Month of forced writing pays off

By Paula Yeoman

A songwriter's challenge reaped results, finds Paula Yeoman

It's more than two years since Anna Coddington released her second album Cat & Bird yet the Auckland-based singer-songwriter has barely stopped to catch her breath. There have been numerous collaborations, her Street Neighbourz side project, regular DJing spots with her best mate Kara Rickard under the moniker DJs Such n Such, and now a string of singles.

The first, the SJD-produced Bird In Hand is arguably Coddington's best work. It's a heady mix of electronica, punctuated with haunting strings and soaring vocals.

The song symbolises something of a fresh start for Coddington - the end of a long-term relationship, the beginning of a new one and a new musical direction, which saw her go off the grid temporarily, signing off Facebook for a month and allowing herself on the internet only after 3pm and only for work purposes.

The idea came to her after working with SJD, aka Sean Donnelly, who suggested Coddington set herself a songwriting challenge.

"He was doing this exercise, 50 songs in 50 days. I did my own version - 30 songs in 30 days, with a 30-minute minimum spend time. But often I would spend four hours," she says.

It spawned around five songs in one month, which Coddington says was a first. "It was that element of forcing yourself. Earlier in my career I thought that was the antithesis of songwriting - forcing anything. But now I don't believe that. Some songs come naturally, but with others you end up re-writing the chorus five times."

Coddington will test the new songs when she performs a one-off show at The Vic in Devonport on July 20. And although it's likely that the songs will eventually end up on an album, Coddington is happy not to rush out a full-length album straight away.

"I don't want to be restricted by the idea that all these songs need to fit together. I'm hoping that they will but where I'm at creatively, I just want the option to do different things. I'm currently working on a disco tune with Jeremy Toy," she laughs.

It's a big shift from the girl-with-guitar scenario on Coddington's first two albums, largely driven by a change in how she's listening to music. "With the DJing, it puts you in a different head space where you are always looking for something new to play. It makes you look at music and consume music differently, and appreciate different qualities.

"I also took to running and started obsessively looking for new music to run to."

Anna Coddington performs a one-off show at The Vic, Devonport, Auckland on July 20.

- Herald on Sunday

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