Desert Dove is Michaela Anne’s full-length follow up to her critically-acclaimed 2016 album Bright Lights and the Fame. Recorded over the course of several weeks in San Clemente, CA, Desert Dove was completed “on location” with the help of an all-star cast. Producers Sam Outlaw and Delta Spirit’s Kelly Winrich assembled guitarist Brian Whelan (Dwight Yoakam, Jim Lauderdale), fiddler Kristin Weber (Kacey Musgraves, Margo Price), and drummers Mark Stepro (Ben Kweller, Butch Walker) and Daniel Bailey (Everest, Father John Misty) to address this batch of songs with a fresh take, not leaning too hard on traditional arrangements or instrumentation.
“By Our Design”, the first single and video from the album, premiered on Rolling Stone Country. Celebrating the song as “a gorgeous meditation on picking the road not taken,” writer Marissa Moss notes that the track “highlights the songwriter’s pristine voice.” The song, a mid-tempo burn framed with dense violins and tremolo guitar, is a sweet ode to a carved out life together; imperfect, but adaptive and free. Moss also points out Michaela Anne’s intent for the song to sound like a “bit of Laurel Canyon dust into Tennessee soil.”
We reached out to Michaela Anne to learn a little more about her latest single.
WiMN: Your video for “By Our Design” is very personable and delightful featuring your husband Aaron. I especially love the simple shots with your cat, and the humorous footage! The brilliance this video captures in creating such a relatable visual truly compliments your beautiful song. Who came up with the video concept initially?
MA: Thank you! I came up with the concept for the video; I wanted to express the true simplistic nature of the song. I often get overwhelmed as an artist with this pressured feeling of creating something different or new. Sometimes (or rather most times) I just want to share a simple story that’s maybe been heard a million times but it’s how I’m feeling it. So I wanted the visuals to compliment that. I’ve also been obsessed with home video footage (watching it and making it) for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s because I always loved The Wonder Years and the opening credit intro of home footage with Joe Cocker’s cover of The Beatles’ tune “ With a Little Help From My Friends.” As silly and simple as it sounds, I’m probably spending my whole life trying to re-create that feeling as much as possible.
WiMN: You choose to go against the grain in songwriting as a female country artist by staying true to writing about your struggles and triumphs of being a woman. Do you find this to be a particular challenge for you in the Country music genre? How has this influenced your career?
MA: Hmm, I actually don’t know. I think ever since I moved to Nashville I would occasionally dip my toe into attempting to enter the ring in the Music Row or publishing world, being a writer for “the market” because that seems like a smart move. It’s a way to make money if you can get into it and then also do your own artistic work. But every time I very lightly tried in my own way, it felt… just not right for me. Which makes me think I wouldn’t be good at it because my heart and soul wouldn’t be in it. I look back over my own body of work and I can tell which songs I’ve written and which work I’ve done with even the slightest motivation of “I hope this will be perceived well by certain ears” and I never think that’s my best work. The older I get, the more I really feel this continued and gradual release of “trying”. I can only create, write and do what feels natural and true for me, regardless of if that fits or doesn’t fit into a larger genre or scene. And I do believe if you stay true to yourself, you find where you fit. I am a woman so that often does inform my perspective. I think historically we haven’t honored or celebrated women’s stories in the same light and I’ve always felt strongly about gender equality and social justice so of course that would find it’s way into my writing. I also love women and am a consumer of women’s stories, songs and voices so it again feels natural to work in a way that highlights that.
Another thing that is always in my mind in regards to this is young people. I still teach music lessons and work with a lot of youth, especially young girls. I have watched girls over the years go from audacious, confident, boisterous and fearless…. to much more self-conscious, insecure, fearful through middle school and high school. That’s where the shift generally happens. And I just feel so determined to try and help them keep that fight and spirit. I definitely lost mine in high school and have been spending my adult life trying to get it back. So that’s a motivation for me to live by example and hope I can help encourage young musicians to get to know who they are and express that unique, specific self regardless of how it is received.
WiMN: Congratulations on being chosen to perform at AmericanaFest! What does this mean for you as an artist?
MA: Thank you! I remember when I was first starting out and living in Brooklyn, NY and felt pretty removed from the community of artists I was drawn to which happened to very often fall under the “Americana” umbrella. I would look at the AmericanaFest Conference and day dream if I could ever get accepted, so to be included is very validating and encouraging. It’s a really nice community that does a lot to try and help create a network and platform for musicians and artists who may never be included in the larger “country” genre. Plus, regardless of performing, the conference/festival itself is just really fun and I love getting to see and hear so many friends and shows all in one week.