FROM ROSES TO SHOWTIME: PROFILE OF ANNALÉ
Written by Julie Young
Anna Lee was born in Long Island, New York to two musician parents – her dad a classical conductor/composer and her mom an organist and pianist. Despite the ten year difference between Anna and her older sister, Jean, they are very close. Although Anna grew up in a musical household and frequently performed at church events, no one would have imagined that at 24, Anna Lee would become known as Annalé and that her debut single, “Roses,” would climb to number 19 on the Billboard R&B charts.
At the age of 4, Annalé moved with her parents to Korea while her sister remained in the States to attend school. This is also the age when Annalé started piano lessons which she says gave her, “a strong foundation in music.” Annalé attended kindergarten through fifth grade in Korea. After fifth grade, Annalé and her parents moved back to the United States and relocated to East Brunswick, New Jersey. She came back to the States without knowing how to speak English. She recalls, “I don’t know why but I wasn’t worried about not being able to communicate. Maybe it’s because I was too young. Thankfully, there were a lot of Asians and Koreans in East Brunswick. I remember it was the first day of school and I was waiting for the school bus and I met my first Korean-American friend. Even though she was totally American, she spoke fluent Korean too, so she would help me out a lot. Through her I met more Korean-American friends and really found my core group. We are still in touch now. ”
Throughout her junior high school and high school years, Annalé tried many instruments including the violin and guitar. As for singing, “I didn’t get serious about it until later. I always just sang for fun… I was naturally a good singer and I always had perfect pitch so I think growing up I never thought I was going to do anything other than music but I wasn’t sure if I was going to sing or if I was going to play piano or if I was gonna go into classical – that I didn’t figure out until later.”
When it came time to apply to colleges though, initially Annalé applied to all non-music schools because, despite wanting to go into music, fear held her back. “Yeah, even though I wanted to do music I was a bit scared to because it’s such an unstable path for a career. And my parents were also worried for me because they’re musicians themselves and they knew how hard it would be doing music. So, for me, I wasn’t even going to look at Berklee but my sister said, why don’t you just try and apply. It doesn’t hurt to try.” After an audition, she was offered a full scholarship which helped her parents to become fully supportive of Annalé attending Berklee. “I was really happy that I was gonna do music.”
It was at Berklee that Annalé discovered R&B and Soul music and, more importantly, her passion for the genre. “When I got to Berklee I took a lot of jazz classes because I thought I liked jazz but then somehow I got introduced to 90s and early 2000s R&B artists and when I started getting to know the music, I was like OH MY GOD this music is sooo good. Why did I never know this before? Then I just kept discovering more R&B music from that era.” She was blown away by the likes of Lalah Hathaway, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Floetry, to name a few.
After graduation, Annalé took her double major degree in Contemporary Writing and Production and Vocal Performance out to LA to begin an internship with a film composer. She quickly learned that she felt no excitement for such a job and began to wonder what her next step should be. All the while, never thinking she would pursue being a singer, “…even though I wanted to but I knew it was a hard path. I was scared to pursue it. I never dared to even think about it.” Then a heart to heart conversation with a friend, David, also a Berklee alum, helped give her the courage to pursue her passion. “At that time I was living with some Berklee friends – and one of them David, my manager now – he said why don’t you keep doing what you love? You love singing, right? He said why don’t we try and do something and he just kind of sparked the idea for me to go for it. He would help me out and we would become a team.” The gig would be David’s first time managing an artist but Annalé was confident in his abilities because of his aptitude and foresight.
In July 2016, Annalé released “Roses” as her debut single and she and her team watched as it climbed up the charts eventually reaching number 19. The single remained on the charts for 17 weeks. “That was mind blowing. I was so thankful and honored. My family was so happy for me. They love it when I sing and the fact that they know I’m doing something I love and it’s going well. They always support me.”
Her follow up single, “Showtime,” will be officially released later this month. The song shows another side of Annalé’s abilities. With a little more of a pop edge to it than “Roses,” it’s sure to be another hit. About the song, Annalé said, “I love the lyrics for “Showtime” because it’s encouraging – it’s saying don’t give up even if everyone is trying to take your power and crush you and put you down – don’t let that affect you, keep going, it’s your show! I love that encouraging message. I want all my songs to be like that. I want to encourage people and give people hope.”
Click here for an exclusive first listen to her new single “Showtime”!
Julie Young is a recovering attorney turned non-profit executive, writer and producer. Adopted at the age of three from Korea, she grew up in Rochester, New York. She holds a degree in Psychology from Fordham University and a J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She is the Founder of DreamMaker DreamDoer DreamSupporter, inc (3D) a non-profit production company that provides resources, connections and inspiration for creatives. She is also the Founder of The Phenomenal Girls Club, a non-profit organization that fosters learning, leadership and friendship for girls of color. Julie is an adoptive parent group facilitator for All Together Now. She serves as Board Chair for KoreanAmericanStory.org and as an advisory Board member of Nazdeek. She is the mom of twins and lives with her husband and family in Brooklyn.