Blame it on The Beatles
Local pop songwriter Anny Celsi opens for Tish Hinojosa at the Coffee Gallery Backstage Monday night
By Bliss Bowen 03/20/2014
Touring can introduce artists to unexpected travel buddies, as local musician Anny Celsi discovered last year when she and Texas singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa played some shows together in Europe and realized they both love traveling and trains. That resulted in a string of California shows last fall. Now they’re embarking on a second tour, which brings them to the Coffee Gallery Backstage Monday before they return to the United Kingdom.
Despite tilling different musical fields — Hinojosa’s renowned for her sweet mix of Latin folk and country, and Celsi’s a witty pop tunesmith — they complement one another surprisingly well. Both have a confirmed knack for crafting hummable melodies and poetic, thoughtful lyrics.
“We both grew up listening to The Beatles,” Celsi notes. “She had a lot more Spanish and country influences, but we both love pop music, and lyrics.”
Celsi’s passion for snappy tunes with meaningful lyrics was ignited by songwriters like Elvis Costello, Chrissie Hynde, Nick Lowe and Laura Nyro, and, of course, The Beatles.
“I like the immediacy of pop as an art form,” she says. “The stories you can tell from ‘I met him on a Monday’ [laughs] and the epic journey of that three-minute love story. It’s catchy, you can learn to sing it within three minutes, and you’re part of that story. It’s universal.”
Her smartly produced new album “January” showcases that preference; the longest track is a 4:42-minute cover of Steve Forbert’s “Wait,” which she sang as a lullaby to son Ivan. (Now grown and a gifted musician in his own right, he played piano on the track.) A sense of traveling courses through the nine songs — an intentional effect, as the first song written was the London-set “Travelogue.”
Having self-released four albums, Celsi speaks from experience when she says the biggest challenge confronting independent artists is “Money. Money and money and money. Money and time.
“If you’re on a label, you have a machine that’s supporting that effort and making sure that you get on NPR or ‘Austin City Limits’ or ‘Dancing With the Stars’ or that you have a song in the ‘Twilight’ movie. The challenge that I have as an independent artist is just, ‘How are people going to hear this music?’ The only way that I know to do that is go out and play it, and put it on YouTube.”
What keeps her going is the reward of the creative process itself.
“It’s exciting to have a new song,” she says. “It’s fun and interesting to interact with other musicians, and produce something that wasn’t there a year ago. It’s exciting to get a BMI check once in a while; that’s fulfilling. And I love traveling. I’m not making any money; I might break even at this point. But it’s a great way to live.”
Anny Celsi and guitarist Skip Heller open for Tish Hinojosa at the Coffee Gallery Backstage, 2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena, 8 p.m. Monday; $15. Info: (626) 798-6236. Annycelsi.com, coffeegallery.com