Annie Brobst is adorable, she sounds great, and she has stage presence. A key to being a successful singer, songwriter, and/or band, is to have stage presence. Examiner caught up with Brobst at the 2016 New England Music Awards at the Blue Ocean Music Hall where byteclay.com, one of the presenters at NEMA, watched Brobst getting her award for Best Country Act of the Year.
Here’s what Brobst had to say when Examiner asked her some questions about her plans for the future and how it feels to win such a big award. She believes in shooting for the moon will put her among the stars, and so far it has.
Amy Nachbar: You just took home Country Artist of the Year for New England. What’s next?
Annie Brobst: We were SO excited about the award and shocked, to be honest. There were some other bands on that list who are far further along than we are in terms of caliber of gigs and having an album(s) out already. The award definitely gave us motivation and validation that we’ve been working so hard for. Next up for us, we have an amazing Summer and Fall planned with gigs ranging from headlining the Topsfield Fair on a Saturday night to opening for Darius Rucker at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion.
We have our first album coming out this Fall. It’s a 5 song EP of our most accessible pop/country originals. All of these originals are co-written by Rodger Hagopian, who also plays acoustic guitar in my full band and for many of my acoustic gigs. We’re hoping with a combination of releasing an album and performing at some high profile shows, that we can reach as many people as possible with our point of view and original music. That’s the immediate goal.
AN: When did you know that you wanted to be a vocalist and have your own band?
AB: I’ve been in choirs since I was a kid and always really enjoyed singing. I also used to sing the national anthem for my own sporting matches when I was in middle school and also in high school. When I moved to Massachusetts from Columbus, Ohio in 2007, I was out singing karaoke one night and met a few people who were interested in starting a band with me. This was my first band and first real “front girl” experience. I had terrible stage presence and not much vocal control. I was overly critical of myself, and still am, and would study my videos after a show. Even if it’s just something someone caught on a cell phone camera, it gives me a chance to see what looked awkward or sounded bad. It’s been the best tool to learn from! From my first cover band, I was approached by a more established cover band (Thirty 6 Red) to join them as their female lead. My first show with them was opening for a sold out Joe Nichols show at Toby Keith’s. I spent a couple years with T6R and in the meantime had also begun writing with Hagopian. As I was writing more and falling in love with being on stage, I knew it was time to start the Annie Brobst Band and start performing my own songs. This has definitely been an interesting journey. There are various avenues for an artist trying to get their originals out there. I’ve decided a good route for me, is to try to perform cover-heavy sets as regularly as possible at the biggest and best venues around and throw in our original songs at every opportunity. It’s been a lot of work and pretty difficult to penetrate the country circuit but, we’ve managed to do it and we’re very proud of that. Miranda Lambert says in her song Automatic, “It’s only worth as much as the time put in” and I think this speaks to how I’m doing this under my name, with my songs, and putting in a ton of time in behind the scenes; this makes the value SO much higher than any other music experience I’ve had thus far. Not to mention, I’m starting this game a little late. I’m 30 years old and I’m just on the edge of not being marketable by that number alone. So, I’ve had to hustle. Playing 3-5 shows a week, trying to build a brand and get my name out there, all the while working a full-time teaching job. It’s insane! As long as it continues to progress at the pace that it has been, it may be insane, but I’m going to keep doing it. I’m playing catch-up by at least 6-8 years on other girls in this genre in New England. Determination and hustle are the names of the game at this point for me.
AN: Who is your idol?
AB: My last response was a nice segue into this question and answer. Miranda Lambert is absolutely a performer I watch, envy, and learn from all the time. I’ve seen her in concert a number of times and that’s performance inspiration at it’s finest. She’s the perfect combination of cute, country, and badass. She also made a comment at the last show I saw of hers that there just aren’t enough women in country music these days. That hit home. We’re out there, we’re just not breaking through for whatever reason. We may not have the 6-pack abs and a hot song on the radio about drinking beer, but we have something to offer. New artists like Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves are definitely songwriters to watch out for and hopefully their recent successes will help pave the way for the rest of us. I’m going to keep pushing, keep being kind to everyone, and take this career as far as I possibly can. Hopefully, I will also contribute to making an impact for females in country music. This may sound too ambitious or wide-eyed, but my dad got me a t-shirt when I was little that said: “Shoot for the moon and you’ll end up among the stars” – that still means something to me and holds true in chasing this dream.
AN: Do you write songs about your own life experiences?
AB: Yes! That’s what makes me ME. My stories are my own. People have asked how I’m different from the other pop country artists out there; as long as we’re telling our own stories, then we will be distinct. You may share a similar sound or have shared a similar pain or joy in life as other artists, but our stories will always be our own. “Ghost”, which is the title of my EP is the story of why I moved from Ohio to Massachusetts. I can’t spoil it and tell you why you’ll have to hear it when it comes out. “Paper Weight” which is a song that you can definitely hear Miranda Lambert influences, is an upbeat little number about feeling held down in this journey of starting my own band and emerging under my own name. Hopefully, all the songs and all of my stories speak to people in their own way. Like many artists, I’m trying to show the world that we can make something beautiful (and even build a career) from experiences that aren’t always so positive.
AN: Tell us about your teaching career.
AB: I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl. I used to read to stuffed animals in my room as if they were my class, showing the pictures in the books and projecting my voice. This career has been so good to me and so rewarding in many ways. It’s quite the feeling to see students learn and grow from your teaching. It’s priceless for them and for me. I’ve been teaching at Salem Academy Charter School for 8 years and it’s been an amazing ride. Next year I’ve decided to step back from teaching, to shoot for my music career. I need more time to write, travel, and hone this craft. Unfortunately, that meant something’s gotta give. I’m going to miss it like crazy. But it’s not so bad to think if this really doesn’t work out for me music-wise, I have one of the best careers to fall back on.
AN: What do you want your fans to know about you that hasn’t already been said?
AB: This may be reiterating more than adding something new….but I want people to know that we just can’t base our success on others in the business. We can’t gauge how we’re doing by the bar that others have set. There are just too many bars! We can absolutely learn from the things others are doing in terms of marketing and the business end, but we need to always put our own spin on the art of it. Find ways to make your journey unique. If we are ourselves and stay true to who we are, we will always stand out and we will always be remembered. Reading it back, that sounds preachy. But there are just too many artists in country music trying to fit a mold. It’s giving people a sour taste in their mouth about our genre. We can still sound new and current, even hip, without being something we’re not.
Tonight, Monday, May 2, Brobst has an acoustic show at O’Neil’s of Salem, 120 Washington Street in Salem.