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Michaela Anne delivers a powerful connection and uplifting listening experience on latest release

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James Rice

Michaela Anne joins Music Journeys to share how events in her own life deepened the meaning of many songs on her latest release Oh To Be That Free. Anne also discusses the special bond her mother and daughter have through music and gives us some laughs and great selections in that fun little segment we call the Fast Five.

Chasing Days plays...

Part of Michaela Anne's 11-track Oh To Be That Free release represents a constant challenge many of us face at times - being satisfied with where you are in life rather than seeking external validation to feel like you're enough.

"I think in today's world it's harder than ever to feel content because we have so much access to seeing what other people want us to think that they have," Anne reflected. "You can feel great about yourself and then look on your feed and see everybody with more success because we only see each other's happiness - how many followers, how many listeners. That's all publically accessible, and it's really not the way we should be judging anything. So it's a daily practice. I think just really exhausting myself has helped. You could just choose to enjoy your day. There's always so many people that have more but it could be so much worse. I can frame my life as a massive utter failure or a wild success, and it's the same life."

Dirty Secrets plays...

Anne's life began in Ithaca, New York. But with her father serving in the U.S. Navy, it became hard to call any place home.

"We moved so many times, 20 to 25 houses by the time I was 18," Anne recalled. "Music was always my source of expression, my solace, my companion. We were always on the go and in new places, and I didn't have a lot of friends. I missed my dad as he went out to sea for as long as six months. So the first song I ever wrote was an instrumental piece called When Daddy Comes Home. I really realized in music that there's a connection for me and a feeling of longing - longing for my dad, my relatives, where we had left so that attachment to expressing pain is really a common thread for me and a release and joy as well."

Where Will I Be Found plays...

"I got into playing piano at about age five," Anne said of her early recollections of attempting music. "My older brother started playing first. We got a piano and I remember playing A to C and hearing that minor third and being transfixed. I remember what a strong physical response I had to music at a really young age."

Trees plays...

"I never felt comfortable with trying to be the center of attention so I've been very slow in figuring out how you create this as a livelihood and how you do it for a lifetime and how that actually is possible without being a household name," Anne said of music as a career. "I learned along the way that there's people making a living that I've never heard of. I guess this is what I'm doing for life. And everyday I wonder but I have complex feelings about careers as musicians. It's an interesting path in life."

For Anne, a record reflects a certain period of time in her life. She writes music that often includes a sense of searching and questioning the deeper meaning of life. The songs on Oh To Be That Free are no exception. It's what happened in her life between the time she started the record and the final mastering that made the songs deepen in meaning.

"I got pregnant and had my first child, and when I was pregnant my mom had a massive stroke," Anne said. "My mom survived, but she was in the hospital for three months in a coma, and lost her entire right side and her ability to speak. My whole life was turned upside down. Nothing mattered more than devoting that time to my mom. Then to become a mother, it shifted my perspectives and priorities. And the questions I had when writing on Oh To Be That Free really put those questions into real life practice.

If Only You Knew plays...

"It feels like it was almost preparing me where my life before was about having a good time, travelling and just trying to achieve," Anne said. "The pandemic took everything away, and then I was contemplating all these things. What if you are honest about your flaws and your shadow and your darkness and how do you address those things? What is life about? Is it about gaining and success? Is it about others other than myself? So to experience losing my mother in the way that I had her. These songs felt like I was already in the mindset of where to keep my focus and attention. I would sing these songs especially Who You Are, which talks about who you really are and I want to see you when life comes crashing down and we are forced to make major sacrifices."

Who You Are plays...

Anne felt a connection then and continues to feel that bond between her mother and daughter now.

"For me, the most magical experience of my mom having a stroke and me sitting by her bedside while my baby was growing was singing my songs, but also Child of Mine by Carole King," Anne said. "That was a song my mom played for me when I was a baby. I'm convinced that my mom and my daughter have this deep mystical connection because of that time that we spent together. My daughter knows that song. When she first started showing recognition as an infant, I sang that song and her eyes - she looked up at me and there was recognition."

Anne's version of Child Of Mine plays...

"I have to believe my mom could hear those things and that my daughter experienced those things, and I see that connection between my daughter and my mother now which is really comforting and beautiful especially because my mom is still not able to physically pick her up and chase after her and those things," Anne said. "I do think that's the magic wonder of music. To me, that's the point of having a life based around music. On the daily basis that I wonder why I'm doing this, I go back to that and it really is pure magic to me."

I'm Only Human plays...

"I try to think about if I wasn't myself and listened to this record and what I hope I would gain," Anne contemplated. "I think about the music that I listen to and love - it's when I feel seen in somebody else's songs. I hope people take that away. If they are struggling with shameful feelings or thoughts that they still feel they are worthy of love and redemption and healing and know that we are all connected. A lot of this stuff can be dismissed and new-agey mindsets, but I think we need that more than ever in today's world. So I hope they feel more connected and less alone."

Good People plays...

"Good People, which I wrote with Madi Diaz, is one of my favorites," Anne said. "I love that because my progression as a songwriter a lot of it is facing fears of vulnerability. The songwriters I like write songs that feel so exposing and personal that they inevitably become universal. Good People feels like that - really trying to admit a lot of the darkness, the faults and flaws and mistakes we made and say I'm still redeemable and worthy of love. The piano parts and strings are some of my favorites."

Good People continues...

"Music is very emotional to me so there are times when I can't listen to music," Anne reflected. "But music is stories. Knowing other people's stories helps me get through life. When it's put to music, it's such an incredible physical experience because it's vibrational. The sound of somebody's voice can be so incredibly moving - the words, the instrumentation. It can make anything feel better."

It's Just a Feeling plays...

"I think music is one of the most important things," Anne concluded. "The making of this record has only proven how much I seek out music as a source to uplift or heal."

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Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience.