At 23 years old, singer Annalie Prime has a sober perspective on life, many people her age and older, couldn’t articulate – much less put into a song. She chats it up with our contributor Nikeisha Joseph, on colourism, the rock band Queen and her own brand of rebellion.
How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
Creativity is an expression. Just like a smile or a frown, it is an extension of how you feel. Most days creativity is my only expression. The situations I overthink, the words I'm too afraid to say, the love I find difficult to share, the hope that seems lost; they all exist in my creativity. The ability to put all of that and more into a note, a hum, a melody or a phrase is beyond satisfying. It is the core of my life and without it, I'd just be existing.
How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
Your ability to create isn't complex until you make it. I believe I have a Creator and the simple fact that I am a product of that Creator gives me the birthright to create. My best work comes from not trying too hard but understanding that concept and believing in your gift is something you learn over a period of time. I am still learning to trust the things I already have within me.
When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
I was four. Wendy Fitzwilliam had just won the title of Miss Universe for Trinidad and Tobago. KC and JoJo came to the stage to perform 'All My Life' and with all the excitement brewing in the house, in the neighbourhood and in the country, their performance looked and sounded like my destiny. I sang that song all my life Ha! It was the beginning of a deeper connection to the songs on the radio. Just like that, I decided that's what I wanted to do.
What is your standard for evaluating your creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are financial rewards relevant to your projects?
Even though I grew up in Christian home, from time to time my parents would mention and play "secular" tracks they loved like Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle etc. Hearing the vocals from those tracks set my standards really high to the point where it was a bit difficult for me to understand the pop genre at first. Now that I've grown into my own music, ironically singing pop, I still have that foundation; you sing well, you perform well, it makes sense lyrically then I think you're a great artist.
Honestly, as far as my work, I think the music business and the art of music are two completely different things. To make a living from your craft, you have to be in the music business some way or the other. However the amount of money you make, especially now, has nothing to do with how spectacular your end product is. It's about marketing and business. So it's nice to know that your passion can lead you to financial stability and beyond, but I don't think it should be the reason you get into it. It's certainly not the reason I got into it and it's certainly not the reason why I'll stay.
Do you think your perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you believe the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
I always had my own opinions and on any given day, that's what fills 95% of my mental interior. However, when it comes to writing songs, my opinions are sometimes irrelevant. Being unbiased, empathetic and tolerant can lead to a universe of inspiration. Understanding the issues around you and the way people respond to them can make you a better creator. For instance, I grew up in Trinidad and even though I don't know every folklore and haven't heard every calypso, it is a part of me.
If I chose to completely neglect those things inside of me, I would not be able to create whole-heartedly; my music would not be able to speak volumes to the masses. It would just be another song on the radio and then I would have wasted time creating it. Being Trinidadian and having such a rich culture, from the development of calypso to our daily traditions, to the way we speak has been the main reason I have been able to stand out as an artist. As a Trinidadian and by extension West Indian you don't have to look very far for inspiration, it's right outside your window or inside your pot. My culture has given me that extra push you need as an artist to be different and I took it and ran with it. Thank you very much.
What do you do when you experience a creative block?
I sit in the dark and talk to myself for several hours at a time. Sometimes I sit in silence.
How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
I have a recorder on my phone. A wonderful device it is. Inspiration comes to me in various ways; in a strangers perfume or cologne, in the scent of rain falling on the earth, in the colours I see when I close my eyes. I take that the way it comes to me and record it on my phone. You can hear the strangest noises coming from there but it all makes sense to me. From that, I sit at my piano or with my guitar and find the chords that make me feel something. Sometimes those chords sound so good I play them over and over for several days, singing the same thing. Sometimes it takes only five minutes and the entire composition comes to me. Then I record them in the computer. Poof! I have a song.
Do you have any special rituals that you do to achieve your creative goals?
I sit in the dark and talk to myself or sometimes I space out right after I feel a spark. Unfortunately, that could mean missing the rest of a conversation with someone.
Who is on your playlist right now?
Right now I’m listening to Anderson Paak, Lianne La Havas, Chance the Rapper… and I probably listen to Queen every day.
You listen to Queen every day?
Yeah, I'm obsessed – every week I watch one of their concerts. Next, to Lauryn Hill, they’re my favourite! I think they were rejected so much during their time that they just developed their own style.
Stylistically, has your creativity changed as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
Yes of course. I don't try to rhyme anymore and if it happens to, it's because it came naturally. With each passing year, I grow closer to my truth and it shows in my music. I try my very best these days to write what I really feel and not what I think people are gonna like. Somehow I feel more confident singing those words and my performances have more meaning.
What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
I think I missed most of my teen years. Not like, "regret it miss it" but while everyone was out partying and whatever else (I don't really know what they were doing) I was inside my classroom working on writing like Alicia Keys and practising my riffs and vocals. I wouldn't say it was a sacrifice because I didn't have to do it, but I think of it more as an investment. Just because of even way back when I knew that it would all pay off.
Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
There is something within me, I have never been able to say hi to physically and thank but I know it's there because I feel it. That extra bit of courage, that five minutes of patience, that two seconds of better judgment. I call it God.
Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
It is most definitely not important. However, I don't think there is an artist that doesn't need acceptance, whether they admit it or not. I don't wanna go up on stage and sing my heart out to people texting on their phones. I want someone to understand and listen, at least one person. With that being said sometimes it's important to not look forward to acceptance as the end result but rather deliver your work and let the universe work things out.
Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
Yes, and to a greater extent, the fear of rejection. When I was about eight or nine I wanted to play the guitar and several people in my life cursed the thing. I was told it would be more ladylike to play the piano, so I put it down for a while. Coming up to fifteen when I first started singing again and I told my dreams to everyone (big mistake), I was told on several occasions that my dark skin would prevent me from reaching anywhere. So I kept my dreams to myself and went silent for a while. You know I can go on and on but the point is rejection set me back many times. The fear of being in situations like those set me back many times as well. Not forever though.
Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
No, it's a process. You have to respect the process and more importantly your process. I cringe when I hear some of the songs I made but I smile when I hear them next to the current ones. I think to myself, things are happening Annalie.
What’s it like being a Trinidadian trying to break into an international pop music scene?
I think if I wasn't a Trinidadian I would have to fight really hard to be different in an international market. For example, there are so many people that sing really well - but they all sound the same and they're all from New York! Being born here, growing up in a completely different culture, having so many different experiences, gives me an edge. I have to thank Trinidad for that.
What is one of your favourite lyrics in a song that you wrote?
In my song ‘Jasmine’, I say, "I've been looking for an answer and I've been too proud to ask for help.” I like that part cause that's always me.
What about a lyric from another song?
There are some early Kanye West lyrics that I really like. Lol! In ‘All Falls Down’ he says, "Even if you in a Benz, you still a n-word in a Coupe." He was explaining how we have broken out of physical slavery but we’re still in mental slavery.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
I doubt myself every day. I experience this intense anxiety out of the blue. I've been learning how to deal with it. I've learnt that fear and doubt are not bad things. If anything, they’re good measurements for how aware you are. If you are fearful of something you created or doubting yourself about creating something, that could very well mean that it is spectacular and you need to channel that fear and doubt into passion and proceed.
You seem to have an amazing grasp of things of who you are and what you want. Where did you get a sense of self and confidence?
I will have to give all of that to my parents! I was kind of a wonder child - at one point I was making pottery, and then I was tiling… but whatever I felt I could do, they were like, “Yeah, you do that!" Even though they don't always understand what I’m doing, they always gave me the space and confidence to do it.
What piece of work are you most proud? Why?
Whatever I did last. It is the latest and greatest version of me.
What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
A lecturer once told me, that I was good all by myself and that I should stop pretending. Best advice ever.
To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
Before working on everything else, get to your core and stand firm. If it's shaky, work on it. Find your self-confidence, your self-worth, a love for yourself and your craft that will keep you together and keep you grounded. After that, fight for what you love like it's worth dying for.
What do you think it takes to be a full-time artist?
Generally, it takes a lot of bravery - especially if you're from the Caribbean. You can’t just walk down the street to Sony for a meeting. It takes educating yourself non-stop about the business. Also, a lot of people think that getting signed to a label is it - but it's not it at all. You can't depend on anybody to do anything for you, and even if they are doing things for you, you still shouldn't leave your career in their hands. You should be on your feet, deciding what's next and what's important for the future of your career.
Do you want to be famous?
Being famous means having the power to change a stigma and I like the idea of having the power to break barriers. When you walk into a studio as a female, even in Trinidad, you literally have to prove yourself or else you're just another female in the studio.
For what would you like to be most remembered?
When I retire, which is when I die, I want someone to say my name and people feel something, to such a magnitude that they are transported into the very moment they first heard me. That's it. If they remember me for nothing else I want people to remember the way I made them feel. If my music made them fall in love or smile, or cry or dance until their feet were sore. I want them to remember that feeling.
If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
Here's a little something for your veiwing and listening pleasure. Enjoy!