Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Anna B Savage in orange suit lying in grass

Anna B Savage is no longer conflicted about being conflicted

16 February 2023, 10:00
Words by Alan Pedder
Original Photography by Katie Silvester

Alan Pedder meets Anna B Savage to find out how accepting opposing emotions has brought her closer to peace.

Pink-cheeked and punctual, Anna B Savage strolls into the café where I’m sitting on a sofa, looking out over a frosty Peckham Rye Park.

It’s a bracingly cold mid-December morning, and there’s not enough coffee in the world to fix my thumping head. An interview the morning after the first Christmas party of the season? It’s giving rookie error, but Savage is very gracious about it.

She’s gracious about a lot of things, in truth. More than once she springs from her side of the sofa to hold open the door for people coming in for their breakfast: a man in a wheelchair with a bandaged eye, a woman struggling with her kids. “My sister has two children and it breaks my heart when no one stops to help her,” Savage says, sitting back down. Panicking as the volume starts to rise in the room, I push the dictaphone closer towards her. “Now you can hear my chewing better,” she says, tearing off a chunk of buttery croissant.

Savage has only been officially living back in London for a week after spending most of the pandemic in Ireland, and so far she is loving it. Since her debut album was released in January 2021, she’s completed an MA in Popular Music at Dublin's BIMM Institute, moved to the Atlantic coast to learn how to surf, and later lived in Belfast, where she’ll perform for the first time next month. For now though, Peckham is home. And she already has a visitor in A Common Turn producer William Doyle, who’s staying for some days.


“I would have happily worked with Will forever,” says Savage, recalling the relief of getting into the studio with him to make A Common Turn after a prolonged and agonising period of self-loathing and stagnation. But at the suggestion of her label, she “took a punt” on Mike Lindsay of Tunng and LUMP as producer instead. A couple of test days in a studio later, she was convinced. So convinced that she booked a few more weeks of his time there and then. The catch? “Well, I hadn’t really got any songs at the time!”

“I know myself,” she says with a lopsided grin. “I only work well when I have an external deadline. I just cannot self-motivate. It doesn’t matter if it’s a studio session or a yoga class, I need to have paid for something so I can guilt myself into going through with it. Even if it’s something I really enjoy.”

As it turned out, she did have some songs, or at least the beginnings of them. During the first lockdown, she and a friend had challenged each other to write a song daily for two weeks, but, self-critical as ever, she’d filed them away as too-casual cast-offs. When they talked about her looming studio time – “I was a bit like, ‘What the hell have I done!?’” – the friend proposed she bring them out of storage. “He thought there was a lot of good stuff in there,” she says, pulling a face. “At first I was a bit dismissive, like, ‘You can’t use writing exercises as a song!’, which in hindsight is hilarious.”

One thing that changed her mind was listening to the Adrienne Lenker album, Songs. “The whole premise of it was that she would just turn up, write a song, and record it in a day. I was like, ‘Okay, so you’re allowed to do whatever you want, and it can turn out like that!’”

Anna B Savage in black coat

In the end, about half of the songs on her new album in|FLUX came from those song-a-day drafts. The other half are songs she wrote along the way, either incidentally or by filling in any gaps she saw in the themes of the record. Savage doesn’t beat us over the head with it, but in|FLUX does have a concept. It’s an album largely about holding space for duality, for not needing to be one thing or the other, but a third, more pliable thing. Less dogmatic, more forgiving.

“I wanted to try and express that idea, both musically and lyrically,” she explains. “That realisation that you’re allowed to have opinions that oppose each other, and you’re allowed to feel them at the same time. You’re allowed to want to be single but also want to be close to someone. It can all be very confusing, but you are allowed.”

Having put herself through the wringer with A Common Turn, right up to the point of getting into the studio with Doyle, her goal for album two was simply to have an easier time. “I wanted to have more of the fun aspect and less of the putting myself in a dark hole for years aspect,” she says dryly, pointing out how, in that respect, the songwriting exercise was a perfect fit. “I definitely wasn’t thinking those songs would go anywhere or be used for anything. I was just so free when I wrote them.”


By the time the studio booking rolled around, Savage had enough tracks for an album, most in “baby song form,” some barely even conceived. Over three week-long recording sessions, each with a gap of a few weeks in between, she and Lindsay took what she calls a “very improv, ‘Yes, and?’ approach” to developing the songs. “Mike is such a warm, open-armed, empathetic, gorgeous human,” she gushes, praising his positivity and willingness to entertain her every idea no matter how “completely fucking stupid” it was. "It was very wonderful to go from not knowing him at all to making this album together, through this very intimate creative process."

Besides regularly meeting with her therapist, one trick that helped Savage to focus in the studio was to write out three ‘morning pages’ before leaving the house. For those who don’t know, the morning pages are a stream-of-consciousness exercise from creativity bible The Artist’s Way, and part of what author Julia Cameron describes as “the bedrock tool of a creative recovery.” It’s something that comes up a lot in interviews, and the story is always the same: consistency is key, but it works.

The same holds true for Savage, too. “Because I’m quite self-flagellating and neurotic, I found it really useful to be able just to splurge out words in the morning before going to see Mike,” she says. “I was able to look at those words and be like, ‘Okay, you’re here. You’ve been listened to. I understand. Now stay in the book, I’ve got to go and do some work.”

Anna B Savage on a cliff edge

It’s a far cry from the years spent writing for A Common Turn, when Savage would go to places she could be alone, close all the curtains, switch off her phone and laptop, pick up her guitar and try to force out songs. It was, in a nutshell, somewhat sub-ideal. “It turns out I don’t have to do the tortured artist thing!” she says, feigning shock. “I can just, like, have a nice time and that’s gonna make it much more sustainable and fun.”

She shrugs and laughs. “Well, it’s not like I make any money from it, so where’s the joy? I want to be doing something because it’s joyful, not because I feel some weird, slightly moralistic urge to put myself through difficulty or perform an exorcism to make some good art. It’s funny, because I didn’t subscribe to that narrative either when I was writing A Common Turn. It’s only looking back that I was like, ‘Okay, so you definitely weren’t making it fun.’”

She gets serious again. “I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when the first album was done, but I still didn’t feel like I liked myself at the end,” she says, cupping her tea with both hands. “Dealing with stuff is fine, but I feel like it’s way more important to actually find a way of liking and trusting yourself.”

Savage would be the last to claim she’s already at the end of that path (“I feel like that’s my life’s goal, basically”) but at least she’s on it now, and with some idea already of the route. Since recording for in|FLUX wrapped up in March 2022, she's written half of album number three. “I kind of knew what the next album was going to be, conceptually, before I even started in|FLUX,” she says, shaking her head in disbelief. “For the first time in my life, I’ve actually prepared in advance.”

Clearly, she's doing better than I am. In my woeful condition, I've somehow managed to leave my notes for the interview at home and confess to having to wing it. I'm mortified, of course, but she's happy to speak off the cuff and we take each song from in|FLUX in turn.

"The Ghost"

ANNA B SAVAGE: This song was completely different in the beginning. It had completely different lyrics and chords. I had kind of forgotten that until I was looking at my notebook the other day and saw how it used to be. It’s easy to forget when you have a finished product that there was all this work that went into shaping it.

It’s so funny to me because that first version was so sad and now it’s become this completely other thing. I was so hurt when I wrote it, and I was expressing that hurt. The version that ended up on the album is more about moving away from anger and towards a healthier feeling. Like, ‘Oh actually, some of the stuff we had together was incredible special and lovely, and I did love this person so much, and that’s why it was so hard in the end.’

But it’s also like, ‘Okay, I want to close this chapter. I don’t feel angry anymore. I respect the relationship that we had, in a way. But I also very much want to draw a line in the sand.’ And it’s strange because I didn’t fully realise what the song was saying until after it came out.

I don’t think it’s vitriolic. I hope it doesn’t come across like that. For me, it feels really nice to have written a song like this. The fact that it morphed out of what it was originally meant to be and that I really like where it ended up… that makes me happy. It's really fun to sing and to play live. I get a little tingle every time.

"I Can Hear the Birds"

ANNA B SAVAGE: It’s funny because when I played this one for Mike the first time, he said, ‘This is gonna be huge!’. But I think it sits quite quietly in the rest of the album.

I feel like this song is a real snapshot in time for me. I think it slightly perfectly expresses the ideas of the first half of in|FLUX, which exists a bit more in the same brain world as A Common Turn. It has a kind of inexpressible, unrequited vibe. But then there’s a tiny shift in key right at the end, which to my mind is my way of saying, ‘Okay, fuck it. You stay there. I’ll go over here.’ So I think it feels like a very confusing, very complicated yet very simple song.

"Pavlov's Dog"

ANNA B SAVAGE: I don’t want to say this is about the ability to train humans, because that sounds terrible. For me, the title sort of refers to that experience when you have these accidental physical responses to people who you just have a connection with. Especially if they’ve kind of been in and around your life for a while. It’s like this constant reminder, like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that you’re here because my heart’s beating really fast.’

I think pretty much everyone has people in their lives who could have been a thing for them, but it just didn’t work out that way. I wanted to give that feeling a little bit of love and attention, because I feel like that’s also been an important part of my life.

"Crown Shyness"

ANNA B SAVAGE: I really love the way that this song turned out. I think it's really beautiful. Mike and I were just kind of playing around and I like how kind of jazzy this one ended up. It was completely accidental.

There have been quite a few people who’ve said to me, ‘Oh, this song is really devastating.’ But I don’t think it’s super sad, actually. It’s edging towards melancholic. Again, I feel like this song is giving a nod and a bit of affection to a slightly nontraditional romantic narrative. Something that’s hard.

I do feel a bit bad about singling out [ex-boyfriend] Jem [Talbot] by mentioning the film we made together, but I have warned him in advance so it won’t be a surprise. He’s used to it by now, I guess.

"Say My Name"

ANNA B SAVAGE: This song totally fucks me up. At the end of it you can hear an intake of breath and that’s me just bursting into tears.

This is another song that started off a bit differently, though not super differently. There’s a bit of an exorcism vibe in this. But it’s also about recognising the act and the sadness of making yourself incredibly small.

When I took the songs to Mike, this was the one that was basically finished in my mind. I knew how I wanted it to sound, I knew how I wanted the production to be. And it was a really fun one to put together. I recorded the guitar parts first and then I played saxophone, piano and just kept adding in each of the different elements. It was one that we didn’t have a huge amount of sense on when recording, but to me it feels very powerful.

It’s one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written. Maybe just the saddest and most incredibly hard one to sing or listen to, so yeah, maybe I won’t play it live so much. Although I think it would be fun because I love the kind of expansive release at the end.


ANNA B SAVAGE: I had decided on in|FLUX as the title of the album before it became the title of this song, which was called something completely different at first. It was only after we recorded it that Mike and I were like, 'This is the song! This is "in|FLUX"!' Again, it has this kind of duality where it almost feels like two separate parts but they work together and are part of the same whole.

This is the first song I’ve ever written on Ableton rather than on the guitar. When I took it to Mike, quite early on in the process, he was like, ‘Well, let’s leave that until a bit later.’ But once he understood the way that I work and the way that my brain works, he was able to kind of translate it into the kind of song I had wanted it to be but was completely unable to express by myself in Ableton.

It was so fun to have an actual producer step in and say ‘No, no, this needs to happen’ and have it be exactly the thing that I wanted. I feel so proud of this song. It’s so weird and fun.


ANNA B SAVAGE: For me, this is a love song for, like, 25 people. I’ve spent a lot of time in Banff in Canada. I went to an artist residency there and basically fell in love with everyone there, all at the same time. I’d found this amazing, creative, artistic musical family, and I still feel like I have my heart in two different places. I’m here in London but a really large part of my heart and many of my closest people are in Canada. Again, it’s the duality thing.

This song came out of wanting to express how I felt when I was leaving Canada. My friend John was driving me to the airport and I remember feeling both so happy and so sad for having had that experience. I felt distraught, like I would never feel as sad again in my entire life. But kind of in a nice way. Really I was just feeling greedy. I wanted more of that. I only wanted to live in that world and not in reality.

Banff is unbelievable. One of the most beautiful places ever. It’s funny because I wrote a ‘30 before 30’ list and one of the things was to go to Canada and another was to do an artist residency. This was a way of doing both things at the same time, so I applied to Banff. I didn’t get in the first time but the second time I got in and it was the best trip of my entire life. The happiest I’ve ever been.

I moved to Canada the next year, in 2019, and then I came back because I got a record deal. Actually, the residency was the thing that gave me the confidence to approach Will and be like, ‘I’m gonna pay you all my savings and we’re gonna make this happen.’

I had zero confidence before that. I only had two grand to my name and I thought, ‘I can’t spend that.’ But then Will put up an Instagram story about wanting to produce other people and I must have replied within 15 seconds. I was like, ‘Fuck it, here’s the two grand. I’ll make more money, it’ll be fine.’ I don’t think I would have done that if it wasn’t for that time in Canada.

"Feet of Clay"

ANNA B SAVAGE: I remember my friend using the image of feet of clay in a conversation, probably about seven years ago. I thought it was just an incredible expression so I kind of squirrelled it away to use someday. It’s that idea of looking like you’re kind of solid but then toppling one way or another.

It’s about constantly flip-flopping, I guess. Stuck, in a way, but almost the opposite of being stuck as well. I don’t feel conflicted at all about being conflicted anymore, and that feels like a really nice, welcome surprise.

For this song, Mike and I wanted to get a kind of ‘60s or ‘70s close harmony vibe going on, so that was so much fun. to do. Honestly, if the making of every record could be like this one, I’d be very happy.

"Touch Me"

ANNA B SAVAGE: I had a lot of fun writing and concocting this one. Trying to get a beat that felt a little bit sexy. This is simply about lust and expressing that. It still feels quite rare that women express what they want sexually and not have any shame about it.

I think it's a really fun song. I like expressing that side of me. I like being a bit more… well, explicit sounds weird in this context. Being a bit more straightforward, maybe. Also, I think it's quite funny because I then undercut the entire premise of the song by being like, ‘Oh, this is actually the best bit. Before anything's actually happened.’

"The Orange"

ANNA B SAVAGE: This song is also kind of about my time in Banff as well. I mention larches in this song, and in Banff the mountains are just covered in larches. In the summer they are bright green and in the autumn they turn yellow. My Canadian pals who I’d made there were telling me, ‘Just you wait, in the next two weeks it’s going to happen.’ And then it started happening. The whole valley just turned yellow, and we all took a big trip out there together.

I think this is my favourite song I’ve ever written. I feel like it’s kind of a culmination of the ideas of the album as a whole. In my head, it’s a perfect split as well, in that the larches are the Canadian part of my heart and the poplar trees I sing about are the ones at the end of my parents’ garden.

Of course, I’m not coming out saying things are fucking great and amazing. That’s not my personal brand. But it’s like, ‘Maybe I’m kind of happy.’ And that definitely felt like an important note to end the album with. It’s a song about contentment, about feeling content and being aware that I love and am loved in many different places around the world. It’s just joyful.

Like I say in “in|FLUX”, you can tell people as much as you like that you don’t want kids or a partner and they’ll always be like, ‘Oh, no, you’ll change your mind when you get older.’ Well, my motto is that I am always entitled to change my mind. But also, like, listen to what I’m fucking saying!

I mean, it’s hilarious because I am actually in a relationship and I have been for the last two years, but I still believe all that stuff I’m singing about. I really love being on my own, and my partner really loves being on his own. That was one of the things that we bonded over in fact, that being single is so good. Yeah, I know that sounds funny. But, you know, we still love and have our independence. We really enjoy being together, but also being apart.

in/FLUX is released 17 February via City Slang Records.

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