Nashville resident Anastasia Elliot is making cutting-edge music the way that she wants to, by giving her audience exceptional, electro-infused pop music that is both groundbreaking and unique. Equipped with tools collected from a disciplined background of classical training, Anastasia is a singularly gifted musician and singer that will surely rise above the pack in the years to come.
While in conversation with Anastasia, I had the chance to hear first-hand about a startling experience that she had while writing the lyrics for her single “Crash Landing” aboard a commercial flight.
It looks like you’ve had a lot of formal training in classical piano and vocal performance. How and where did you originally train? And tell me how you made the transition into songwriting and popular music.
I grew up surrounded by classical music. My grandfather was on the board of the opera and the ballet and the symphony, so we spent our weekends doing all of those wonderful things. That was hugely influential to me, growing up.
I started singing opera around 8 years old and playing classical piano around 4 or 5. I always knew I was going to be in music, but when I was kind of getting to that point of, okay, what kind of musician am I going to be, the classical world just didn’t seem to fit me. So, I decided I was going to be more in pop-rock music, and I tried hard to implement as much classical as I could into all of my songs.
It definitely has changed — it is super-influential in the way that I write melodies, I think because even when I’m writing string parts, I sing them to the musicians. I’ve always got some classical melodies in my head.
I was going to say, in listening to your music, I can definitely hear the influence of your classical training, especially in “The Boy Who Cried Love.” There’s a section in there, was it in Italian that you’re singing?
Yes, Italian in that one, and then there’s French in “Cigarettes and Gasoline.” I love bringing in other languages.
I could tell you’re definitely trained to sing in other languages.
When I hear your songs, it feels like you have sort of an elevated pop sensibility. It’s mainstream, but it’s a cut above the usual pop fare. How would you describe your overall style, and who are your influences?
Rachmaninoff is a favorite composer of mine and Chopin and Beethoven. I love a lot of darker pieces. I was never one to play happy music. So, those early classical pieces were, and still are, mainly what I listen to. I don’t really listen to a lot of music outside of classical music.
And then the ’80s were super-influential to me, growing up because my dad loves ’80s music and always had it on in the house. I loved how theatrical and just maximalist everything was. I definitely bring that into my music.
Were you a fan of the ’80s synth sounds?
Yes, I love all the synths. When we were recording the record, we didn’t use any kind of programming. It was all analog synths, and we really tried to keep things as organic as possible.
I read a really interesting story about your new single, “Crash Landing.” Apparently, while you were traveling to finish the song, your plane literally crash-landed.
I know most people probably ask you what was going through your head during the incident, but in addition to that, I’d like to know how the song itself changed as a result of the experience.
Absolutely. There are obviously many things that it was about, but the actual metaphor itself was just something — we were, like, oh, this would be really cool. But it didn’t have any kind of meaning in my life.
And then, when I was in that plane crash, I was actually working on the lyrics on the plane, and now I try not to write anything I don’t want to manifest. But during the crash, there was not a whole lot going through my mind about the song. But when I went to the video that week, to work on it, it was just such a wild experience, and I kept on getting these tunnel vision insight moments. It really changed how I sing the song and what it means to me.
And then when we later cut the album, that’s definitely the song that I feel so much when I’m in the studio and on stage because it’s so traumatic and deeply personal — more than about any other.
What happened with the plane, exactly? Did the landing gear not come down?
It was pilot error. She was coming in too fast, and instead of taking back off and recircling, hit the ground too hard and crushed the landing gear into the plane. We slid about 2,000 feet on the tarmac and caught on fire. It was wild.
Oh, goodness. Did you have to go down the slides and all of that?
We did. I did get to go down the slide. It was not as fun as it looks.
Oh, I wouldn’t imagine that it would be.
You kind of have to push yourself down. It’s like when a slide is not at a good angle. At least ours wasn’t, because the front of the plane was collapsed down, so kind of had to scoot down the slide.
So, it was a bad slide, at that. That’s terrible.
Well, I’m sorry you had to experience that, but I’m glad that it helped your art, at least. I’m glad you’re okay.
I never want it to happen again, but I am not sorry that I was in that experience because it transformed my life in many ways that were positive.
Is there anything that you wouldn’t mind telling me about a few ways that it positively impacted you?
No, absolutely. After that experience, I definitely went deep into self-study and learning how I could make the most of life. Before that, I wouldn’t say that I was a very tuned-in person. After that experience, I started to appreciate time differently, and who I give my time to, and just kind of in general how I spend my time.
Before the plane crashed, I was not really a big reader, and for some reason, afterward, I just became a voracious reader, and now read about 65 books a year. And I used to not really like to be outside, and now I love being outside and always have my hands in the dirt. It really changed how I am connected to the world. Near-death experiences tend to have that effect on people.
I’ve had a similar experience that’s caused me to behave in a similar way, but it’s called “getting older.”
[Laughs] You know, in some ways, I do feel like that kind of is what happened, because I was 18 when I was in the plane crash, and that day really took away my invincibility, that 18-year-old, nothing-can-harm-me kind of mentality. It definitely pushed me to grow up faster, and I think I got some life lessons that I would have gotten later on. I got them early.
I was, like, you know, statistically, what are the odds that I could be in two (crashes)? That’s never going to happen. And then that was kind of what I used, in the beginning, to make it better to fly, and then I met someone that was in two, and that just ruined it.
I think that statistically speaking, you’re an outlier, having been involved in one and then having met somebody that’s been involved in two. I think it cancels you out for having to have another one. I think you’re going to be okay.
I hope so.
I really enjoyed the video for “Crash Landing.”
It’s a wonderful performance on your part. The whole thing’s done in one take.
I’m sure we’ll link to it on the page so that people will be able to see it. Did you rehearse the shoot like a play? Tell me a little about collaborating with the director and crew, how you pulled it all off.
It was an intense shoot. It is one take, so there’s so much choreography on both my part and the DP’s part, and the camera op. So, it was a lot of pre-thinking of exactly where the motions were going to go, and when my hand would go up, that the camera would follow the hand.
So, some takes, I messed up, and some takes, they messed up, and even if the focus-puller wasn’t perfectly on one time, the take would be shot. So, it was really important for us to keep it one take and not hide any cuts.
The rundown of the video is kind of my reimagining of the plane crash. “Cigarettes and Gasoline” is the prologue to the story, and I can’t say exactly how it ends, because it is up for interpretation. But it then throws us into this cockpit, where I’m in control of this plane, or spaceship, and things start to go wrong and leaves us in a crash-landing. But it was a very intensive shoot, and there’s a lot happening behind the scenes that you can’t see.
Where did you shoot it, and how did you connect with the crew? How did that come together?
I have a wonderful crew that does all of my content. So, the project was a 13-song visual experience, and we have worked together on the entire thing. The whole story and everything was fleshed out before we began. We built the spaceship here in Nashville.
I love that you made it science-fiction and outer space because the song does have an electro-sensibility that lends itself to sci-fi. Also, the fact that it’s in outer space, there’s something life-and-death about it, almost spiritual, because it’s almost a kind of Heaven, in a way.
Was that a conscious choice to say, “let’s have it in outer space” rather than on an airplane because it’ll feel more dire?
Definitely. That was absolutely conscious. And the future videos that are more down the line start to piece together.
So for the upcoming album, you’re doing a video for each song?
That falls into my next question. “Crash Landing” is the first single from the upcoming album. Tell me a little more about this new project and how it will be releasing.
It is a 13-song, visual experience. There will be more than 13 videos, but 13 for the main part of the record. And then I’m going to be singing each song individually and chronologically, not as a complete just album drop. It’ll be a collection when it’s over, but it’ll be coming out as singles.
Would we expect the next one next month?
Yes, roughly next month. We’re still working out some timing, but roughly next month, yeah.
All right, I don’t want to pin you into any time too hard. We’ll look for it over the next four to six weeks, let’s say.
On your website, I see you have some dates planned in Nashville. How much will you be playing live as the album releases, and is there hope for a tour?
Yes, we’re planning on doing a lot of touring this year. We unfortunately, had to cancel our Ohio run. We were supposed to tour to Ohio next week, and that was canceled because of coronavirus. So, I’m not sure exactly when the next shows will be because of that, but we’re looking to be out a lot for the summer and fall, God willing. Coronavirus willing.
I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that. That’s very tough.
It’s okay. But I love playing live, more than just about anything. So I’m ready to be back on the road.
Well, good. How do you present your songs live? On your tour, will you have a band? Will you be playing piano live as you sing?
I do have a band. I have a guitarist and a drummer, and the guitarist’s name is Sam Ventura; my drummer’s name is Brandon Salewsky, and they are both incredible. We have a full light show and video show, and it’s definitely a live experience. We’ve tried our best to bring a stadium-type show into smaller venues. I do play piano live, and will be playing guitar live, as well.
Could you tell me about what keyboards, guitars, microphones you use? Do you have any endorsement deals, partnerships?
Definitely. The piano that I tour with right now is a Roland GO. My guitar, I’m endorsed by Godin, so I have an electric and two acoustics, depending on the type of show we’re doing. For microphones, right now, I’m using Shure microphones.
Where are you recording the new songs, and who is producing?
This full album was recorded in Nashville between a couple of studios, Blackbird and Welcome to 1979. It was produced by myself and a man named Josh Crosby. And we are just now starting to work on record two, so stay tuned.
Wonderful. I look forward to hearing more about that. It seems like you have a lot on your plate.
Definitely a lot. It’s wonderful.
Good. Finally, just let the readers know where they can find you online.
Definitely. Spotify and YouTube, and I’m on Instagram and Facebook at Anastasia Elliot. And I’m on Twitter.
I need to tweet more, though. I’m way better at Instagram. I’m way more of a visual person, so Instagram’s my favorite.
That’s the going trend.
But you can also find all those things on my website, AnastasiaElliot.com. It’ll link you to everything. That’s the hub.
Well, Anastasia, it’s been great talking to you.
Great talking to you. Thank you so much.