annahawkinsHi Anna, thanks for taking the time to let us get to know you better. Let’s start at the very beginning…

What musical training did you have growing up, and at what point did you decide that you wanted to make a career of singing?
I started singing publicly from the age of seven at the local Country and Western Club. I did a lot of competitions and had informal lessons to prepare for these with someone who led the club. I learnt a lot about performance, looking back at old videos I wonder where I got my confidence. At the age of eleven I began formal classical singing lessons this opened me up to a lot of different musical styles, I won some classical competitions at 12 & 13 and recorded my first album at 14. Its hard to pinpoint when I decided I wanted to have a career in singing, it was very early on.  I remember being in hospital at the age of 10 after a motorbike accident with a blow to my voicebox. I wasn’t allowed to talk or sing and the doctors were worried about my voice coming back. This was extremely upsetting because by that age I’d determined this was what I wanted to do with my life.

Do you have any favorite performance memories, whether it was a prestigious event or collaborating with a certain orchestra, or even a special “first” for you?
There are many memorable moments. I particularly remember at the age of 15 performing in-front of 200,000 at the Coca Cola Christmas in the Park at Auckland Domain. More recently would be performing my song, Journey On, with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra at Hagley Park and time recording in Poland and London. Those were pinch me moments.

You are currently preparing to tour as Christine in Ken Hills Phantom of the Opera in Japan. What are some other musical theatre (or opera) roles that you have performed, or would like to perform someday? Yes its very exciting. I’ve played Fantine in Les Miserables, Florence in Chess, Lucy in Jekyll & Hyde and more recently Kim in Miss Saigon. Funnily enough I’d love to perform these roles again if I got the chance. I’ve always been attracted to the role of ‘Eponine’ in Les Mis and  I think Elphaba in Wicked would be a fabulous role also. I love to dance and act so it would be great to explore this more in the future.

Your album contains a mixture of original songs and favorites from the classical crossover genre; what was your process of choosing songs for the album? Did the selections seem to fall in place quickly, or was it a long process to narrow down your list?
It did take me some time choosing the material, I wanted to be unique in my song choices. There are many songs in my repertoire that didn’t make it to the album because I felt like they’d already been done. Having originals grace the album was a first for me and an exciting step. I’d narrowed it down to five to choose from and they all ended up making it on the album.

What was the most challenging aspect of undertaking the project of recording an entire album by yourself? What was the most rewarding?
To be honest I think the most challenging thing is second guessing yourself. It was a  huge undertaking for me and one that involved a lot of risk.  It can be a scary thing and sometimes you can question am I doing the right thing, is this going to work out, am I making the right decisions, its easy to doubt yourself or get discouraged along the way.
Dreams cost you something but its worth it. The most rewarding thing is getting to do what makes you come alive inside. To now have an album in my hand that other people are enjoying and being touched by is also incredibly rewarding.

When did you first begin writing your own songs? Part of being a classically-oriented singer is not necessarily performing “covers” but bringing life to the work of beloved songwriters and composers. Do you have a preference between performing your own work vs. songs written by others?
Writing and performing my own songs is relatively new for me. I did dabble when I was younger but its really only blossomed in the past 3 to 4 years. Its something I didn’t see myself doing, being a classical singer, but now realize its a huge part of me to express myself in that way. I love being able to take songs from a wealth of songwriters and perform them as well as my own songs. However performing my originals I’ve found to be more vulnerable and I think theres something special in that.

It’s obvious from lyrical imagery in some of your songs like “Delicate Flower” as well as the atmosphere and lovely backdrop of New Zealand in your album photoshoot that you are inspired by the beauty of nature; what are some other sources from which you draw inspiration? Obviously from my own life and experiences but also from observing other people, cultures and history. I also draw inspiration from God and spirituality. A lot of songs stem from a thought and/or emotion.

Many artists are using “crowd-sourcing” platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter to fund their album recording projects; you yourself funded “Journey On” through Indiegogo. What was that experience like? Did you have certain expectations that were not met, and some that were exceeded beyond what you imagined?
Yes, after I’d recorded the album I still needed funds for the manufacturing and other expenses and was encouraged to do a indiegogo campaign, something a friend had done for his album. While the album recording itself had already been funded by my own money and means there were still many expenses. It also seemed like a good way to involve friends, family and those who follow me in my project. We didn’t reach the goal by a long shot but it was so encouraging to have people support what it is your trying to achieve.

Are there any other genres besides classical crossover that you could see yourself performing, either as an extension of your current career, or as a “one-off” just for fun?
I think listening to my album you can tell I enjoy Celtic music. I have Irish heritage and I’d particularly like to explore this genre of music more. I’d love to do a ‘spiritual album’ in the future, perhaps. It will be interesting to see how my songwriting develops as this will influence the style of my albums in the future also.

What music do you listen to recreationally? Can you share your top five favorite albums with us? 
I listen to all sorts of music from classical, opera, musical theatre and Celtic/world music  through to pop and classic rock.
I love Josh Groban (particularly All that Echoes, Closer & Awake) and Andrea Boccelli albums. I’ve also been enjoying listening to Celtic singer Loreena Mckennitt. When I’m in the mood I love show soundtracks and I enjoy NZ singer/songwriter Brooke Fraser and the Bethel Band.

 You address some deeper issues in your original songs while maintaining the lyricism of poetry, enabling people to take away their own interpretation of your songs. Is there one message in particular that you hope people receive from your music?
I think the main message would be hope. I’d like for my songs to be thought provoking but ultimately to leave the listener feeling inspired and more hopeful than before. I want to make music that is healing and uplifting to people and connects them to an emotion inside. This is what I appreciate most about music, the power it has to touch our souls.