I first saw Anna Vaus perform at the Listening Room about a year ago, but I couldn’t tell you who else played with her in the round. I remember being so captivated by her songs and how each one made me smile or made me sad or made me laugh: each song was so unique and I was instantly made a fan. From her earliest days to performing at the Opry, Anna has always been all about the music.
Anna is a Poway, CA native, and she won’t let you forget it, as the influence is obvious in her EP “The California Kid”. The child of an Opry-performing and Grammy-winning father (Steve Vaus aka Buck Howdy) and the sister of a writer, music and creativity were a part of her life from the get-go. Anna cited Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves as her early influences, both from their sound and their lyricism, writing songs that are both personally meaningful but carry a larger, more universal message.
Anna came to Nashville after hearing about Belmont University and fell in love after realizing that she could seriously pursue music beyond high school. She was awarded the Miranda Lambert Women Creators Fund to attend the school, and that was that. Initially, Anna didn’t do much performing at all, instead just writing songs and hoping to get a cut. But a couple of years in, she started writing songs that were more personal, again citing her early influences. “I wanted to write an Anna Vaus song, not something that Little Big Town would want to play.”
After interning at Black River Entertainment, Anna signed a publishing deal with them. And since then, she said, not a whole lot has changed. If you look at Anna’s show history, you would quickly realize that statement to be an understatement.
In June 2019, Anna made her Grand Ole Opry debut, following in her father’s footsteps in what she described to be a magical day. “It felt like I was getting married because all of my family were in town. I woke up at 8:00 and then all of a sudden it was midnight. I didn’t even think about it when I walked into the circle, it all just happened.”
Another big moment for Anna started with a phone call that simply asked, “Would you be interested in opening for Willie Nelson?” Of course, the answer was yes, and Anna has opened several nights in California at iconic venues with a historic musician and American icon.
We talked extensively about musicians’ use of social media and establishing a public image, which is really what differentiates Anna from the pack and makes me such a fan of hers. Anna’s “promo” doesn’t rely on flashy posters or hashtags, but rather candid videos while she’s in the car or features of her comedian of a cat, Harry. Anna also frequently livestreams on Instagram, taking song requests and taking the time to speak with friends and fans.
Outside of that, Anna doesn’t spend all that much time on social media. “I know that if I scroll long enough, I’ll find something that bums me out or has me start comparing myself to somebody else, so I try to just avoid it.” For musicians especially, social media is the best way to connect with others and to extend your fanbase, but constantly seeing the successes of other musicians can create imposter’s syndrome. Anna agreed, saying that she wishes that social media wasn’t such a key part of being a musician nowadays.
This speaks to Anna’s character as a whole. She is an incredibly personable, funny, and down-to-earth girl who is not blind to the exciting opportunities that she’s had, but acknowledges that, at the same time, she’s still just trying to figure out how to be a 20-something-year-old. The hour that we chatted blew by and felt much more like a conversation between new friends than an interview.
I asked Anna for some final words of wisdom for a musician, and she told me, “Do one thing every day that gets you a step closer to your goals, whether that be sending an email, writing a verse, whatever that may be.” This circled back to our talk about social media, and how it can be easy to feel pressured to make big steps in your career every day, but in reality, it’s important to take things step by step. I left feeling a bit more at peace and thankful to have had the chance to talk with her.
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