank you! “City Watched Me Burn” always had a fun 60s vibe to me. The idea to shoot the video at the now closed bowling alley in my hometown of Greenwood came to me when we were recording the song. It was built in 1961 and hasn’t seen many renovations since then. I envisioned my friends and myself in there throwing down. Alex Thiel directed and edited it. When we first met to discuss the concept, he immediately understood what I was going for and brought the idea to life.
As a songwriter, do you work more from your imagination or your personal experiences?
Some songs are true stories and others are pulled out of nowhere. Sometimes a song will start off based on a personal experience and then it turns into something I’ve made up.
Do you have to feel sad to write a sad song, happy to write a happy song?
Nope. Actually, some of my most upbeat songs were written when I was really down. I think it’s sort of a way to pull myself out of something. And I’ve written sad songs when I’m feeling good, which doesn’t make any sense because I’m certainly not trying to make myself feel sad.
Have your musical influences evolved over the course of your career?
Absolutely. It’s now easier than ever to discover new artists and I listen to a wide variety of music. What inspires me now is so different from what captivated me when I first started.
Are you a serial musical monogamist – someone who gets obsessed with one song or artist and listens to them nonstop for a while, or do you tend to mix up your listening?
When I find an artist or one particular song that I love, I will listen on repeat for days or even weeks. When I’m in between discoveries, I’m usually listening to jazz or bossa nova.
Can you share which musician(s) have really impressed you lately? What do you love about them?
I’m really into Molly Lewis right now. She’s a whistler. She has sort of an eerie vintage sound. I love it when new music feels like it was created a long time ago.
Keep It Close is out this summer on Muscle Beach Records.