Interview: Ann Klein

Dan McAvinchey: Ann, we've just gotten word of your upcoming tour with Sara Lee. Tell us about the gig and how you managed to land the job.

Ann Klein: I've known Sara forever. Well, not forever, but we've been friends for a while. I guess that's how I landed the job! I told Sara frequently that I really wanted to do the gig, and I think she heard me loud and clear.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you think you'll be able to work in any Ann Klein originals into the set?

Ann Klein: Right now, this is about Sara. Sara's been a side-person for so many artists and this is her moment. I want to be as supportive as I can. She's so cool though -- we did a live internet broadcast for in Woodstock and she introduced me not only as her guitarist but as a singer and songwriter. So, you never know what's going to happen in the future.

Dan McAvinchey: Your CD, "Driving You Insane", features blues-tinged rock, but with a fair amount of stylistic variety. Who are your influences musically and who inspires you today?

Ann Klein: As a writer, I love so many different kinds of music. I've always loved the Beatles, the Police, Prince, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Patsy Cline, KD
Lang, Los Lobos, you know, the old school of songwriting. But I also love salsa, reggae, Bach, Bartok, Beethoven, Nirvana, The Clash and The Gang of Four. As a guitarist, I've had many influences as well: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Adrian Belew, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page -- Andy Gill too. I love their songs as well. I think the stylistic variety comes from the fact that I love so many different kinds of music and I've played with a lot of different kinds of artists. I've played with a salsa band, a blues band, numerous pop bands, an avant-garde jammy classical-jazz band. Currently I'm inspired by groups
like Portishead, the Chemical Brothers, the Cardigans, Magnetic Fields. I like the sense of texture, particularly the way guitar is used as a textural instrument as opposed to a lead instrument. Electric guitar has so many possibilities; of course, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray still inspire me deeply.

Dan McAvinchey: You sing and play electric guitar. Which one gives you the most satisfaction?

Ann Klein: This is a difficult question. I guess I'd have to say that playing the guitar gives me more immediate satisfaction because that palette has a lot more colors to offer me, other artists, and the audience. It's easy for me to come up with parts whether they are solos, textures, finger-picking, funky, even some jazz chords and slide! But I've been getting a lot of satisfaction from singing because it's always been such a huge challenge. I've been working very hard on improving my singing. Singing also involves
lyrics, which is also a huge challenge. So when I take on a challenge, the reward is less immediate, but if I'm happy with a lyric and a vocal, I've tackled something. Big payoff. That's empowering. I suppose it's empowering to bang out a guitar part too! Maybe I'm just a better guitarist.

Dan McAvinchey: You wrote or co-wrote all the songs on "Driving You Insane". How do you come up with your original material?

Ann Klein: It happens in many ways. Sometimes I'll come up with a cool riff and I'll play it for months and nothing happens. Then a year later, the rest of the tune comes. Sometimes I'll come up with a cool name for a title and everything will happen around that. "Cowboy Poets" was inspired by an article I read in the New York Times a few years ago about these seemingly macho cowboys who go to these cowboy poetry readings and read! I was totally blown away by that. "Driving You Insane" was inspired by an obsession I had with this guy. I just wanted to drive him crazy! So I thought of all these weird dramatic things someone might want to have happen in his/her life, but most of all, the biggest thing was to "drive you insane".

Often I'll write with folks. I'll get stuck and I'll ask someone to write a line and get me out of the stuck muck. "Fun for the Rich" is a co-write. Things around me inspire me too. I spent the summer at the MacDowell Colony and it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I wrote a song called "Blink of an Eye" that paints that beautiful picture. But it sounds melancholy -- the song had a tears of joy feeling. I
also wrote a song based on a short story someone there was writing and he
actually came up with some lines at the end. A lot inspires me -- sound, stories, pictures, people.

Dan McAvinchey: Do you have a home studio or do you just record in commercial facilities?

Ann Klein: I just got a VS-1680 which I became a lot more familiar with over the summer. I do a lot of demos at home but I might actually be able to release something from my home studio! I also have a sequencer with lots of cool sounds and that is opening a whole new world to me. But in the past, I have used studios. For real drum sounds with real drummers, I have to go to a real studio. Get real!

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Dan McAvinchey: What are your goals instrumentally? Are you still striving to improve as a player?

Ann Klein: My goals instrumentally are to support the overall piece of music. As a player, I've become a lot more interested in texture as opposed to technique. I also got a lapsteel guitar and I've been learning to import that into my playing and sound palette (I like that palette word).

Dan McAvinchey: Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the amount of work it takes to get attention as an independent artist?

Ann Klein: Yes! How do I make a living, be an artist, a promoter, etc.? I have some help, but on a small budget, it's difficult. There's so much to do and there is so much talent out there, making it difficult to stand out. I'm getting a lot more choosy about the things I will and won't do, which helps me emotionally in dealing with the attention factor. And oddly enough, doing less has brought me more. Yeah, it's that old zen thing.

Dan McAvinchey: What are your views on the whole online music controversy? Do you feel the Internet can help artists like yourself?

Ann Klein: Change is good. Yes, I think the internet can help. The music industry needs a shake-up every ten years and we're in the middle of a big one. People are hungry for music alternatives and are looking for it. It's an opportunity for folks like Guitar 9 to bring out peripheral folks like me -- especially if on-line venues make a commitment to making that happen. The whole on-line thing is like the FM radio of the 60s and 70s. And people ate it up. FM radio didn't sell product though. On-liners can sell
advertising and product. I feel being on the periphery is the best place to be. I'll never fit in to the corporate music machine as it is now. I'm not 16.

Dan McAvinchey: What's next on the horizon for you?

Ann Klein: To keep having a blast. I'm really into having fun these days.

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Ann Klein is a New York City based guitarist who has played with an ever-growing list of notables: Natalie Imbruglia, Joan Osborne, PM Dawn, Alisha's Attic, Imani Coppola, Stephen King, Maurice Sendak and Sara Lee. In addition to the tours and various other recording projects, she somehow found the time to write countless songs and independently record a CD, "Driving You Insane", which was critically acclaimed in Billboard (two full length articles), Relix and Guitar World. Clearly a woman on the move.

Dan McAvinchey touched base with Klein to discuss her upcoming gig, her influences and writing style.