After a whirlwind year, Bay singer Anna Hawkins is happy to be home.
Speaking to Life + Style from Papamoa, the 27-year-old’s feet have barely touched the ground since April this year, when she spent time living and working on her new album ‘Divine’ in Poland.
Having worked with producer ‘Bzim’ Pawel Zarecki (who had previously worked with Enya and crossover artist Mary Jess) on her album ‘Journey On’, Anna made a return trip to Europe for four months to live and work in Pawel’s home studio.
“I think part of it was the adventurous Kiwi spirt,” she admits, “but it was also just being in the right place at the right time.”
Pawel and Anna first met when he was in New Zealand, working on an album for Anna’s friend Johannes Kraenzlin, on which she was recording vocals.
“I heard Pawel play piano and I wanted to cry!” she recalls with a laugh. “I was like ‘who is this guy?’ He was playing with such captivating emotion.”
On learning he had worked with a number of artists Anna admired, including folk artist Enya, she was immediately interested in working with him – and in the same breath he invited her to his home studio in Poland.
She took the chance, and after ‘Journey On’, she leapt at the chance to return for her new album. Spending four months living and working out of Pawel’s home studio and renowned National Polish Radio Studios, Anna created alongside top Polish musicians and recorded about 30 songs.
“We’d have weekends off or have performances during the week, then we’d sit down and nut out songs together and record vocals.
“There is a lot of work in pre-production, which is the first eight weeks of programming, laying down demos, and putting instruments in. It’s been a real process.
“I learnt a lot of words,” she says of picking up the Polish culture. “It’s a hard language to master. But living and working with Pawel and his wife, I got to be immersed in the culture and community.”
She also spent time recording further music in Israel during a two-week trip, including a song in Hebrew, ‘Avinu Malkeinu’, and filming a music video for ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’.
“I’d performed that song for the Israeli ambassador when he was in New Zealand, and Barbra Streisand, who is an idol of mind, had done it before.
Plus, Pawel is part Jewish on his mother’s side – so for me it made sense to do something that was unique and special on the album.”
Jet-setting around the world hasn’t been as glamorous as you might think, however, as Anna had to leave her family and her beloved husband Simeon Clarke behind for the majority of her stay away.
“My husband flew over and met me in Israel, and we did a little travel for a few weeks before I went back to work, but he wasn’t able to come to Poland.
“I tried to break it up in seven-to-eight week stints and that’s how we managed the time apart. It was hard, but with Skype these days, it’s much easier to stay in touch.”
Co-produced by Anna, the album ‘Divine’ brings to life classic and inspirational songs influenced by the divine theme, featuring arrangements of well-loved hymns such as ‘Amazing Grace’, inspirational numbers ‘You Raise Me Up’ and ‘Hallelujah’,plus Christmas bonus tracks.
“This feels like the album that people have been requesting me to make,” explains Anna.
“I wanted to do an album for those people. It’s funny, people request inspirational songs so I think maybe we’re a world in need of inspiration and that kind of uplifting music.”
Now it’s time for Anna to get out on the road and share these heart-warming tunes with her adoring public, much to her delight.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she says. “I don’t think people realise what a big deal it is to put an album out! It’s nice to get out there and make the connection with people, which is what it’s all about.
“You make music so you can connect with your audience.”
Anna’s new album, ‘Divine’, is out now. For more information and tour dates, visit: annahawkinsmusic.com