STAR ANNA recorded "For Anyone" a year ago, give or take. Her boyfriend, who emailed the rough mix to a few people, wrote it. He said they were all excited enough about it to book studio time in New York to finish an album.
That "For Anyone" survived to arrive as the lead track on Anna's new record, Go to Hell, is either a small miracle, or as gutsy a decision as you'll find on a record. Or both.
"It was too good to give a shit about any of that other stuff," Anna says.
"Stuff" is one way to put it. There are plenty of breakup records. But there's probably never been one like Go to Hell. The boyfriend then—and certainly not now—was singer/songwriter Kasey Anderson, who's awaiting a November 22 sentencing in federal court after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud that included, among many odd details, impersonating Bruce Springsteen's manager. Anderson took more than two dozen investors for more than $500,000. The criminal case comes on top of a $185,000 civil judgment handed down last October, four days before he emailed that song.
The betrayal was personal, professional, and complete. Anna, who lives in Seattle, dropped off social media, changed her phone number and email address, and wondered what she was going to do. "That guy's mountain of shit was large and multifaceted," says Ty Bailie, who co-produced and played keys on Go to Hell, and toured with the two last fall.
Given the depth of emotions, it's stunning to hear "For Anyone," and haunting when Anderson's voice arrives like a villain, doubling the lyric, "I'll find a brand-new disciple when the room goes black."
"It was too perfect," Anna says. "It just made the song creepier. It's spooky." But not creepy and spooky enough, apparently, so they added another ex, Nashville singer/songwriter Shane Tutmarc (who co-wrote another song on the album, "Let Me Be").
"The balls it takes to make that decision," Bailie says.
The next decision was easier. Anna had to follow that with the Nina Simone song that gives the album its title. Whereas Simone's suggestion is accompanied by almost playful music ("It's all like jazz hands," Anna says), Anna's version sounds like a gospel singer backed by group of serial killers.
There's no shortage of hurt on the record. "The sweet smell of your sweater/you wore in nasty weather/smells like death to me," Anna sings on "Let Me Be," which is punctuated with the image of a heart of stone dragging her down to drown. There's no shortage of anger. Ultimately, there's defiance. She's tough as hell belting "Power of My Love," and finds philosophical strength on Tom Waits' "Come on Up to the House."
"Come down off the cross, we can use the wood," the song says.
"In the back of my mind, I never intended to drop the project," Anna says, "but there was some time where everyone was [saying] 'What do we do now?' I needed to emotionally get myself back together before we finished these things." She's reassembled, and Go to Hell is a bold, brave, and beautiful piece of work."It's a pretty amazing force of nature," Bailie says. "She's tough as nails now."