Only five-years-old when her parents started her down a creative path, Slovenia-born Anja Kotar embraced music and dance when most of us are barely learning to tie our own shoes. Once her piano lessons started, she was in deep and hasn’t looked back since. Fast forward to today and her and her family have made a home for themselves here in the states, and music is still an ever present force in her life. From her latest single, “How To Be Cool” to what the future holds – which is plenty for this young singer. We talked about all of that and more in this back and forth exchange of letters in word formations.
Kendra: How long did it take you to adjust to your new home in the states when you came from Slovenia?
Anja: The transition was very abrupt – we moved here only two days before high school started. We really didn’t have anything set yet here – no car, no house; all we knew was the Conservatory I would study at. It was definitely a big culture shock at first – despite being fluent in English, the environment around me was now so different, every detail of life seemed to function in a new way. However, looking back at it now, I am glad it happened that way as it forced me to adapt quickly. I auditioned for theatre productions and the jazz band right away, and these gave me the opportunity to study brand new genres over the course of the next few years and find my footing in our new home.
Kendra: From the looks of your Instagram, you’re all about the beach. Do you spend a lot of time there writing music?
Anja: Actually no. I was trained as a classical pianist so most of the songs I write start with me at home, sitting at my piano (we brought my first piano from Slovenia with us). However, I love the beach because it’s a great place to “test” out new songs I’m working on, to relax, run away with my mind for a bit, and find inspiration.
Kendra: Was “How To Be Cool” penned on the sand?
Anja: That’ll have to be a no again. “How To Be Cool” has a very urban sound, the disco beat and synths to me very much feel like driving or dancing a hot night away, covered in sweat and glitter. The only thing I ever wrote on a beach was in Carmel a few months back. I was finishing up NOMAD at the time, and couldn’t find the right bridge for the last song of the album, “Poster Child of California.” It was a beautiful day, I was walking down the beach with my photographer friend (with whom we just shot music videos for the album a few days before this) barefoot, watching the waves hit the shore and the missing lyric for the song finally came to me.
Kendra: Of course, I have got to ask, what’s your advice to actually pass as cool?
Anja: I believe that, however loose or enigmatic we portray the concept of “cool” to be, it ultimately stems from within ourselves. What in my eyes makes someone cool, is self-assurance, confidence, individuality, and uniqueness.
Kendra: You’re not only an artist but a student. What’s one major less you’ve learned at Berklee that you may not have learned elsewhere?
Anja: That creativity is work and not just sitting around, waiting for inspiration to come. It is about constantly seeking out new knowledge in different areas and genres of music, consciously digging deeper, observing and discovering the world around us, and using it all to proactively create.
Kendra: What are you music-based plans for the coming months?
Anja: My main focus is currently the NOMAD short film. Each month, we’ll be putting out music videos for songs from the first half of the album, all of which combined together will create a short film in the end. We are also starting to plan tours for the fall, but it’s all under wraps for now.
Kendra: Going back to the beach, if your friends put you in charge of making a mixtape for a beach trip what five songs would have to be on it?