London-based Italian pop singer Ari Anna has been studying at BIMM London for three years as a songwriter. Coinciding with Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Anna releases her new single ‘Lost Again’, which explores her own struggles with the illness, gives strength to those also struggling and shows how important it is to express your feelings.
Words: Conor Sharkey Glackin
“It’s not about looking as good as the models that we see in magazines; it’s just about feeling good.”
‘Lost Again’ is a very personal and honest track. What do you want listeners to take away from hearing it?
I wrote it two years ago when I still was affected by my own eating disorder. It’s a sad ballad, but what I really wanted to say to the audience is that we can get out of that dark place. I had eating disorder problems for eight years, a long time, but it was possible to get out of that – something that I didn’t believe before. Everyone is looking at the mirror, saying, “Oh my God, maybe I should lose weight”. Society doesn’t talk about it because there’s a pressure on us all to look slim. We have to talk about it. We have to just feel good with ourselves. It’s not about looking as good as the models that we see in magazines; it’s just about feeling good.
You said that when you wrote the song, your eating disorder magically started to ‘disappear’. Why do you think that is?
That was a weird thing. I came to BIMM three years ago, and I remember we had a piece of homework to write a song. I started writing it, then I had the meeting with Pete Smith, [producer of Sting, Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder]. I wrote 10 tracks and when he heard [‘Lost Again’], he was like, “Wait a second, what is this?” I finally took a moment to realise that, yeah, I’ve been suffering from eating disorders, and it’s not that big of a deal, people do have problems. When I started talking to a lot of people [who were also suffering], that made me really aware of what was happening. So, just being aware of what was happening, helped me to get out of my problem.
“I write in a journal every morning. It’s a powerful tool. You shouldn’t be ashamed of how you feel.”
Do you think that speaks to the power of songwriting and the importance of expressing your emotions, despite how daunting that may seem?
I never thought that writing down my feelings could really help, but since I wrote the song I started keeping a journal so that I’m writing every morning, just to know how I feel, and that really helps me. It’s a powerful tool. You don’t have to be ashamed of how you feel.
The song is described as “a guiding light for those who suffer”, did you have your own guiding light to overcome your own struggles?
Yeah, my mum was the first person that realised what was happening. Without me knowing, she made the whole family aware of what I was going through. That helped me. I knew that my brother was checking what I was doing in the kitchen and even if that made me a bit mad I knew that it was about taking care of me. Also, I’ve been going to the same psychologist for eight years now. She would help me by saying, “you know, you can get out of this, you really can”. My way was to talk about my problems to address them with either my mum or my psychologist. Everybody had to dig into me to understand what was happening.
Watching the music video is an intense and visceral experience, how much creative input did you have?
I was planning the video since I wrote the song, I knew what I wanted from the day I finished the structure of the song. I don’t know how but I just realised the whole video and knew how to get everything. I knew the dancer; I knew who I wanted to be in the video. That was kind of weird, because it never really happens to me to have that structure for the video. When I write the song, usually I have to think about it later. The dancer actually sang with me back in Italy and we did a few tours together. She was was just amazing. I admire her because I know we have been through the same thing. I could just feel we could relate to a lot of things about each other.
“The day that we recorded video, I think I cried for, like, five hours. What happened is still a part of me.”
Can you describe your reaction to watching the finished video for the first time?
To be honest, on the day that we recorded video, I cried for five hours. I couldn’t stop honestly, I don’t know. I mean, I’m over it now but it’s still something that even if I cannot relate to the problem anymore that much, it’s still a part of me. I’m really happy with what the result is now because it’s exactly how I imagined the whole thing.
You’ve stated that the music video captures the yin and yang duality of yourself as an artist, how hard is it to find that balance?
I’m trying to balance the fact that the dancer was kind of capturing my feelings in the kind of chaotic and saddest way possible. While I was dressed in my clean clothes, she was the opposite of me. She was chaotic and had messy hair. I split myself into two. One part was saying, you can do it, you can actually do it, but the other side was just like doing the worst thing ever to myself. So, I try to balance the two figures in relation of what I wanted to be and who I was.
Lyrics such as, ‘In time I’ll learn to win’ evoke an idea of positivity in that, despite the circumstances people find themselves in, they can always turn it around. How hard is it to maintain this thought, especially when going through a rough time?
I have to be honest; I didn’t have eating problems for about a year and a half since I wrote the song. In the past three or four weeks, I really don’t know why I went down again, into kind of similar path to what happened. That was a surprise, I thought it was over, and the thing is, it happened again. The thing is now, I can relate differently. I can see the problems in a different way. It’s not always easy, I was scared to go back on the same path, but I know how to deal with that. It happened again, and I wasn’t prepared for that. I wanted to give all these positive messages despite the fact that I fell down again. It’s not that it’s completely over, but I know for sure that if you get good help, you can see it in a different way.
What can we expect to hear on your new, as yet untitled, album which is out in June?
it’s very difficult to describe as a genre, of course I love pop music, but it’s kind of alternative. In the album you can hear all the influences that I had in my ears such as pop and rock. It’s two years of work in in one album, and you can feel all the different influences. Still in the alternative pop mood, but very, very different songs, one from the other, different producers, different arrangements. I would say positive messages are the main focus of the album.
What was it like recording at Abbey Road? How did that opportunity come about?
I met a few friends that were working there, and it was my dream to go and record at Abbey Road. They said, “You can come in if you if you want to so you can realise your dream”. I recorded with a microphone that Lady Gaga used to record her second album. It was a big deal. When I went there I didn’t even realise how happy I was.
“Receiving feedback from [producer] Pete Smith, a man that made music history, it’s a great thing.”
What was it like working with the producers such as Pete Smith and Paul Statham (Dido, Kylie)?
They’re both crazy but quite straight, I love that about them. If they don’t like something, they’ll tell you straight away. I’ve had a good relationship with Pete Smith for three years now. I always love to show him five or six of my songs from one session and he’d just tell me, “I like this. I like that. I don’t like this. I don’t think this is great.” He gave me a lot of power in the sense that in the first year, he was a bit strict, and he wasn’t always happy with my songs. Now he’s always saying, “You’re improving; that is great. That is perfect. I would just change-up this. The overall idea is good”. He’s given me a lot of positive energy from that – just receiving feedback from a man that made music history, it’s a great thing.
For people who want to gain insight or seek guidance on eating disorders, what can they do?
Honestly, there are plenty of resources online. It’s just a matter of searching for eating disorders, you can find hundreds of organisations [see
beateatingdisorders.org.uk], most of them are free. When you feel sad, you can just give them a call, and someone is there to help you.
Watch the video for ‘Lost Again’: