--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
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
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.