R&B is a style built on experience, growth through pain, unexpected heartbreaks and ensuing paths to higher ground. Korean-American songwriter ANE lives and sings this art, making new waves in neo-soul, with a lyrical sincerity that’s both elegant and empowering.
ANE (pronounced Ah-nee) is a change of pace for R&B. Pioneering a synthesis of soul and style, her songs are glazed with bedroom pop and a street side demeanor. ANE draws from timeless inspirations like Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill, but reaches one like a transmission from the future. We spoke to the artist behind A New Era in lieu of her new video release.
How long have you been in New York?
I’m originally from New Jersey. I’ve lived in Brooklyn, now I’m Staten on the Jersey side. But it’s pretty much all the same thing. I’ve been here my whole life. I went to college in Boston for a few years. Most of my life I’ve been in this area.
What did you study in school?
I was trained to be an opera singer, but I decided to spin that for what I do now. I guess I realized that it was too theatrical for me, and I preferred to sing about my own personal life. I’ve never put on the costume and performed in an opera though.
I really liked the aesthetic of your video “Dreams.” Between old-school anime cuts and space traveling themes, it was a synthesis of retro and futuristic styles. I hear that in your music too.
Yeah, mixing a lot of vintage and modern sounds. My roots are in old school R&B. I went through a big phase of listening to just that. I sang in some funk bands and cover bands. I originally tried to make my performances with a full band, completely like Motown. But as I progressed, I wanted to bring a more modern aspect. At the time I coined myself as a “digital Amy Winehouse.” I don’t think I’ve accomplished that, but it’s also become its own thing now.
Do you like to perform with a live set or with a DJ?
There’s nothing like performing with live musicians. Sometimes I have DJ with a guitar player and a keyboard player. We’ll play over the track so it still gives the track some soul. At some point, I’d like to play with a drummer and have no track at all. I think it would give the music a whole new aspect. It inspires you to get really into the music. A track doesn’t do it for me all the time.
Have you performed in NYC lately?
My last performance was at DROM at East Village, and before that was at Harlem Nights. My next performance is in June and In July I’ll be doing a music festival. I’m trying to perform once a month. Performing is a whole different aspect of becoming an artist.
Are you working with any new producers?
Yes. A lot of people I worked with last time have other priorities going on right now. I have one single that I’m really excited about. It has a 90’s R&B-pop feel. Often I’ll connect through social media platforms, people will send me music or vice versa. I might be working with some guy from London. It’s crazy how the internet connects people like that. For instance on my SoundCloud, a producer named Singularis from the Netherlands reached out to me to make a song, and he’s really talented. So I’m working with people from across the world and here. Nothing’s been finalized though, so I don’t want to drop any names yet.
What life experiences did you draw from while creating BITAN?
This last one was centered around heartbreak. The growing pains of becoming a young woman, you know, feeling like I had to get my life together. You’ll hear this in the lyrics, like in “Dreams.” It captures my daily life, my hustle, how I try to be a successful woman and get my life together.
When was the first time you sang in front of a live audience?
Probably when I was in high school singing in the choir. I would maybe have a solo or two. It’s different when you’re in a choir rather than in your own show. I was always shy though, that’s still something I have to talk myself out of.
Were your parents supportive of your direction in music?
No, not at all. It’s been a struggle. I’ve had to fight to follow my dreams. The one time my mother was really supportive of my singing was when I did this Korean radio singing competition. She got really excited and had all my sisters call in to vote. I think that was something she could relate to more closely. In general, I think they want me to go the more traditional route. It hasn’t been easy.
What advice would you give to other young women who are trying to find their own identity as a musician?
The biggest advice I’d give to young women is to listen to your gut. A lot of times there can be so many different voices, and everybody has an opinion. If you stick to your gut and your instinct, you’ll get there. Sometimes you won’t see the bigger picture, so listen to your instinct. Just stay true to that I don’t think that’s ever wrong.
What would you like new listeners to know about BITAN?
That it’s a part of me, and I hope they can enjoy it for what it is. Obviously, I want to share a piece of my life with them, but at the same time it’s open for interpretation. It’s perfect for a rainy day.