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Anna Phoebe is a London-based rock violinist, but widely travelled, reflecting the cosmopolitan and eclectic nature of her music.

Born in Germany she moved back to the UK at the age of 4 and lived in Scotland until she left for University in London. She started learning violin at the age of 7.

In March/April she tours the UK as part of Jethro Tull's acoustic show when she will be integrated into the band as well as playing some of her own material.

1. What are you currently up to?

Practising the Tull material!!!! There's LOADS of it! :)

Other than that, At the end of this week flying out to Abu Dhabi to do a performance out there for the Lebanese American University, doing the odd gig in London, recording bits and pieces for various people (there's an incredibly talented film composer called Christian Henson who I work quite a lot with) and in April flying out to NY to write and record with Angus Clark (the guitarist from Trans-Siberian Orcestra who I work also with on my solo stuff).

Anna Phoebe

Photo: Lee Millward/GRTR!

2. Tell us about the Trans-Siberia Orchestra project? How did you get involved and what have been the highlights of your recent tour?

TSO is AMAZING!! It's just the most incredible experience! Like all the best things it kind of happened by accident. I'd absolutely never heard of them - I was in NY and went to meet this cellist about a recording project, and he brought along quite by chance this woman called Dina who'd been auditioning violinists for my 'role'...

She asked me to meet the producers so we went straight to the studio and I met these guys with long hair, tight jeans and leather jackets, they gave me some sheet music and the next day before my flight back to the UK i went down to Brooklyn to one of the guys' house to audition. Totally random.

It was only when I got back to London and googled them I realised it was actually quite a big deal. So then I practised the pieces again, filmed myself and sent over DVD's of me performing the music...and then when I heard I was in with a chance I booked myself a flight to NY and showed up to the final auditions. It all paid off!

Highlights - er.....too many!!! The whole thing is just an mind-blowing experience - how many violinists gets to play as part of a 7 piece rock band, complete with pyrotechnics, lasers a 7 piece orchestra, incredible singers and tour around America playing in front of 5,000 to 15,000 people every night (sometimes twice a day!!)...???.oooh - AND I get to go up on the scissor lift that was used for the KISS tour - I think I'm definitely the only violinist ever to go up on those with jets of coloured smoke spewing out the bottom!

Seriously - it's an incredible opportunity and I feel totally lucky and honoured to be part of it. And the fans are crazy and brilliant - they bake us Christmas cookies and make us Christmas ornaments and everything!!!

3. Tell us about how you got started in music and what/who are your main influences?

My mum started me off on the violin. She wouldn't let me start playing until I knew about the 'responsibilities of practice'....(I was seven)...- she then made me practice every day, even when I had friends round I had to go into my room for 15 mins and my friends would have to play with my little sister.

I always loved loved LOVED performing and playing in concerts and competitions, but I never wanted to be a classical musician. No-one told me that touring and playing in bands was an option. So I went to London School of Economics and studied Social Policy & Government - Mick Jagger I think went there for one term or something...

I worked for politicians, got involved in student politics but got a bit disillusioned by the second year - I wanted to leave and just do music (I'd started playing with bands and doing random recording stuff) but I knew my parents would KILL me so I stuck it through.

I'm glad I did, but the day I graduated I felt like this huge weight off my shoulders and remember taking off my graduation gown and cap thinking 'RIGHT!!!! NOW I can do what IIIIIIIIIII want to do!!!" I felt totally free!!!

So I worked for producers, bands, singers saying yes to EVERYTHING - played for African/Celtic bands, for breakbeat/Klezmer bands, a random session for Robin Gibb, TV work for a whole load of people where you sit and mime on Top Of The Pops/MTV/GMTV etc etc and one thing led to another.....

Main influences? Too many to mention - I've learnt something from every single musician I've ever played with from every country I've played in.

I listen to LOADS of styles of first cassette album was MC Hammer so I've no idea what that says about me.

I remember being hooked on the Bangles and Bananarama when I was about 9, and listening to Guns n' Roses and Bon Jovi when I was about 12 with my bedroom windows WIDE open so everyone on the street could just how cool i was. :)

I got into Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, I always listened to classical music but my musical taste is a total mix. It really depends what mood I'm in and who I'm with.

I come back from the Middle East and all I will listen to is Fairuz, Om Kalthoum and Oriental House music and then I'll spend three months on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour and come back listening to Lynrd Skynrd, Allman Brothers and Pink Floyd. Now of course I only listen to Jethro Tull.

Anna Phoebe

Photo: Lee Millward/GRTR!

4. What will be the nature of your contribution to the Tull tour. (i.e. will you be featured throughout or for certain pieces?)

It's amazing really - I get to play as part of the band and join in with their set, and then as part of the set we also play a couple of my solo tracks - including Gypsy - I can't wait!!!

Also, because they've worked with a couple of violinists already (Lucia Micarelli and Ann Marie Calhoun) the violin bits fit really well. We've only had one rehearsal so far, but I think I'm playing on most of the set......(unless of course I'm crap at the first gig and they cut me out..! eek!)

5. How did you get the Tull gig?

Ian Anderson emailed me last year and asked me if I wanted to be a guest soloist with Jethro Tull. I thought it was a joke. I emailed back saying 'Yes' and we met in London for coffee and then he came round to my house and we played Moz'Art and Griminelli's Lament in my living room.

I guess that was my audition 'cos after I got back from the Trans-Siberian tour he booked me for practically all this year!

6. Are you familiar with any of the Tull material, and if so what are your favourites? Are there any particular tracks that you think would work well for violin?

I love playing Jack-A-Lynn, I love Aqualung, Fat Man I find hilarious, Salamander works really well...My God has got a brilliant violin arrangement, and then of course the more 'classical' ones like Moz'Art, Bouree, America - the violin just fits with the flute and the band.

The violin and flute are such 'voice' instruments that have totally different sounds and dynamics to each other but just really complement one another.

7. What about touring in your own right. Have you any plans?

Er...this year is pretty busy...I do random gigs here in London and I'm planning to do a couple in New York in April...

I would love to tour with my own stuff though - that would be the best!! Although for now, touring with Jethro Tull and then with TSO again pretty much back-to-back is the best of both worlds. I get to play with incredible musicians, I get to tour and perform around the world for more than 6 months of the year and on top of that I get paid. It's the best job in the world!!!!!

8. Why is your album so short?! Tell us about your favourite pieces on the album and why.

Hehe - yeah - it's really short but I feel like it's packed with lots of ideas.

I prefer to call it an 'Albumette' - short and sweet. It was only meant to be a little EP as a kind of business card - but then the TSO fans were asking me to produce something, and then it took me ages to figure out exactly how I wanted my solo stuff to SOUND (people are always asking me if I'm going to do vocals..!!) and then I thought - this is the first thing I'm creating of my own - I just want it to represent where I am right NOW and not worry about what everyone else wants or expects.

In that respect, I think it's an honest representation of me. It has a lot of my rock influences, the gypsy influences, the Eastern and Arabic influences....but it's not programmed or in any way fake.

It's a proper band that got into a studio together for three days and recorded the tracks. And then Nick Wollage mixed it and made it sound huge and brilliant. It sounds exactly how it sounded in my head before we recorded a note, so it's a starting point that i'm happy with....I really like 'Gypsy' 'cos that's the first one that Angus and I did together....

I love the layers in 'Bombay to Beirut' and the emotion in 'Revenge'....hehe... and the 'Route 149' background is me recording on my laptop on the way to the JayZ and Beyonce rehearsals...the 149 Bus goes from my street down to London Bridge.

The last track is the wind in Ireland where my parents live in and it's me and my dad walking across the gravel in our driveway going down to the stream at the bottom of the garden - that was me taking a video on my camera - there's also a couple of Jordanian weddings that I played at in there somewhere's me, my violin, and my travels.....

9. What's on your iPod and what other music are you currently listening to?

I have my trusted green mini ipod.......I'm a big fan of the shuffle - so if I shuffle it now these are the first ten tracks that come up (fingers crossed they're not TOO embarassing!!!!!!):

1 - Starlight - Muse

2 - Unkle (main title theme) - U.N.K.L.E

3 - Welcome to The Jungle - Guns n' Roses

4 - Don't Look Back - Luscious Jackson

5 - Little Old Car - Peggy Lee

6 - The Song Remains The Same - Led Zeppelin

7 - Regular John - Queens of the Stone Age

8 - (We Want) the Same Thing - Belinda Carlisle (EEK - BUT I'M BEING HONEST!!!!)

9 - Light As the Breeze - Leonard Cohen

10 - I'm Not Talking - Jeff Beck

Phew. It could have been far worse.

10. What are your plans for the coming year and what do you hope to achieve in 2007?

My plan for the coming year is just to do a really great job with the Tull Tour and have fun!

I'm pencilled in for about 90 shows worldwide so as long as they go well, and then the TSO tour goes well and in between I get some more solo material written and recorded and manage to fly back out to play in the Middle East and and work on recording with different producers and artists here in the UK, then that should be enough!!!

I just think this year is going to be a great learning curve and just a totally brilliant experience on all levels. It's definitely the happiest and most excited I've felt for a long time - I can't wait for it all to start!

Anna will be doing a GRTR! Blog for the duration of the Tull tour - get to hear the inside stories!

Anna's Tull Tour Diary

Album review

Related>> Ian Anderson interview

Artist website

Interview © 2007 David Randall. All rights reserved.

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