Clearing The Static: Anilee List Talks New Music And The Act Of Performing

“As a human being, as an artist, and as a deep feeler, I’m very self aware…”

If you were to walk into Sunset Boulevard’s Hotel Ziggy on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 8:45pm, you would be granted comforting shelter from the rare rainy, windy LA night. The lighting is dim with red and blue hues, people mingle while sitting on the lobby couches sipping their drinks, the air is physically and theoretically warm. 

What tops it off is on the right side of the lobby comes a soulful voice. 23-year-old Anilee List is performing, and the singer has managed to squeeze her seven person band, plus herself, onto the tiny square stage for the “We Found New Music with Grant Owens” Showcase. List laughs and acknowledges the set up is a little tight, but it’s okay because they are like family.

And this statement was easily proven true through the fun interactions, eye contact, microphone sharing and light dancing that occurred between List and her two backup singers, pianist, bassist, guitarist, drummer, and even flute player.

List’s performance was filled with heartfelt songs about love, self discovery and life transitions as well as impromptu riffs and harmonizations.

“I trust them a lot musically, I feel very supported and very held by them musically, which is a very good feeling,” List told Loop Magazine in an exclusive interview when referencing her band.

They are a blend of people the songwriter and singer has met during different stages of her life. She’s known her back up vocalists since she was a  teenager through acapella groups, met her pianist at a music camp in the Bay Area, and others through her time at Berklee College of Music. One would never know by how perfectly everyone melds together. 

One song into her set, and there is no question how List landed a spot in the 2021 season of American Idol or was featured in the Oscar award-winning film Coda. Fans are excitedly awaiting the official release of her single “Static,” which comes out Dec. 8.

List writes all her original songs and told the Hotel Ziggy crowd, “I think the writing that I tend to do feels just very like I’m seeing myself from an outside perspective because I spend so much f****** time in here [as she gestures to her head]. And so it’s nice to write about myself as if I’m not me, and I’m almost like playing a character or telling a story. It helps me see myself in a different way.” 

Elaborating on how she gets into this headspace, the “Static” singer tool Loop she’s been looking at herself from “an outside perspective.”

“I’ve done a lot of therapy and journaling and just a lot of work on my own to just get to know myself better, and see myself from almost like the higher self or the observer point of view just to be like, ‘Oh, you are doing that again, interesting. Let’s try to not to be too negative about it or speak kindly to myself,’ so being more gentle with myself,” she explained. “And I get my inspiration from a lot of that, a lot of kind of what I go through on a daily basis and from speaking with my friends about these things.”

Songwriting is not the only thing that’s been therapeutic for this up and coming artist, but also the act of performance itself. List has been involved with music for most of her life, and it’s been a safe space for her through her journey with Tourette Syndrome, a nervous system disorder that can create behavioral “tics.”

“I was diagnosed when I was 10, and when I was younger I think my tics were a lot worse than they are now,” she revealed to Loop. “One of my outlets in my life was performing, and it felt like the most safe space that I could be part of because for some reason when I am on stage, my tics pretty much go away. And I feel so engaged in what I am doing like my whole body, my whole self is active in performing, so it really feels like I can find relief, and I can find safety in that.”

List truly does fully engage herself into her performances, and audience members admire how she is fully emerged into a space to show off her talents while simultaneously finding peace. Loop was lucky to catch up with List after her Hotel Ziggy performance.

See the rest of our Q&A below where she gives us all the details on her new single “Static,” upcoming plans, pre-show rituals, favorite nightlife spots and more!

You are about to release “Static,” which will be on your debut EP. On your Instagram, you said this is your first time releasing something in awhile. What’s it like going through this process?

It’s been just kind of a journey of really figuring out what I want to say and how I want to say it. How I want things to sound, how I want things to feel. Production wise, what sound am I going for, what is in service of the song.

Especially with “Static” in particular, I wrote that song a couple years ago, and it was kind of just like sitting in my repertoire of unfinished stuff. And when I recording my EP at the beginning of the year, we were in the finalizing process, and we were just kind of missing something, just kind of figuring out what lane we wanted to fill still. And I was like “Oh my gosh, I have this song, and it’s just been in kind of like my arsenal for every live show I do. It’s such a fun one to do.” And so I just brought that one to them and they were like “Yeah, this is great,” and we produced it in two days. It was such a quick process, and yeah, I think that process has been really about just having kind of got clarity on what I said before of what it is I want to say, and how I want to say it.

You said at your showcase performance that you try to write about yourself from an outside perspective, how do you get into that headspace? Where do you get your inspiration from when it comes to songwriting?

I see in my life as a human being, as an artist, and as a deep feeler, I’m very self aware, almost to a fault, to the point where I overthink everything. And that’s kind of been part of my process where I use it almost as a source of power in my song writing because I feel like you know we are all existing in a body with a brain and have all gone through our own journeys, so I feel like writing by my own perspective, the topics I’m covering can feel really relatable to others, so that always feels really good to hear like audience members really resonating with my lyrical content.

[…] And then some off the stuff on the EP is love songs and break up songs and just stuff that I feel like a lot of people, especially at my age, I’m 23, can relate to at this point, and a lot of kind of the self discovery of who am I, what do I want to do with my life, where do I want to go from here because I know that my passion is in music, and it will forever and always be that, so figuring out what that looks like in a real sense.

“Static” is about clearing your mind. What was the inspiration behind this piece?

So my older sister, she is like the most creative person I know. She’s a dancer and a visual artist and a songwriter, and she was making kind of these word art graphic type things during the pandemic, and one of them said, “Turn off the static in your mind.” And that just stuck with me really hard because I feel like my mind is always going with ADHD and anxiety, they create the perfect storm. They love to work together and you know, make my life really interesting. So that was kind of the basis of the content and the concept for the song and why there’s so much static in my mind, how I get stuck in these kind of thought loops and cycles and how it can be so important to take a step back and notice when those things are happening, so that I can work to change that.

You were on “American Idol” back in 2021, what was your favorite part about that experience and what did you gain most from it?

My favorite part about the experience was definitely the people I met on the show. I’m still friends with a lot of people from my season, and it was very helpful and productive for my own career to get an inside glimpse into the industry in that way and just to see what making art and creating on such a huge scale with such a huge budget is like. It’s really like the world is your oyster and kind of seeing the scale at which art can be made is really cool. It was definitely a growing process for me. 

You were featured in the movie “CODA.” What was it like being a part of a project that got such high praise from movie critics and also showcased a story not commonly presented in the media?

That was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, hands down. Like I went into it, not really knowing exactly what it was. I knew it was an independent film, but I didn’t know what the scale of the production of it was going to be. And it was so fun to be on set everyday and be with my friends because basically they cast people from the acapella group I was in in college, and it was such a fun experience and it really felt like we got to play.

And the crew and the cast were so wonderful and then it won the Oscar and we were completely like, “What?!” I think it took a lot of people by surprise not because it’s not worth that but because it was such a small film. And so I think we were all really, really proud of the work everyone put in. I played such a small part, but I did feel proud to be part of something like that, that depicted such an important story. And I think those are stories that really need to be told.

You are an advocate for the Tourette Association of America. How has your journey with Tourette Syndrome impacted your career and what would you say to someone who is struggling with their diagnosis?

 I think my journey with Touettes has been a really important through line in my life. […] I experienced my share of bullying or “what are you doing? why are you doing that?”or “stop that” or really knowing what it means to advocate for myself at a really young age, especially to adults, even to people who are years older than me who just didn’t have a tolerance for something I could control and that wasn’t my fault. Learning how to advocate for myself was a really big important step. 

And I think I would say anyone who is struggling with a diagnosis, reach out to others, find community. There are so many online forums and groups, and the Tourette Association is a huge resource and there’s other associations and camps, so you are not alone in this and you can pursue whatever it is that you want to pursue. Don’t let this be a deterrent to follow your dreams. You might have to work to prove yourself. You might be pitied. I’ve had people who are like “Wow, that’s so amazing, all that you’ve gone through.” And it’s just kind of who I am at this point, so it doesn’t have to be some kind of who I am at this point, so it doesn’t have to be some kind of plight of my journey, it’s just who I am, and it’s just a small part of me.

Do you have any pre-show or post-show rituals?

Pre-show, I do like jumping jacks and cardio, and I get my heart rate up really high because I learned this at 17 from a mentor of mine that by time you get on stage, your heart rate begins to slow, so kind of getting into my body before hand and just really shaking everything out and kind of just being a fool. 

And then post-show, I kind of just love hanging out with my band, and being with my friends. Sometimes, I feel like if I’ve given a lot for a performance, I like to just kind of retreat and be alone for a second and just kind of process what happened on stage or just like get back to the present moment because sometimes I just black out when on stage, and not in a bad way, but in a “I don’t even know what happened just now.”

Do you have a favorite nightlife spot in LA?

I go out in West Hollywood sometimes, but I am trying to explore the East side more. I’ve been to The Friend, and that’s really fun. Zebulon is fun. Good Times at Davey Waynes is always fun. Kind of not my vibe, but Desert 5 Spot is fun. I’m not a country gal, but it’s fun to cosplay a character. I feel like I’m missing so many, but I love going to jams and jam sessions. There’s one at Gold Diggers, which is in Downtown, kind of. That one’s on Mondays. And then Tiny Room Studios in Inglewood, that one’s like my favorite, that one also on Mondays. If you are looking for a good jam session, that’s what I like to do with my social life. And then I go out with my friends, but we kind of just go bar hopping or stay in and do wine.

As a musician, what is your go-to karaoke song? You covered “Blue” by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and said it has lots of resurgences in  your life, so is that your main one or do you have other ones?

So my job right now, what I do for work is I play at the restaurant called Mastro’s. There are a bunch of different ones, so I play with karaoke tracks, and I play a piano. So I sing for four hours, like karaoke songs. But I love doing “Ain’t Nobody” by Chaka Khan or like an Amy Winehouse song. I did “I Will Survive” one time, and that was really fun, but I think some Chaka Khan.

What’s next for you? What can fans look forward to?

I think next year is going to really be focused on releasing the rest of the EP, so I am probably just going to do single by single. And I haven’t put music out in years, so I think that’s definitely something I’m looking forward to is just having everything out and putting together all the content for it. And then doing my own shows to promote that music, and doing a fair amount of work on a lot of other people’s projects too, so I am really excited to collaborate and hopefully get to travel more for a lot of my gigs.

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