“It’s about not setting limitations and wanting to take it as far as you can. You never know where the boundaries are”
“I am someone that gets very excited over everything” 21-year-old Anna Robinson tells us midway through our chat in the NME HQ. This is a very good thing, as the young singer-songwriter who goes by just her surname, Robinson, has had a lot to get excited about recently. Her latest tune ‘Nothing to Regret’ has totally blown up. Its gone gold in her home of New Zealand, platinum in Australia and currently boasts over fifty million streams worldwide.
It’s unsurprising, though, that ‘Nothing to Regret’ has earned her support from tastemakers and consumers alike. All subtle builds and triumphant climaxes, with a huge, emotive earworm of a chorus (à la fellow Kiwi Lorde), it’s makes for a heady sugar rush.
But none of this is the result of overnight success; it’s come from years of grafting. Growing up in a musical family, Anna always loved writing music but “absolutely loathed the idea of performing” She got over this after singing ‘My Favourite Things’ at primary school concert (“I messed up… It was scary but you have to go through that so you can get to a point where you’ve experienced it all and feel comfortable knowing that mistakes are ok!”). She then actively pursuing a career in music as a teenager, creating the Robinson moniker last year, and she’s been dutifully crafting outrageously good music since.
“I remember when we released the first song under the Robinson project that got maybe twenty thousand streams in a week or two and to me that was crazy,” she tells us, but even now the streams have rocketed, Robinson remains enthused and humble about every aspect of her blossoming career.
“In Manchester this group of like celebrity spotters, they were like “’oh my god, Anna, can we have your photo?’ and I was so confused looking at everyone like maybe we knew these guys, she says excitedly. “Do they have an app on their phone that scans a face? I was trying to work it out, I mean on the Internet it says I’m fifty-five. That was a moment where even if they were a celebrity spotter I’m still going to take that!”
We caught up with the talent ahead of her debut show in London (“I’m so excited”) last month, to talk writing a smash, the album and the time her Mum rang up Hollywood Records and made her sing a Katy Perry song down the phone.
When you finished writing ‘Nothing to Regret’ did you envisage this success?
“No! I think it’s weird being in a studio, I always think of it like a studio bubble that’s cast over you and everyone that is in the room and I think that’s just because when you’re writing a song you get so inside your own head. You’re spending so much time finessing over all these points in the song that you kind of lose the ability to be like “this is good” or “this is bad. It’s weird, when we wrote ‘Nothing to Regret’ it felt really good but I don’t think we really knew what it truly was if that makes sense. But that could also be because it was three in the morning when we left! Probably just really tired and we were like “let’s call it a night.”
And now it’s racked up millions of streams – what’s that like?
Crazy, very crazy. It’s been such a gradual process for me so I really love being able to appreciate each achievement for what it is.
What was it like the first time you heard it on the radio?
Well, it was amazing. It’s such a cool feeling to think that something you created in a room with no one else but yourself and the producer is now in a place where it’s totally the opposite of that.
I think I was driving somewhere and I knew that the radio was going to play it and I remember pulling over and turning it up. Not in a conceited way but just kind of, it’s a proud moment when you’ve put so much into something and finessing over the little details and wanting to make it perfect.
How supportive of your music are your family?
Unbelievably. My mum is so supportive. When I was fourteen I went through this phase where I thought I had to live in America or London or a big city to get out there and do it, and one day I found the number for Hollywood Records [released records by Queen and Demi Lovato] and I nagged my mum, and was like: “Mum, you’ve got to ring them and just say I really love music”.
I was sitting in the room next door so nervous, and so she called them and to the receptionist she explained that I was a writer and a singer and did the typical mum thing of really building me up. And she was like ‘Anna said that she would sing ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry down the phone”. So I ran in and said ‘no no no no!’ and my mum hands me the phone. I think I did a verse and a chorus which makes me cringe so much just thinking about it.
Looking at the rest of your year, what’s the plan?
I think for me; an album has always been my goal because it is such a nice home for these songs to be. In my head it would just be nice for all the songs to be on one thing, you can just see it and maybe that’s the inner Virgo in me thinking it’s got to be perfectly on an album.
Do you have one milestone you want to achieve in your career?
I’ve always thought about it from the aspect that I don’t ever want it to get to a point where it stops. I always want to be pushing as far as it can go, goals are really important and I should probably set them but even playing Glastonbury would be really amazing and performing at an awards show would be really cool. At the same time as setting goals, it’s about not setting limitations and wanting to take it as far as you can. You never know where the boundaries are if just keep doing it.