Annie Bacon (photo: Robert Alleyne)
Annie Bacon is a singer-songwriter living in San Francisco and is a soothing presence to be around. It is a reflection of her music which warms you up as her vocals weave around the layered and sometimes mystic guitars. When we discuss what it is like to be a musician in the Bay Area, she speaks fondly of the city she has lived in for almost two decades: “[There are] a lot of great things. A lot of creative people around,” she says. “Changes to the city happened at the same time as big changes in my life happened.”
One of those 'big' changes was Annie becoming a mother in 2011. It has an immediate impact on her life and music making, “A lot of people have this idea that you have a kid and it ruins your dreams… it actually has been the opposite for me, where it's, like, strengthened it.” Having her son, Dash, has forced her to focus her energy towards the things that count: “[I] have so much less bandwidth and time. I have wiped out so many things from my life that don’t matter... I feel like my focus on music has become some much better and more intense.”
While being a mother has enabled her to focus, it has brought to the fore some of the challenges of being a music-loving parent in San Francisco. “This is not a kid venue city. The music scene is very after dark, and it's very twenty-one and over,” she expresses. “In San Francisco, I feel like I have to separate the experiences. There aren't a lot of opportunities to see music with my kid. Unless it's kids' music; which I hate!” Her solution to open up the music scene appears simple: “I would love if there were a couple of venues that started shows early. I feel like it's a totally untapped market of people my age, a little bit older, who have kids who can’t go to a show that starts at 10 o’clock but really want to see music still.”
She compares San Francisco to Nashville, where she was on vacation around a year ago: “The honky tonks open at noon,” she remembers, “I would have a margarita, he would have a milk.”
Annie Bacon has been writing music for a long time, but more recently she has taken to becoming a student (as well as a Bay Bridged contributor). “I’ve been writing songs for 15 years, but I’m really studying the craft at this point. Trying to dive into... what’s the most important way to communicate a message through music.” Listening to her talk about songwriting you can hear an almost giddy sense of excitement; for someone who has been writing songs for over a decade, it seems like the whole experience is rejuvenating.
This rekindled dedication to songwriting lead her to release two singles at the end of 2016; What We Said and Nikki’s Song. “That was the first new music that I had written in like two years. It broke the seal, and it got me back into writing,” she says. On What We Said her voice tiptoes around a gentle arrangement which flourishes and contracts throughout the song; the sparse piano notes landing like snowflakes in the child’s fantasy.
“My music has always had at the core, emotion, with the goal of creating an empathic experience for people... telling someone else’s story in a way that humanizes them,” she says, as we discuss her approach to songwriting. This humanization is very present in Nikki's Story, the second of the two singles she released, which tells the tale of a transgender woman searching for her identity. It is a heartwarming story, beautifully told; "The world had Bowie / And we had Nikki / She made all the freaks feel fine," Annie poignantly sings on the chorus.
“It is easier for people to connect with, and like really form a bond with, an individual than it is with a whole community,” she says. “If you can care about this person, and see their perspective and their point of view, then you can maybe extend that out people who are maybe similar.”
Annie supported the release of her singles with a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the shooting of two videos. The filming of What We Said involved her bathing in a tub of milk while wearing a wedding dress. That was not the only excitement from the shoot: part way through their first shoot, roommates of the house they were filming in unexpectedly came in to find their home completely taken over. “Once they arrived almost everything we got was very... ‘stressed’” she chuckles.
Annie’s outlook appears to be making the most out of the situation she is in. Reflecting back on 2016, Annie shares how the loss of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen were huge, and how she has been channelling Woodie Guthrie as a means of dealing with the thought of the new administration. “There are so many things wrong with the world, and I can’t fix all of them, I can’t fix most of them, but I feel like music has always been a really powerful tool for social change [in] every part of the world.”
March 10, 2017