Pop singer/songwriter Anja Kotar has just released the video for her latest single, ‘Woo!’. We caught up with her to find out more about the new single and the inspiration behind her music.
‘Woo!’ is all about putting your headphones on, transforming the city streets into your own club under the stars, and dancing the troubled reality of 2020 away.
First up, tell us about yourself - what got you into music?
I was born and raised in a small European country called Slovenia and my parents put me in music school for classical piano at the age of 6 after dancing and singing and performing around the house since I was little. That was my main focus while living there, I played in a piano trio with a cellist and violinist and attended piano competitions.
I always knew that singing was my greatest passion, I just didn’t get a chance to really dig into it at the time. It wasn’t until my whole family move to San Jose in California in 2012 that I started doing musical theatre and jazz music at the conservatory/high school I attended.
I wrote my first song because the piano we had back at home (along with all my piano sheet music) in Slovenia was still traveling to the US behind us in a container, so I went to one of the piano practice rooms at my school and started playing around with different chords and melodies.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from?
I absolutely admire and love Lady Gaga and Beyonce because they’re 360 degree artists; writers, singers, dancers, musicians, actresses. I always believed creating music should go beyond just the songs and provide a whole experience to the listeners. Both of them have truly built their careers on that notion and created updated versions of it for the 21st century.
How would you describe your musical style?
I would call it Silicon Valley Pop. I try to create uplifting music that explores my generation and our relationship with technology. Back when I decided I wanted to write about this, I started more acutely paying attention to all of the areas of our lives that tech is a part of and realized that it is woven into every single thing we do, every little activity.
I thought it was so fascinating and ever-evolving (we’re only going to get more dependent on technology!) that I built an entire brand around it. Ha!
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
I think Lady Gaga. She is such a huge musical inspiration to me and her career is definitely something that I try and work towards every single day.
Tell us about your new single ‘Woo!’. What’s the inspiration behind it?
‘Woo!’ is a song all about putting your headphones on, transforming the city streets into your own club under the stars, and dancing the troubled reality of 2020 away. I wanted to channel that feeling in the music video - the carefree, busting-out-a-move while no one is watching.
In order to capture that, we decided to do a minimal amount of cute throughout the video, compiling the final version of three different takes. For Woo!, the red dress is continuously getting longer and I have more and more flowers in my hair, representing the idea of getting lost in the music and creating your own fantasy.
Another important aspect of the video was the choreography that was created by a great friend and fantastic dancer Tori Evans - we even did a FaceTime session where we cleaned up the moves then I practiced every afternoon in our backyard.
When did you write it and where did you record it?
The video was shot at night on my iPhone and the crew was comprised of my brother, my mom, and my dad. We often joke about how ever since this pandemic started, our household has turned into a production company; I record all my songs here, we do photoshoots in the backyard, my dad builds the rigs for filming music videos and my mom and dad both handmade each headpiece..
When my and my friend and creative director Jani Ugrin first started coming up with the overarching idea for the video, I mistakenly thought it would be relatively easy to pull off. I mean, all I had to do was walk down a road and dance at night, what could possibly go wrong? Turns out, a lot.
We had to do numerous different light and camera tests in order to ensure the movement of the camera was as smooth as possible, without any shaking. We ended up shooting it with my brother sitting on the wheeled dolly my dad built, holding the iPhone on a stabilizer, while my dad was pulling the dolly and making sure we were going in a straight line, and my mom walking beside him, watching me and telling him when to slow down or speed up.
We shot it with the dresses in the same sequence that they appear in the video, doing about eight takes for each dress. I should also mention that this was all taking place at 3am and it wasn’t the warmest summer night.
How does ‘Woo!’ represent your style?
It’s the most high energy song I’ve ever made, which is kind of funny to me that it took so long to make a song in this style since I feel like I’m always operating at 120 percent and running around eating candy.
I was also trained in jazz and ballet for 10 years so this track is also definitely a way of showcasing my another part of my roots - dance.
What are your hopes for ‘Woo!’?
I’ve learned to never set specific expectations with releases, because so many things are out of my control. Instead, I make a plan of all of the things I will and have to do in order to promote the release and expand its reach as much as possible. The most important thing to me every time I put out a new song is that I know I did everything I possibly could when it came out.
How’s the rest of 2020 looking in what’s becoming a crazy year?
All of the music I’ve written since March (aka when the first lockdown here in San Jose took place) has been very closely related to the current situation in the world. I realize we’re living through something that my kids will learn about in school and writing music about it feels like I’m keeping a diary of all of the emotions and points of view I’m going through as this year (and the pandemic) progress and evolve.
I share all of these on my Instagram stories and then, based on the feedback of my listeners and followers, pick the next single. I always want my music to be relatable and speak to people on a personal level, so having this ability to connect and share thoughts via the internet feels very special and appropriate for 2020.
I’ve been thinking a lot about where to take the brand and the music next, and I’m very excited to sink my teeth into this next chapter where we adapt the avant-garde floral theme to a more homey, simple variation that is more appropriate to the events taking place in the world right now. I’m planning out an EP and a series of songs that are more raw and acoustic based, all talking about life in a global pandemic.