annie's story

bio_pic Annie Stela
--written by her brother, Lowell

I can still remember when my parents brought a newly-born Annie home from the hospital. I stood above her, gazing down at her in her crib. And, briefly… oh so briefly… the thought crossed my mind to take the pillow from behind her head and smother her with it.

Boy, am I glad I didn't! Because then the world would have been robbed of some seriously sweet tunes.

As a child, Annie was always singing, always writing, always creating. She wore out her copy of Really Rosie. Seriously, no young girl growing up in the late '80s should be that obsessed with Carole King and Billy Joel. It was a little... weird. And as her older brother, it was up to me to constantly remind her of her weirdness.

Years later, every day after school, while I'm in the family room trying to get my Sega Genesis on, there she is banging away at the piano. Or off in her room, writing poetry. Which I made fun of, obviously, feeling honor-bound to do so. In high school and early college, she was always performing, always in bands, pushing out there, finding her voice. It was immediately apparent she should be the lead singer - that her songs should be the ones the band was playing. And making fun of her…it just wasn't what it used to be. Maybe I was starting to be a bit impressed, not that I would ever have let on.

At the age of 22, Annie moved to Los Angeles and promptly got a deal at Capitol Records. I started thinking maybe I'd been playing this all wrong.

Shortly after signing with Capitol, Annie came to New York, where I lived, to play a show. Having not seen her play in a couple years, this was a revelation for me. The leap had been made. This was no longer a young girl writing her journal into song form. This was a songwriter. Who was this person? This adult who was so good at her craft, with such clarity of expression, writing about heartbreak and growth. Where was my little sister? Clearly, I had not been paying attention.

After recording her debut album Fool, Capitol Records went through a difficult merger. Seeing the storm clouds gathering, Annie left Capitol, taking her LP Fool with her, and releasing it independently and on iTunes. Leaving Capitol was of course a blow though in important ways it was a gift. It gave her the freedom to develop as an artist on her own terms. The result was music that was stripped down, more elemental, while still retaining that classic pop sound.

Our mother once told me three of the hardest things to go through in life are a relationship ending, moving, and losing your job. Annie writes often about two out of three of these (she's never had a real job). Annie's music is very much concerned with growing up. Not from the perspective of a teenager going through it, but from the perspective of an adult who has survived it and still bears the scars. That's what makes the music so universal. If you're a teenager going through this stuff, you feel comforted. If you're an adult, you listen and the feelings come flooding back. She's always been an old soul. I can only assume this is due to the torment I put her through during the early years of her life. Yeah, I'll take the credit.

After the release of two successful EP's (Hard City/Little House) of original music last year, Annie was chosen by Macy's as the inaugural artist in their American Rag series supporting independent and emerging musicians. Macy's combined the two EPs into one album and distributed physical copies of the album to customers in their stores this past summer.

Next, Annie set out to do a covers album. The idea was to do an EP of songs by artists with the same first name. Naturally, she settled on the name 'Gary.' After a couple hours of realizing there are no good musicians named Gary, she moved on to her second choice 'William.' Ah, so much better. Billy Idol, Billy Joel, Billy Squier and, of course, Willie Nelson. The collection of covers does what good covers are supposed to do. You hear these songs in a new way, filtered through a new voice. She devours the originals, chews them up and spits them out new. They come out sounding like Annie Stela songs, through and through. And you have never heard Billy Idol like this.

The days of me becoming Annie's "business manager" and embezzling huge chunks of money from her are so close I can taste them.