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Interview: Anna Coddington Chats About New Album 'Beams'

Interview: Anna Coddington Chats About New Album 'Beams'

Annabel Kean / Tuesday 24th November, 2020 2:06PM

The stunning Anna Coddington has her fourth studio album Beams out in full this Friday, which will mark the third of three massive achievements in just seven days: an album drop, a full marathon, and an exclusive interview with UTR. Coddington kindly chatted to us about the imminent release, as well as the strong themes of motherhood that emerged as the Māori songwriter compiled four years worth of material since album Luck/Time in 2016. As someone who was apparently "actually a lazy kid", she's also begun something of a tradition of huge, physical challenges coinciding with each collection, from earning her black belt in karate, to literally giving birth. Get to know Anna Coddington a little better below...

Annabel Kean: There's this gorgeous lyric in the first song on Beams that goes "I'm not a god, I'm just your mother". Did you always expect you'd one day write an album with these themes of motherhood running through it?

Anna Coddington: I never expected that. What happened with this album is that I stepped back one day to take an overview of what songs I had written in the 4 years since my last album and motherhood emerged as the thread throughout them. Even through songs which I didn't originally conceive of as having any connection to being a mum. Like Pirouette which is about my climate anxiety- but that anxiety really is for my children and their children. Or Night Class which is about learning te reo Māori at kura pō, but really I'm doing that because my kids are in Māori medium education. And I think that lyric you picked out sums up a lot of what's behind some of these songs. It's like the ultimate imposter syndrome — I want to be a good mother more than anything else and it's easy to fall short of your own expectations with anything but with something like parenting it can be a real time.

What do your kids think of you being a famous musician?

They don't think I'm famous. I also don't think I'm famous. I'm not famous lol. They were in the video for the song Stay which I was part of over lock down and I think my eldest got some props for that? But they tell me to stop every time I start singing. Every. Time.

Tell me about the album title 'Beams'. Beams of light? Building beams?

Honestly I don't like naming albums. I'm always so focused on making the music then I come out the other end of that and have to get into a totally different headspace to dot all the i's and cross all the t's of releasing an album- titles, art, videos, bios, promo and all that. I was going to call it Do I Exist? but then thought that was a bit too heavy and up it's own arse for an album that, although it's sometimes on the heavier side kaupapa-wise, is actually quite an enjoyable listen. So Beams felt like it could represent all of the things here. Light, buildings, thoughts, wairua, energy, what have you. Once I settled on it it felt right. I often conceptualise things in terms of connections or relationships and think of lines between people and things- like a whakapapa chart or something. So those connections are like beams too, and there's some kind of beam that runs through these songs.

What's something you've learnt through this album process that you wish you'd figured out in the past?

I think making this album has been a time of intense personal growth for me, so most of the things I learned in the process that I wish I'd figured out earlier are to do with that- that I can just be who I am and not care what people think. Be a woman in a room full of men, be a Māori in a room full of Pākeha, be a 39 year old mum in a room full of young, carefree musicians and be ok with those aspects of myself. I've been those things many times in my life and it's only now I can see how it has at times made me tailor myself to suit a situation and blend in more for whatever reason. Now I don't think about that stuff really. But again a lot of that comes back to parenting — when you're a working mum you quickly run out of time to think about what someone else is thinking about you.

So, you're running a marathon and releasing an album in the space of one week. Have you always had this drive? Where's that come from?

I was actually a lazy kid. I never did any sports. I'm still lazy in my heart but exercise is so important for me. It's a mental health thing and I didn't really realise that until recently. Before running it was karate. The year I made my first album I did my black belt grading and the year I made my second album I did my second dan. Having a big physical goal when I have a big creative goal seems like a conflict and I didn't plan it to go like that, but what I realise now is the big physical goal keeps me moving forward in all aspects of my life. Training for that marathon has felt like the thing that's held this crazy year together for me. If I felt shit about music or lockdown or anything else, eventually I'd have to go for a run no matter how I felt and it gets me out of my mind and into my body and the real world. But I still have a moment of the lazy kid in my heart going "do I haaaave to?" before every run. Before I committed to the marathon I was trying out being relaxed and just go running when I felt like it. I run with my bass player Mike and we call this "soul running" lol. But I ended up feeling unmotivated and bored of irregular short runs so somehow I decided the answer to that was running a marathon. My friend Anika entered the half marathon and that's what inspired me really because she wasn't a runner before that. So I said I'd go with her and do the full and it would be a big challenge for both of us and jesus was it ever.

(In case anyone wonders about my third album — I had a baby at the end of making that which I count as a big physical goal).

By the time you read these you'll have probably done the big run. What on earth goes through your head while you run 42kms???

I did it! My legs hurt and I'm tired but I feel great. Podcasts are the key. Podcasts about interesting things and then I had a playlist of power tunes for the last 10km. My band have been segueing into Rage Against The Machine songs at our rehearsals for lols so there was some of that on there and other standard bangers like WAP, Savage, etc. They really helped but in my head there was definitely a lot of chat about pace- "don't go too fast" at the start, and "pick it up" at the end. A lot of scenery appreciation. But I think the reason I love running is because of the not-thinking thinking mind-state it induces. I know I thought a lot of thoughts but I can't remember what they were- it's like subconscious stuff. It's important and helpful but it happens without your active involvement.

Have you delved into writing children's music at all? Is that something you'd like to do?

I did a couple of songs for a kids TV show a while back (before I had kids) but other than that not really. I have lots of musical projects on the go at any given time but children's music hasn't appealed to me so far. I think because I do lots of kid stuff with my kids and it's not what I feel like doing when I finally get to go into my studio to make music. Also my kids have never been big into kids music like The Wiggles and that. I don't think I liked it as a kid either. They've enjoyed a few of Aunty Neeka's (Anika Moa's) songs over the years- her kids albums are brilliant- but it's not for me at this stage. Never say never though!

Anna Coddington's album 'Beams' is out Friday 27th November via Loop Recordings.


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