I am always happy to chat with German artists on my blog in the Spotlight interview category. Ann Doka is the first local I met during 2021. She is one of the major German country music acts and even had a Nashville and East Coast tour. She is already working towards a 2021 album release and recently released a new single. Alongside Meg Pfeiffer, she published a great song, Fancy Boots, on 22nd January 2021. A lot of interesting topics to chat about. I am sure you enjoy my chat with the Frankfurt country lady, who is now living in Bremen.
Flyctory.com meets Ann Doka
FLYC: Hi Ann, thanks for joining Flyctory.com for an interview. You are one of the biggest German country music acts, have over 5,000 followers on Facebook only. How do German people typically react when they meet you and you tell them you are doing country music?
Ann Doka: Thanks for having me in the interview. In fact, it’s difficult to explain two people outside the country scene that you’re not wearing country boots and hats all day. But when they listen to your music, they start to understand that country has different sites and that I’m doing not doing the traditional, but new-country focused music with many pop influences. I often hear them say “ “Oh wow – that’s country?”
FLYC: According to your homepage you began to love country music at the age of 14. What is the special thing about the genre to you?
I love real music played with real instruments by real musicians – and that’s what country music always has been for me. Even in the modern new country productions you can hear some traditional instruments as for example violin, banjo, pedal steel. And I just love the sounds of these. That’s maybe why I’m also hosting a Bluegrass jam in Bremen and Frankfort. If I listen to these instruments, I’m completely fulfilled and happy.
FLYC: Was there maybe a special band or song, which especially inspired you?
Ann Doka: In my younger years I was totally inspired by country music artists as Garth Brooks, Jo Dee Messina, Lee Ann Womack and of course Keith Urban. But also by Tracy Chapman, to who my uncle always listened. And not to forget about the grand divas of pop – Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.
But the initial song that brought me to country music was ‘I swear’ by John Michael Montgomery, when I found out, that he was the songwriter behind the hit song of the pop band All4One.
FLYC: Germany has or had a couple of German-singing country acts in the past, like Truck Stop or Tom Astor. You decided to go for English lyrics. What has been the key reason for that?
I always like the sound of English music, as I grew up in the 90s. In fact, I also wrote some German songs but I always had the impression, that the sound of my voice was not fitting German lyrics. So I decided to go for English.
FLYC: Your first album release was the 2012 Never Ending Road. How does it feel when you listen to the album today, nine years later?
Ann Doka: It’s a weird feeling to listen to these old songs, because my songwriting has improved a lot since then. But I still like some of the melodies – and as I know all about the stories behind the songs, I’m still in love with each of the songs.
FLYC: Is there maybe a song you still especially like? And why?
Ann Doka: I still fall for my song Lea – because of the sweet little girl I wrote the song for, when she was standing in front of my stage, dancing her feet off. 😄 Also we did such a cute video for the song which is still on YouTube.
FLYC: Your first Nashville recording was the 2015 Could’ve been mine. How was it like for you to be in Music City as an artist? What does the city mean to you?
Ann Doka: In a word: FASCINATING!
I was just blown away by all the music that surrounded me. Nashville is music – day and night. In one moment you sit on Broadway, having a beer while listening to some country bands – in the other moment your sitting with stranger friends jamming on a front porch in East Nashville- and the next day you’re in the studio with the guitar player of Keith Urban to record your new songs. That’s f***ing great, isn’t it? 😄🤠
FLYC: Two years earlier, in 2013, you even did a club tour through the USA. How is the US country scene reacting on country music from Germany?
It was funny to play some gigs for native speakers – while you’re only a German girl who’s writing some songs. And then there are some rednecks standing in front of your stage, applauding and saying “Play us another song, Miss Germany” 😂 I really enjoyed that.
FLYC: You are originally from Frankfurt, but now live in Bremen in Northern Germany. Your producer is based in Nashville. How does the collaboration work in practice?
Ann Doka: Normally I wanted to fly over to Nashville to record my new Album House Of Change, which will be released in 2021. But with Corona my plans changed, of course. My producer Jonathann Lawrence Jrade-Rice and I are now working on remote. I’m sending him my new songs and he’s producing them in Nashville with his musicians.
The vocals are recorded in my own studio here in Bremen. To work like this has also some advantages: I have more time to think about the melody lines and work on the vocal tracks. But of course it doesn’t replace recording in Nashville. But in special times we need special procedures.
FLYC: Your second major release was Lost But Found in 2018 – quite a while after Never Ending Road. What makes Lost But Found especially different (better?) than your debut one?
Ann Doka: I’d say: the songwriting and the production! I produced Lost But Found with Björn Diewald (PLAN13) – a wonderful producer from Bielefeld, Germany. He did a great job on this album and made my productions sound radio for the first time.
FLYC: Again, what is your favorite on Lost But Found?
I love Talkin’ Like Before – because the story behind is very emotional for me. I was leaving my hometown near Frankfurt and moved to Bremen. And there were friends who suddenly didn’t feel as close as before. So I wanted to call the song No Talking Like Before. But then a friend of me reminded me that with some friends it will always be different.
FLYC: In 2019, you released Only If, together with Brooks West. What is that song about?
Ann Doka: Brooks and I wrote this song in his kitchen in East Nashville, Tennessee. We imagined a couple which separated from each other and didn’t know if there was a chance of getting back to where they’d been before. The answer was ONLY IF.
FLYC: You even had live TV appearance with that single. How was it like for you? And how was the feedback by the audience?
Ann Doka: It was weird because we knew that there were millions of people listening to us right now and watching every move we did. Brooks and I were really nervous – but we helped us through it by interacting with the audience. The even did a LAOLA wave for us! 😂
FLYC: You are also driving Nash*Dash Records, a small independent label for “handmade music”. From that perspective, what is the key thing we need to make country music bigger?
Ann Doka: The name NASH DASH became the name of my label because I always wanted to have a little ‘dash of nash(ville)’ in the music I publish.
For making country music bigger in Germany, I think it needs exactly this: we need to show the roots and emotions of country music and combine them with modern pop sounds. We need to tell stories and make them sound authentic.
FLYC: Apart from an Ann Doka album, of course – if you would meet a person like me (in the 40’s) on the street and would like to persuade him to listen to country – which album would you hand over to him?
Ann Doka: I’m not an album fan – I just love so many different songs. So I would provide him or her a wonderful playlist from the early beginnings of bluegrass until the modern nowadays new country. So they‘d maybe feel the music!
FLYC: Of course, we have to talk about your latest release, Fancy Boots, which you recorded with Meg Pfeiffer. How did you run into that collaboration and what is the story behind the song?
Ann Doka: Meg and I met some years ago on a concert that we Play together and stayed in contact. Then last year we had a phone call and found out, that we had more in common than we thought. We’re both songwriters which have the roots and country music. We both have our own label and organize our music on our own: songwriting, producing, publishing, marketing. We wanted to make a statement that everybody should be proud of what has reached and that we all should just do what we love. And everyone should wear these fancy boots, if they want it – without caring about what other people say. 😊
FLYC: The song has quite a strong pop touch – just best fit or a slight departure from country?
Ann Doka: Music is music. And in this case we just wanted to do an amazing pop song. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t switch to something completely different if we ever right another song together.
I think, every musician should be open minded to every music that comes to their‘s minds. If the song is good, it’s good. In whatever category it will fit.
FLYC: It is hard to do good planning during pandemic times – but what are your future plans for 2021?
Ann Doka: In 2021 (most probably in May) I will release my new Nashville album House of Change, which I’m currently producing with my wonderful Nashville producer Jonathann Jrade-Rice.
The album is so amazing and also different from what I did before – so hopeful we will also have the possibility to play some concerts to present the new album to the audiences. But in these times you just need to be flexible. So I just say it with one of the songs from my new album:
“In time of pace, you better walk on – girl”
FLYC: Last, but not least: when the infection risk is under control again – is there a venue you look forward to play in again?
Ann Doka: There are many – oh so many!! 😊🎶
But I’m so looking forward to play again in the garden of my favorite location in Bremen – the Pusta-Stube – near the river, with all the wonderful musicians of my bluegrass jam. And just enjoy the sound of all the banjos, steel guitars and voices!
Follow Ann Doka Online
All pictures: artist material / album covers. Fancy boots Ann Doka pictures: Marcus Reens