ANNE MCCUE: Archetypal Angeleno

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“Los Angeles is a place for dreamers,” she says on a scorching midsummer day, sipping iced tea in a Hollywood diner, and expounding on the musical magnetism that pulled her from her native Sydney to Melbourne to Vietnam and ultimately to this wild west coast of America, where she now has a home in the funky-soulful climes of L.A.’s Echo Park. “Nobody here is putting you down because you are a dreamer, and you have dreams of being an artist. As soon as I got here to California, I felt lighter.”

“Los Angeles is a place for dreamers,” she says on a scorching midsummer day, sipping iced tea in a Hollywood diner, and expounding on the musical magnetism that pulled her from her native Sydney to Melbourne to Vietnam and ultimately to this wild west coast of America, where she now has a home in the funky-soulful climes of L.A.’s Echo Park. “Nobody here is putting you down because you are a dreamer, and you have dreams of being an artist. As soon as I got here to California, I felt lighter.”

It’s a lightness that has resulted in some seriously heavy music, as evidenced by her latest album, Koala Motel, which resounds like a classic on first listening. Fusing capacious Patti Smith-Jim Carroll-Jim Morrison abstract, concrete lyrics with passionate melodies, she ties it all together with her astoundingly fluid, melodic guitar playing. Her motel is replete with everything that makes great rock great: it opens with the visceral punch of a great Angeleno road duet with the legendary John Doe of X, “Driving Down Alvarado,” and soars through a score of stunning songs that map out her worldly perspective, from the zealously global “From Bakersfield to Saigon” to the haunting instrumental title track, “Koala Motel,” which shows off her elegant and expansive guitar chops, and which would be ideally suited for a spectral soundtrack to a David Lynch movie. And in the midst of this comes “Shivers,” which smolders and burns with a restrained but palpable zeal, evoking the spirits of other great female rockers, from Janis Joplin to Chrissie Hynde.

Dueting with John Doe is a bold and savvy statement, offering an outsider perspective on this town with one of this town’s most beloved rock insiders, echoing the anthemic Angeleno scope of his classic collaborations with Exene Cervenka. “His voice is just so smooth,” said Anne, “despite the fact that he’s presented himself in a more punk way. His voice is gold; it’s like maple syrup.” Rather than take us down one of L.A.’s more celebrated thoroughfares, such as Sunset Boulevard or the Ventura Freeway, she steers us instead east of Hollywood and directly down Alvarado, a street that is more emblematic of the pulsating, post-modern, polyrhythmic, multi-ethnic, dystopian landscape of this vast metropolis. It emerged from Anne’s inspired tango with an old typewriter, seeding the ideal opening: “It’s a different city, when it rains it trickles down from the filthy sky.”

She’s someone who knows a lot about different cities. She grew up in Sydney, then moved to Melbourne with a blue suitcase and her brother’s old guitar. She joined a pop-rock band, recorded and toured around Australia, but eventually split to gig in Vietnam. Soon she was scooting around Ho Chi Minh City on a Vespa by day and burning up rock clubs every night. Though she only intended to stay for a month or so, she spent a year there, honing her guitar chops to an astonishing degree.

Following her extended Vietnam excursion, she returned to Australia and followed her muse into local pubs, where she spent ample time jamming with serious bluesmen. “Any guitarist can play a solo over the blues,” she said. “But to say something new in that structure, and to find your own voice, isn’t easy.”

Though she was writing a lot of her own songs at this time, she joined another band, with whom she toured extensively, but when they contractually restricted her creativity, she escaped to establish a solo career, and recorded her debut album Amazing Ordinary Things.

Now she’s a full-time Californian-living just off Alvarado herself, which gives her opening song a fervent veracity-and dealing with archetypal Angeleno occurrences. During our interview, for example, her car got smashed in the parking lot outside. But she briskly turned this calamity into a triumph, discovering a mechanic in the Valley who repaired it reasonably and briskly. Knocked down but never derailed even slightly, she said, “Needing to have a car is the only drawback about living here.  But if it was perfect here, it would be paradise, and everyone would want to live here.”  And then, after a pause, she added, “And I’d say there are enough people here already.”


Leave a Reply

NATALIE COLE: Honor & Tribute

TONY JOE WHITE: King of Funk Country