I’ve lived in the D.C. area nearly all my life and there’s been periods (decades, really) where the music scene was pretty bleak. However, in the last few years I’ve noticed a massive creative resurgence with fantastic local bands opening for national acts, music venues popping up in all kinds of quirky places (people’s living rooms, breweries, I once saw a show at an abandoned playground) and a steady stream of regional talent flooding my social media feeds. The latter is how I came across Annie Stokes. We both happened to be from the area, and we both happened to have graduated from the same mountainy liberal arts college. So, randomly clicking through some of her EP recordings wasn’t a total coincidence, but my generally low expectations were met with some surprisingly beautiful sounds. Her music is diametric. Its simultaneously eerie and soothing. Last week I got the chance to sit down with Annie and talk about her recent video, hometown and upcoming tour.
Brightest Young Things: Aesthetically,”Wrecker” sounds like it belongs on the opening credits of True Detective and the video plays this up with its shadowy folk-lore undertones. How did you end up meeting and collaborating with Patrick Mason on that project?
Annie Stokes: That’s funny story! Western Loudoun County has this vibrant, semi-hidden artistic community and once you start knocking over dominos you realize everyone’s connected. I did community theater when I was younger, and through that I met Emily, who is now my stylist and half of the band Emy&Ethan. She and her husband had worked with Patrick before on some music videos and she gave me his name. And then we both just clicked because we unapologetically wanted something dark and creepy.
BYT: Where did you grow up?
AS: I was born in Maryland outside of D.C., and when I was thirteen I moved to Loudoun County in northern Virginia. So most of my formative years occurred on the cusp of the DC sprawl and rural Virginia. My mom played me Alison Kraus and Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash growing up, so I was already drawn to folk and Americana, and in my teens I really became attracted to Appalachian culture and bluegrass music. I think those were some of my first live music experiences that really impacted me.
BYT: So you definitely had a good rotation of the classics as a kid. When did you start doing solo performances?
AS: I was 21 and I had just graduated college. I started out doing very small shows in my town, like backyard gigs or sidewalk gigs during First Friday.
BYT: I think I read somewhere that you learned guitar later in life? Which, with the work you’ve put out, is pretty impressive.
AS: Thank you! Yeah, I got my first guitar for my 21st birthday and spent my entire senior year of college teaching myself. The hardest part was honestly working through the blisters on my fingertips when I started playing.
BYT: Yeah, those can be brutal. What I like most about your music is it’s mystique. Is that a sound you consciously aim for?
AS: Yes and no. I feel like when a musician finds a sound, it’s a naturally subconscious thing — you are just drawn to that. But when I landed on it I was careful to cultivate it because I feel like it represents me the clearest. I’ve written pop and country songs and never released them or performed them, because it’s just not my sound.
BYT: I know this video just came out but what’s next for you in general?
AS: I would love to work with Patrick again. It was a great experience. I think right now as we are prepping the album release we are focusing more on single releases and some light touring around the area but down the road I would love more music videos.
BYT: Do you have a set date for that? And who are you releasing it through?
AS: Our tentative release date is late September. I’m releasing it independently, but it will be available on every digital platform and physically available at my shows and through the online store. Before that we are releasing two singles — “Wrecker” and another one.
BYT: You’ve played a lot of interesting local venues in the last couple of years. Do you have one that you feel particularly at home?
AS: Yeah, I love playing wineries. It’s so peaceful. Three Fox Vineyards, coincidentally, would have to be my favorite. My next show is at Three Fox Vineyards on July 11th, and then I have one at Jammin Java on July 14th
Follow Annie Stokes on Twitter @AnnieCStokes