Anna Vaus: From The Poway California Mountains to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry Stage
Can you share a brief overview of your career to date for our readers?
Absolutely! I feel like the best place to introduce myself is to say that I’m a California kid. I was born and raised in a town called Poway. I was pretty much enamored with country music from day one, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized I could actually write songs for a living. As soon as I graduated from Poway High, I packed up my bags and moved to Nashville to study songwriting at Belmont University.
How did growing up in Southern California, specifically Poway, shape your music?
My home state and town have been a huge part of narrowing down who I am as an artist. It wasn’t until I moved to Nashville and spent a few years away from home that I realized how much I was influenced by California. The golden coast, the mountains, the sunshine all the time. I find it funny because I think most people don’t expect Southern California to lend itself to country music. I mean, Blink 182 went to my high school, and everybody knows the Red Hot Chili Peppers and thinks ‘Californication.’ No one sees Southern California and thinks “That’s prime material for a country song.”
And don’t get me wrong I love those bands and the music that has come out of my home state. But I realized that what I love most about my home is the whole ‘real life’ thing. The only genre of music that was telling the stories that I was living as a kid (growing up in a town where high school football is a priority and driving through the hills and valleys with your best friends is a great way to kill time) was country music. My artistry became this mixed drink of my favorite country music and influences like The Beach Boys and Blink 182.
You first played at the Company Pub and Kitchen in Poway. Can you share what it was like to perform at a local venue while still in high school?
Yes! I miss The Company… it was such a great place to play and figure out how to be a performer. I’d play there for two to three hours at a time, which allowed to the space to play lots of different originals and covers. It really became a place for me to test out new songs. What worked, what didn’t work and everything in between. For an artist (especially a high schooler) that’s an incredibly valuable experience.
When did you first perform on stage with your dad? Any plans for a co-write or duet?
I was teeny tiny. I think the first time that I made my actual debut on stage with my dad was at Carols by Candlelight which is a show that he has been putting on for the past twenty nine years and raises money for Rady’s Childrens Hospital. He asked if I would sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” with him and from there I was hooked. As of right now, no plans. He’s busy running for County Supervisor in San Diego!
Recommendations for students considering studying songwriting and taking music business classes at Mike Curb College?
Be nice to people, be humble, be willing to learn from your professors and your peers, ask questions, work hard and be yourself. Those all feel like no brainers but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that you are the only you. Don’t try to do what others are trying to do if it doesn’t line up with who you are and what you love as a songwriter, artist, and as a plain ole human!
I submitted two songs for the application, Friday Night Crowd and Friendzoned. I released them on Soundcloud for a while when I was in college but you can really only find them in the depths of YouTube these days, ha! I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her yet but I’m very thankful for all that she’s done for women in the industry.
Looking back, how did the scholarship impact your career, and how can opportunities like this help females in the industry in the future?
The scholarship impacted my career in so many incredible ways. One, I was able to finish college. That’s a very big deal to me, education is incredibly important to me and the opportunity to receive a degree is not overlooked by any means. Two, it opened the door to meet with different people that were already working on Music Row. To be able to sit down with a publisher or a manager or a label and play my songs is always a gift so I’m very grateful for the doors that Miranda literally opened for me.
As for how those opportunities help women, I think more than anything it just gives young artists a chance to introduce their music to somebody they might not have been able to before. Whether that means introducing that music to a publisher or to a country music fan, it’s truly all that you can ask for as an artist!
After you signed your publishing deal with Black River Entertainment, what was the first song you wrote? Any plans to work with any label mates?
Oh that’s a great question! I had to go back in my voice memos to see what that song was. I believe it was a song called “Cowboys Ride Away” which is a sad song about boys breaking hearts. Are we surprised? Probably not.
As for plans to work with label mates, that’s a no. Abby and I are good friends and I’m just happy I get a chance to write in the same building because it means we see each other every once and a while. She’s incredibly talented and incredibly kind and I love that woman!!
“And a bird’s gonna fly if it’s got wings
A cowboy’s gonna run off when the sunset sings
It’s just one of those things that I can’t change
Oh, I was born, I was born on a windy day”
— backstory to this song?
To be honest, it is very cool to me that you quoted this song because it’s not out yet and I’m very excited about it so THANKS FOR KNOWING THE WORDS ALREADY! The song is called “Born on a Windy Day” and I wrote it with Steven Dale Jones and Justin Ebach. We spent a good bit of time trying to figure out how to say the right thing because it’s a very delicate thing. In a very literal sense, I was born in September in Southern California so Santa Ana winds were in full force. But also, I think it’s an honest look into being twenty two years old and figuring out love. It’s a very special song to me and I can’t wait to put it out into the world!
Touring has taken you to the Mohegan Sun, Ole Red Gatlinburg, with Willie Nelson in Phoenix, Ole Red Nashville, at CMA Fest … and about to debut at the Opry! Your dad (ed. note: Grammy winner Steve “Buck Howdy” Vaus) sang on the stage and now he will be there, along with your family, for your debut. Your dream venue debut — what does this mean to you?
This means a whole lot. I actually just finished making a countdown in my apartment. I’m currently 12 days away and feel like my heads already starting to spin. It’s an insane honor, to be invited to play the Opry feels like I just got asked to sit at the table and have Thanksgiving dinner with Glen Campbell, Little Jimmy Dickens, and so on… I’m also so inspired by the team of people that made this entire thing happen. Sally Williams, Jordan Pettit, and Dolly Chandler of Opry Entertainment have all been so welcoming. From a three month residency at Ole Red to the beginnings of a Grand Ole Opry debut I’ve been treated with nothing but kindness and that’s an incredibly inspiring energy that I feel very lucky to be a part of.
Is there anything in particular that you’d like people to take away from listening to your music?
That is so nice of you to say that, holy cow! More than anything, I would love for someone to hear one of my songs and say “Wow. I could’ve sworn that I was the only one in the world that felt this way but I’m not!” That is how my favorite music makes me feel. Brandy Clark’s music is a great example of that. John Mayer’s music is a great example of that. It’s unifying. I hope that people feel that way with my music. Even if it’s just one line in one song. If I make someone feel like they aren’t alone in what they’re feeling (love, sadness, joy, confidence, etc) then I’ve done my job.
Thank you so much! I’m so excited about it. It’s been a great opportunity to get to know some of the other women currently creating music in this town so it’s just been fun to become part of that family!
It is the same and different all at once! More than anything, I think when I am writing for myself I’m a lot more cognizent of the fact that I have to feel like every line is true to who I am. When I’m writing for other artists, I’m just trying to write the best song in the room. Don’t get me wrong, that is the goal when I’m the artist in the room but I am a bit more vocal about whether or not I can relate to the song.
What’s an average day like for you as an artist?
It is very normal, ha! I start most days with a cup of coffee and breakfast, I work on my computer for a bit, and then I’ll go to the gym. Cowrites start at 11AM and usually by 3PM I’m back at home hanging with my cat. My days are usually a toss up based on what’s going on during the week, but by no means is it a glamorous artist life hahah!
Which musician would you like to collaborate with next — writing and/or singing?
Love your t-shirt design, which I repped at Stagecoach, and your other creative visual endeavors including your videos — how important is it for you to be involved in all aspects of your music career?
Thank you so much and thank you for repping my shirt! It’s very important to me. I’m a very Type A Type B personality, haha! I really like to be hands on with what I do because it’s an extension of who I am (and frankly I love editing videos, desigining posters, etc.) so I feel like I’m fulfilling my role as a creator when I’m also creating the visual elements to go alongside the music.
Love your InstaLive Q&A’s and songs — how’s Harry?
Thank you for saying that! I love hopping on Instagram Live, it’s such a fun way for all of us to hang out! Harry is great, thank you for asking. I feel like he’s finally hopping on board with me being cool. Like, you know when you’re a teenager your parents are the farthest thing from cool but then you turn 20 and you call your mom everyday? That’s what is happening right now with Harry. Very normal cat human interaction hahaha.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Man, I am still trying to figure it out myself but just be yourself and have fun. I said it earlier but it’s really what I cling to when I feel stuck. Am I having fun? Do I feel like I need to be somebody else to fit in? If I even have to think about it it means I’ve gotta reroute my ship and get back on course.
If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing right now?
If I wasn’t an artist I would love to be a Supreme Court Justice. Or I would love to live in California and own a bakery. Either one seems like a solid, realistic option, ha!
A movie of your life is being filmed — who are the leads?
This is my favorite question ever. Emma Stone is lead. I feel like she would make me seem a lot cooler than I actually am so that seems like a good move. I don’t really know who else I’d want to star in it but I would be very adamant about Harry playing himself. That’s crucial.
What is the funniest question you’ve ever been asked in an interview?
Probably what you just asked me! I can’t think of a weird or funny question I’ve been asked that totally caught me off guard but I’ll keep you updated.
If you were granted one wish, what would you ask for?
Right now, I’d wish for some Chick-fil-A nuggets. Definitely not a smart wish if I’m working for the long term but I’m pretty hungry and chicken nuggets sound awesome right now.
When you aren’t writing or performing what do you like to do?
Baking is a go to. I finally got my Nashville Library card so reading is a big one. Clearly, I lead a very interesting life.