ANNIKA is a storyteller. She is an accomplished musician, vocalist and songwriter known for her soulful vocals. Her voice transports audiences through a musical journey, filling spaces in our hearts and souls with a rich, nuanced emotion.
ANNIKA’s ability to capture audiences comes not just from her musical charisma, but from a refreshingly authentic and often comedic personality, which has powerfully engaged and entertained audiences around the world as part of the CCMA-nominated ‘Leaving Thomas’ duo, and now, as a highly anticipated solo artist.
Her upcoming debut full-length solo album, Stand Still is a departure from her previous work and showcases a more mature, introspective ANNIKA, highlighting her talents as a musician, specifically as a piano player. Today, she has released two singles.
“I Really Don’t Want To” is a heavy-hitting musical jam with a message of empowerment while at the same time, describing the intoxicating, impossible to understand feeling of falling in love. A double dose of music, ANNIKA has also released “It Still Hurts” as a “twingle” – two singles released on the same date. “It Still Hurts” outlines the painful, often lengthy healing process required after a love goes wrong.
Moving on from country-pop duo Leaving Thomas to pursue a career as a solo artist, what prompted you to take a new musical direction? How has your husband, JUNO award winner Spencer Cheyne, impacted your music?
“I really loved my journey being one half of “Leaving Thomas”. I was writing, recording, and performing with one of my best friends. It was so nice to have someone by my side for the ups and downs of the journey. When Bryton decided he wanted to leave music to pursue his passion (growing and developing his marketing business), I fully supported him. As a friend, it makes me happy to know that he is doing what he loves, and that I am able to continue doing what I love which is making music. I am very fortunate that even though I am technically a solo artist now, my producer/mixer/drummer/musical director/co-writer happens to be my husband, Spencer Cheyne! I can honestly say these songs have been a team effort between the two of us. Not only is he a very talented, dedicated, and passionate producer, but being that he knows me so well, he has done a beautiful job of bringing my vision to life and allowed me to be part of the creative process in a way I haven’t been before.”
Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, what got you interested in singing and piano playing? Did you have other interests growing up? What made you decide to make singing your career?
“I began taking classical piano at the age of 4 with the Royal Conservatory of Music. I also began taking private classical violin lessons the same year. Later on, when I was about 10 years old, I started taking voice lessons and acting in every musical theatre production that would let me in! I knew I loved being on stage, and I started writing music when I was about 13, using my training as a pianist to accompany myself. When I was 16, I auditioned for Canadian Idol and much to my surprise, ended up making it to the Top 11. After that experience, I realized I wanted to be a recording artist and spent the next decade writing, performing as a piano bar entertainer on cruise ships, and eventually dipping my toes in the Canadian Country Music scene as part of “Leaving Thomas.” I think every experience has led me to where I am today and now I am ready to hit the ground running as a solo artist!”
What inspired you to write your first of two upcoming singles, “I Really Don’t Want To”? Did you have a specific memory/breakup that came to mind when you started writing the single? How does the second single “It Still Hurts” complement the first? What does love mean to you?
“‘I Really Don’t Want To’ was actually inspired by a line from the movie, “Rumor Has It”. At the end of the movie, Jennifer Aniston tells Mark Ruffalo’s character that she can live without him, she just doesn’t want to. I’ve always loved that sentiment because I loved life as a single woman and truly feel that I can “stand on my own” (as per the lyrics of the song), but I also really enjoy falling in love and have always fallen fast and hard. The song is a song of empowerment – I want people, especially women to realize that you can let yourself fall in love and even if it doesn’t work out, you can pick yourself back up again.”
“‘It Still Hurts’ is all about that feeling when you think you’re over someone, but then you see them unexpectedly and suddenly, out of nowhere, emotions that you’ve buried deep come rushing to the surface. You know you aren’t back at the beginning, but you also know you haven’t quite reached the finish line in terms of moving on.”
You have performed at multiple events, such as a Top 11 Canadian Idol finalist, the Calgary Stampede Grandstand show with a combined audience of over 200,000 people, “In The Round” at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee (2017), the Birdland Jazz Club in New York City, New York (2017), and headlining MTV’s anti-trafficking event, “Freedom For Others” in Bangkok, Thailand (2014). Which of these events is most memorable to you and why?
“The greatest part about being an artist has been the many stages I’ve performed on and the places I’ve seen. Each venue has such unique qualities (whether it be the location itself, the audience, or the music I was performing). I would have to say that hosting the Grandstand Show at the Calgary Stampede was a career highlight for me. In one part of the show, I was singing Prince’s “Purple Rain” on a flying piano above a crowd of 20,000 people in my hometown. It’s pretty hard to beat that experience! I also think that performing in the round at the legendary “Bluebird Café” in Nashville, TN was also a dream. As a songwriter, I had always hoped I would get the opportunity to perform there, and I’m so glad I got to do it as part of Leaving Thomas.”
Gearing up to release your first full-length solo record in the coming months, what can fans and new listeners alike expect from both an artistic and individual standpoint? Is there a specific message you want your listeners to take away from your work?
“This album is truly a reflection of who I am, right now, in this moment as a woman. All of the songs were written with close friends (or my husband), and I feel the project showcases me as a songwriter, pianist, and vocalist in a way that is authentic and more mature than previous projects. I am excited to show a softer, more vulnerable side to my fans and new listeners, and hope that they get to know me a bit better as a result.”
Pulse Music Magazine is a creative space allowing musicians to showcase their craft and build their audience. Is there any piece of advice you could offer other up-and-coming artists who wish to follow their dreams?
“My advice to up-and-coming artists is somewhat unconventional. I would say, in addition to dedicating yourself to your craft as a musician, writer, performer etc., take time to experience things outside of the music industry. Travel, meet new people, and challenge yourself. I think doing so will make you a stronger performer, and a more interesting artist. After all, if you’re a writer, you need something to write about! Don’t let the music industry take over your entire life when there is so much more beyond it that will help you as an artist in the long run.”
Connect With Annika: