Freeing Yourself — Annathyst’s “All Night”

Donna Block
7 min readMar 8, 2021

Originally from a different solar system, otherwise known as the backwoods of Michigan, Annathyst has never followed a traditional approach to music. Untamed by the structure of traditional music teaching, her interest in music often coincided with singing around the campfire with her acoustic guitar.

From your love of the outdoors came an interest in music, in part, from when you’d sing around the campfire with an acoustic guitar. In what ways does the natural world inspire your creativity?

The natural world is the foundation of my creativity. My whole life, I have gone to nature to seek healing, answers, and inspiration. The modern world we’ve created in many ways cuts us off from nature and, thus, our own true nature. Spending time outside brings me back into attunement with myself and the earth. I feel the wind on my body and it starts to wake up my skin, I feel the sun on my face and remember what love is, I get caught in a lightning storm and remember the preciousness of life — how nothing is guaranteed in this life except the moment at hand. I go back time and time again to remember this simple yet deep wisdom. I often catch songs on a mountain side or out on a long run through the forest. Most of my songs weave in and out of a conversation with the natural world.

Finding ‘instantaneous transmission’ connections, through a meadow wind or backpacking the Colorado Trail, for your songwriting. How do you capture those connections from nature into your music?

They just spontaneously happen. There is no conscious control. I remember a time I spent a few days at a cabin alone in the woods. I turned my phone off and went deep into prayer for myself and the world. I was sitting outside on the porch looking at the mountains and then I felt it — I grabbed my guitar and the words started pouring out of me, as did the melody and chord structures. And, so was the birth of the song “Mountain Skies,” which will be the next single I am releasing from my upcoming album. Writing each song is a beautiful experience every time, but there is nothing I do to make them happen — aside from, perhaps, creating a space to receive what is ready to come through often inspired by nature, or love, or loss.

“I love spatial aesthetics and building a space around art.” How is this represented within your music?

I think that quote is from how I set up my home space, which is actually very important to my music. I like the quote, “The way you do some things is the way you do everything.” My life is my art: the way I set up my home, the clothes I wear, the way I speak, write, the way I love… is all an expression of my art. I think open space is also key — making space in our physical environment can often affect how we make space within ourselves for our artistic channel. The more you harmonize yourself with yourself and your surrounding environment, magic happens.

Singing at your sister Lucy’s funeral, “for it was truly when I sang at her funeral where I believed in the healing power and beauty of music to bring hope to even the darkest and most tragic situations.” What songs do you listen to when you seek healing?

I mean, the first thing that came to mind is Adrianne Lenker. I honestly go multiple months listening to an album of hers on repeat and experience so much healing. It’s usually female indie/folk singer/songwriters that bring me back into my heart space perhaps because I often admire the female artists I listen to. Women who are courageous enough to step into their heart space and be raw and vulnerable and share that with the world is something I aspire to do and be. Another female artist — who I’ve followed since childhood — is May Erlewine. Her songs have both healed my heart and helped me find my own voice.

Lucy’s last words to you, “give the world your love and in return you will be given the world,” opened you to share your music. Your first single, “White Rose,” “when this song came through it was powerful and left me feeling all the feels. This song has healed me in many ways and is one I feel so called to share especially w/ those who knew and loved Lucy.” What does the white rose mean spiritually to you?

You know, sometimes when I write songs I have to play around with the words — like, I almost mumble the melodies until the right word just lands. The word “white” had fallen in but the other one was just a mumble and my producer, Julian Peterson, suggested “rose.” It was like an “ah-ha” moment — it just fit. I think what the white rose seemed to speak to was the purity of my sister. Lucy was the purest, truest, and kindest being I think I will ever know. There was something otherworldly about her. It was as if she was so bright, she was only meant to grace this world for her short and sweet life. The white rose to me speaks to this untainted completely pure state of being that she emanated so effortlessly in every moment of her short life.

“… it’s the imperfections and mistakes that grow us into the one that IS better and that makes them all the more worth it.” Allowing oneself the grace to accept that today’s battles will in turn lead us to tomorrow’s successes. Can you share some resources for those seeking guidance in their daily struggles?

The funny thing is that I am in my last semester of graduate school for a counseling degree that focuses on wilderness therapy. I am an intern at a wilderness therapy company out in Bend, Oregon and I work with adolescents and young adults in their daily struggles each week. I think the reason I got into this line of work is I felt so alone for so many years struggling after losing my sister. The great news is that mental health resources are much more available now probably than ever before! My suggestion is, whatever you’re struggling with, to really tune into yourself and what sort of support you might need. We are our own best healer. Others can help us get there, but ultimately, we are the ones that heal ourselves. Whether your support looks like seeing a therapist, support group, or perhaps receiving the amazing healing powers of nature. This could mean getting outside of the house, a park — it doesn’t necessarily have to be some inaccessible mountaintop. Nature is EVERYWHERE. And there is so much out there these days and access to that support is increasing exponentially all the time. The time is over where mental health is taboo…we’ve all got healing to do!

Always take the path less traveled. “All Night” was ‘inspired by a feeling of being stuck in your own life where you felt the night sky calling you to free yourself from what was holding you back and to run with the wolves.’ How does this song, co-written with producer Julian Peterson, define you as an interstellar folk songstress?

Julian came up with the “interstellar folk songstress” and it’s honestly the best definition of myself I’ve ever heard. A lot of my songs start off as a folk tune as inspired by my Northern Michigan folk scene roots. When Julian and I started working out the production for “All Night” in particular, it started as a folk tune but it wanted to go to the stars. A lot of this upcoming album “Fly Again” is taking folk tunes — usually earthy & grounded — and adding sky elements to them so they float, soar, and sparkle.

That knowing love you seek is the love only you can give yourself “to feel whole on your own.” Your upcoming debut album, “Fly Again,” will center on ‘mending broken wings after loss and learning to fly again.’ How will these songs, these transmissions, take your raw sound into more interstellar places?

I think my collaboration with Julian Peterson is how these songs have been able to lift off and take flight into more interstellar places. Before I met Julian, it has always been me and my guitar — which is great and I love that sound, but I always had this bigger vision of what it could sound like. I like calling Julian “the song genie” because you give him this idea of what you want and in no time he’s completely transformed the song into exactly what you envisioned — and usually even better! Julian helps me take these deep songs — some of them expressing pretty moving content like “White Rose” — and captures the moments I describe to him, as if he was there.