(Issue 1) Music Feature: Andreanna

Interviewed and Photographed by Joana Meurkens

Andreanna is a biracial musician born and bred in Boston, Massachusetts. She has a certain air about her, when she walks into a room everybody holds their breath. She emanates pure beauty and strength. After spending a humid afternoon running around Tompkins Square Park taking photos, we sat down and talked about how she became the artist she is today. With topics ranging from early R&B influences to the power of social media and collaboration, see how this rising star is making her mark on the world.

Tell me where you were born and where you grew up, you know the beginning of the Wikipedia page.

I was born in Boston, Mass and I lived there until I was 18. The thing with Boston is that a lot of people think that it’s only white people. Boston has a lot of Caribbean people, so my neighborhood had a lot of Jamaicans, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans. 

I’ve been writing music since I was a kid, but I really found my passion for it in high school. I had a theater teacher in middle school who told me that I had talent and that I should audition for Boston Arts Academy. It is a very dope high school, and I believe it’s the only performing arts school in Massachusetts I believe. I’m grateful for my middle school teacher because he really motivated me to attend the school. I auditioned with the song Amazing Grace, which is mad funny. At this school you start off doing classical music for two years and then when you’re a junior you can pick your “major”, which is either classical, jazz, or production. I chose jazz. I was also in this choir, which was “Negro Spirituals Ensemble”. It was a whole new world for me. We even got to travel a bit, which was pretty cool.

I also went to a voice program and had to study classical music first. Do you think that style influenced your work now or do you see it as an institutional thing?

It was dope because I didn’t know anything about classical music. Growing up, I listened to a lot of R&B and I still do, but it was a window into learning a completely different style and about the craft of my own voice (being a Mezzo- Soprano). It’s a different setting, you go from listening to Brandy to being in this setting with twenty other kids and learning songs from centuries ago. It was dope and the vocal training helped a lot. I didn’t hate the music itself, but I appreciate it for what it was.

How does your cultural heritage play a role in your understanding of self? 

To make a long story short, my mom’s biological parents are white and after my mom was born, my grandmother had my aunt a year later by a Black man, so my mom was raised by my aunt’s father. Growing up, I only had my grandmother and my mom who were white; so I grew up with my Black family. Growing up people would always ask me “What are you? Because you look hispanic…” and I was like, “no…I’m Black and white.” For many years I tried to convince myself that I was confused about who I was because I was biracial, but as I got older I realized I’m not. I just think that’s what people expect biracial people to be and that’s not to discredit people who feel that way, because I know biracial people who grew up in a setting where they didn’t feel accepted. I grew up as a Black woman and that’s my experience, that’s what I identify as. I would say I’m a mixed race Black woman.

What is your artistry and how have you gotten to this point as a musician?

I grew up listening to a lot of R&B and soul music, and that’s always had a big influence on me. My mom listened to a lot of that stuff and my dad listened to a lot of Hip-hop, which also really inspires my work. I started writing songs and lyrics when I was really young, I still remember the first song I wrote, I was spitting lyrics on the toilet… I will never forget those lyrics.

When you listen to your music, do you think it falls into a certain genre? Or do you think there’s a shift in the way we view genres and categorize music? 

People ask me that all the time, who do you compare yourself to and I never know what to say, because I know I make R&B for the most part. That’s what I’ve put out so far, but I’m not going to put myself in that box. I never know what sub genre to put myself into, I guess contemporary R&B. I’m always subconsciously inspired by people and things around me and not a specific person. Just because R&B is what I’ve made doesn’t mean it’s what I need to categorize myself in. As an artist it’s hard to put yourself into a certain genre, but since I’ve put out so much R&B it’s the easiest thing to say. 

There are so many artists and you see them grow as people through their music in different era’s…do you see yourself and your personal growth through your music? Especially since you’ve been writing since you were little.

Yes 100%. I always mix storytelling and real life shit that I’m going through at that moment, that’s how I like to write. I listen to the stuff that I released when I was 17 and I wrote a lot about the relationship that I was in then and what was on my mind at that time. I listen to the stuff that I’ve put out throughout the past three years and I’m like, “damn I really do hear the change”. It’s really dope to look back and see what I was going through then, and how I worked through those issues with music. 

Do you think that because there is this new shift in the music industry there is more freedom to be a more authentic artist rather than try to be a certain type of person?

I do. I think that there is still “the machine”, but at the same time there are so many people who make good music and are feeling more comfortable to put that out there. They don’t necessarily feel the need to be signed to a record label. I mean let’s be real, those are the people that don’t necessarily control you once you get that deal, but at the same time they have more control over how you present yourself as an artist. I think that with social media it makes it easier to find your tribe and the people that vibe with you on a level that’s like, “okay I can be myself and I don’t need a super strategic plan. This is my art and this is who I am.” That’s why instagram and stuff is dope. People try to hate on it, but it is a good way to put yourself out there and show people who you are as an artist and separate that from “celebrity”. I’m an artist and I make music and I’m not someone who you can just market. 

Who do you find yourself wanting to collaborate with? What draws you to a person to collaborate with and how do you seek them out?

I feel like more people hit me up than I hit them up and that’s something that I want to get better at because there are some artists, especially women that I want to work with. This year I really want to be more proactive about reaching out to people I want to collaborate with instead of just saying their song and saying to myself that I’ll potentially hit them up later. I’m drawn to people who don’t necessarily have the same sound as me, but have the same story. I find myself drawn to people who talk about what they’re going through. It’s not always about collaborating though, I feel like at this point in my life I want to find people that I can just hang with that are into the same things as me. 

What are some themes that come up frequently in your work?

I’ve been in three very intense relationships, so I find myself talking about love a lot. I know that it’s something that’s universal, but it doesn’t always have to be romantic. When I talk about love, even if it is romantic, I’m still talking about why we fell apart and how we met. You find these things in all relationships, not just romantic partnerships. I’ve also written about my relationship with my family before. I also like writing about stuff that has never happened to me because I think that’s what’s fun about creating. At the end of the day if that’s what you’re going to put out into the world, you know that someone else is going to relate to that, and I think that’s really dope. 

How is art used as a tool of self expression and community building in your community? 

Right now I’m trying to build more of a community where not everyone has to do the exact same thing. Even living in New York I’ve met so many dope artists that make music or dance and stuff like that. I’m trying to have a group of people that can come together and talk about things that are going on in their lives and things that they are working on. I have my close friends and they’re always supportive, but it’s nice to have a community of people who express themselves through art so we can show each other what we’re working on and what inspires us. 

In your opinion what is the role of art in the Black Liberation Movement? And what do you believe is your role?

That’s a deep question! Right now with everything going on it’s easier to get your opinion out there. You see one post and then you’re very inspired by that person’s message on that topic. It’s dope that people who felt like they might’ve not had a voice now feel like they can share their opinion because everyone’s talking about it. For me specifically, when George Floyd passed away and this whole movement really went up, my friend and I started raising money for different charities and that’s not something that I’ve done in the past few years. I never felt like I was doing something actively, so being able to do that and being able to talk freely and make things that I feel are actually needed in the world is pretty dope. As artists we are here to make people feel good, or make them feel things that they might have never felt before, which is really important right now.

How do you think this time in quarantine and moment in history has affected your artistry?

Even before the pandemic I feel like I met a lot of people online. A lot of people would reach out to me, but there was a spike of that in quarantine. There’s different opportunities now, like I’ve done a few instagram live shows. But I think this time has pushed me to use the tools that I might’ve not used before. 

What would be the dream fashion collaboration for you? What’s your fantasy red carpet/performance look? 

I’m a pretty minimal person but I still like to show out. I’ve always admired Rihanna’s style because she really prioritizes her uniqueness and she’s also a Pisces like me. I would love to be styled by Fenty, that would be amazing. 

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