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Annie Stokes

Emily Dean

Tell us a little bit about you.

I'm a musician, cat mom, barista, writer, environmental activist and music teacher living life in Virginia!

What got you started in music?

I got started in music through Broadway. My grandmother was a huge fan of Sondheim so from age five onward, I was very into show tunes and acting. I'm still into theatre arts, but in my early twenties, my love of writing and poetry converged with my love of performance and I started exploring songwriting.

What's been the biggest highlight so far of your music career?

It's hard to say! There are so many times that I've felt humbled and proud at the same time. I loved opening for Sierra Hull in Richmond this past summer. I also played a small set at a festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion in September and got to see my name on the big projectors that face the green. When that happened, I just stood on the grass for a minute with a plastic cup of champagne and conjured up some memories of when I first started playing. If someone had told me back then that my future held national touring venues, I wouldn't have believed them! So that was a nice, concrete watermark on my journey up the hill. 

You went on tour this past summer. Can you share a little bit about that experience?

Well, it was very fun and very exhausting and very rewarding. We were able to break it up into smaller segments, scattered over weekends, so that certainly helped us find our footing and absorb all the action. But traveling to play music really makes you aware of what you WANT to give your audience, and what you have to do as an artist to achieve that. So in addition to it being a lot of fun, it was a learning experience for me as an entertainer. 

What's something you've found helpful when struggling to keep going in this fast-paced industry?

A guiding philosophy in my life is to respect your own individual timeline. The music industry is definitely fast-paced, and while it's certainly important to work hard and stay relevant, you can really lose yourself in trying to keep up with or compete with your peers. There's always going to be someone who put out their album first, or who got a manager first, or who got signed first, or who played a certain venue first. Don't assume that just because you haven't gotten to that point yet, you never will, or that you are somehow "behind". There is a lot of power and peace that comes with waiting for your own moment instead of chasing after someone else's. 

What's a day in the life of Annie?

Well, I have four cats, which I have to acknowledge is a lot of cats. So any day in my life starts off with physically removing sleeping animals from my body. After that, I teach music, so I get to hang out with cool youngsters and jam with them. Beyond that, it's kind of hard to predict what any given day will hold -- the great thing about being a musician is that you are constantly being challenged out of your routine and comfort zone. The constant in my life is cats, honestly. 

You're working on your new album now. So exciting! What can we expect?

It's a return to a more rootsy, Americana-infused sound. In the past, my songs have relied heavily on lyrics to guide them and structure them. I'm still putting emphasis on the lyrics of these songs, but I've taken more of an holistic approach to structuring them: refrains, instrumentals, hooks, and et cetera are all playing more of a leading role than in my past songs. The album is a form of environmental activism, so it's heavily influenced by folk music from the 1960s and 70s. In general, I think it's a more organic and honest creation. 

Last question! What are three things you can't live without?

That's a hard question! I guess I should say something like contact lenses or ibuprofen. But I'm going to be impractical and say: champagne, my boyfriend, and Bullocking. (Bullocking is the act of sitting on the floor, usually after ten pm, with a close lady friend and watching Sandra Bullock movies while talking and drinking wine. I recommend Practical Magic and rose.) 


Photos by Emma-Kate Eyre Interview by Emily Dean