This story is produced in collaboration with Set List, WPR’s home for new music. Discover more music from Set List here.
Anna Vogelzang is a singer-songwriter with a big voice and a ukulele (among other instruments). She studied opera at Carnegie Mellon University but now uses her voice to craft songs that draw on folk, jazz, pop, and old time.
She’s always been musical.
“I grew up in a really musical household. We just grew up singing my sister and I,” says Vogelzang.
She asked for a guitar in seventh grade.
“I got a guitar so I could write songs because it seemed like the thing to do if I wanted to talk about my feelings,” says Vogelzang. “Aren’t feelings what songs are about?”
Vogelzang wrote and performed throughout high school and college.
In 2014, she was invited to take part in a project called “RealWomenRealSongs,” in which 21 women from around the country wrote a different song every week based on a prompt. The organizer of the challenge took the prompts from a therapy workbook.
“One was found. One was prudish. One was joyful,” explains Vogelzang. “They were all feeling words.”
Vogelzang thought it wouldn’t be that hard since she writes songs all the time but she quickly realized that writing songs when you have to versus when you feel like it is very different.
“I realized I had all these songwriting rules in my head that I had to overcome to actually write songs every week,” says Vogelzang.
The participants posted videos of the songs on a project YouTube page. She’s the first to admit that not all of the songs are good.
“When you write 52 songs they aren’t all winners,” she says.
She sent some of the songs to her producer and was surprised when he pulled out one she had discarded to try in the studio.
“I thought it was a throw away song but he wanted to try it,” says Vogelzang.
The producer’s hunch was right and the song “Reins” made it onto her new album. No one is more surprised than Vogelzang.
“It’s such a gift. He gave me my song back,” she says.