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Beyond the record presents

Anna Varga

An Interview with

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Beyond the Record: Welcome. In case the readers don't already know, tell us a little bit about who you are and where you come from exactly.

Anna Varga:

BtR: You have an incredibly unique sound that is all your own. When I listen to your releases, I would easily label it as vocal jazz, but hear various outside musical influences as well. Tell us who inspired you growing up and who inspires your creative mind now.

AV: Nobody was really doing vocal jazz in New York when I started. It is a lost art. My friend Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra inspired me to get back into singing. But when I got into the scene there were lots of great players but no front people. I was met with resistance at first. Nobody wants to work for a chick singer. When I came to Bourbon Street in New Orleans the musicians told me it took years to break in. I asked to sit in and they let me take the mic. I went next door to order food and the owner of the restaurant offered me a gig. I came back and booked the band. I said, "Am I in?" He, said, "Damn, girl, You're IN!"

BtR: Being a part of the NYC music scene, can you give us an inside scoop of what life is like there?

AV: New Yorkers have a love/hate relationship with the city. It is the best of times and the worst of times all at the same time.

BtR: What mainstream artists have parodied your style?

AV: I really don't like to talk about it. It's negative and you cannot focus on negativity or you attract bad energy. Let's just say that after I recorded my first vocal jazz album a certain someone well known started recording the same set list and went on tour with my bass player Scott Richie. I'm happy for him. I like to see my guys get paid. But when you copy someone it just doesn't have the same sincerity and realness. That is parody not artistry. Clowns parody people. 

BtR: You have quite a fan base over seas. Have you toured outside of the USA?

AV: I like to travel and go on adventures. I've performed in nightclubs all over the world. A world tour is not on the agenda yet. I have other businesses that are taking the spotlight right now. I will do so soon though. Maybe a little travel this summer.

BtR: You mentioned that you never look to the past. Are you constantly reinventing yourself?

AV: If you focus on the past you get depressed. If you worry about the future you get anxiety. So I focus on the now. I live in the moment. Change is the only constant.

BtR: Some artists take time to discover their love of music. At what point did you begin making music, and when did you pursue a career in it?

AV: I started performing professionally in my teens and started writing lyrics soon after. But I've only considered myself a creatrix of music since I started working with my pianist and arranger Alex Levin in 2009. It's his creative vision and talent for conceptualization that produced our last two albums. I was his muse. We recorded These Days because we joked that I was the Nico of the band. Nico was the most photographed but least talented member, like me.

BtR: Over the years, I'm sure you have worked up quite a story to tell. Take us through the lowest of low moments in your career, but also in your personal life.

AV: That's a tough question. You can tell from my music that I'm familiar with the dark side of life. Too familiar. A patron at the Lenox Lounge in Harlem drugged my drink while I was onstage and tried to kidnap me. The other players and the staff started looking out for me after that. My hand got broken during the recording sessions of Bonjour Tristesse. Multiple fractures. I was in terrible pain and on horse pills of Oxy. At the time I thought I'd be crippled for life. My hand has healed by the grace of God. I sing the blues. The blues are a healer. If people want me to sing happy songs they should treat me better.

BtR: Now on the flipside, how did you overcome those challenges? hat are you most proud of?

AV: The will to survive is strong in me. Yoga helped heal my hand. My band look out for me. They have my back. I've learned to cut anyone off who doesn't guard my back. I'm proud of myself that I've survived so much. I've had guns pointed at me and knives pulled on me. Nothing scares me.

BtR: Last but most certainly not least, where can people find your music?

AV: We are releasing our first two albums on limited edition vinyl soon but you can listen for free on soundcloud.