Singer-songwriter Annie Lawrence is a survivor. A quote from her website says it all: “Roanoke raised, Nashville girl, has lived through ovarian cancer, a broken back, broken romance and being a preacher’s kid.”
With the life experiences described above, one would think that Lawrence would be an excellent writer of country music songs. However, Annie doesn’t limit herself with a single genre of music as she flows through multiple musical categories with her compositions.
Annie’s own description of her music is “Kitchen sink pop.” She blends an indie-singer vibe with rock, country, contemporary folk, alternative pop and a little bluegrass, for a refreshing musical style. Lawrence has been told by Nashville music producers that her vocal and musical style is somewhere in between Kacey Mugraves and Taylor Swift.
After I spoke with Annie via phone earlier this month, I couldn’t help but think of Gloria Gaynor’s classic disco hit from the 70’s, “I Will Survive” when thinking about her life story.
At first I was afraid, I was petrified,
And I spent, oh, so many nights just feeling sorry for myself
I used to cry but now I hold my head up high
Did you think I’d crumble?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh, no, not I
I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
I’ve got all my love to give
And I’ll survive
I will survive
Although “I Will Survive” is not a perfect song to describe Lawrence’s current status, it does reflect the mindset and lifestyle that Annie is now utilizing in her life. You can also understand Annie’s life by listening to her new album, “If I’m Being Honest,” that was just released on March 15.
Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Annie attended Hidden Valley High School and graduated in 2008. Lawrence was a good athlete in high school as she played both volleyball and softball at Hidden Valley.
During Annie’s teen years, she picked up a love for bluegrass from her father Quigg Lawrence, and her biggest influences musically came from Allison Krauss and the Dixie Chicks. She also played piano and sang during worship services at Church of the Holy Spirit, an Anglican parish in Roanoke. The first seeds of a music career were developed at that time.
Annie’s love for music grew during her days attending James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she graduated in 2012. She first started playing guitar during her sophomore year at JMU and performed at various music events on campus.
Lawrence credits many college courses at JMU with helping her to decide on a music career. One JMU class in particular, a song-writing course, gave Annie the desire and courage to pursue music as a lifetime goal.
Another positive influence for Annie during her JMU days was being part of Alethia Church in Harrisonburg. Lawrence played guitar and sang with the worship team. This experience was another reason she went on to pursue a music profession.
The summer between her junior and senior years at JMU, Annie traveled to Nashville, Tennessee and recorded an EP called, “Light is Stronger.” Lawrence had the opportunity to work with the husband/wife team of Drew & Ellie Holcomb on the album. With this experience, Annie’s goal of a music career was already in gear.
Graduating from JMU with a “Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication” major and a “Music Industry” minor, Annie then set her sights on Nashville and moved there after graduation.
Breaking into the music industry is never easy. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1967 hit, “Nashville Cats” accurately describes the country music capitol of America:
Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two
Guitar pickers in Nashville
And they can pick more notes than the number of ants
On a Tennessee ant hill
Yeah, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty two
Guitar cases in Nashville
And any one unpacks his guitar
Can play twice better than I will
With thousands of wannabe artists moving to Nashville on a yearly basis, making a living as a music artist is hard. Annie’s story is no different. And to make things even worst, she was diagnosed with cancer in November 2013. “I look back, and it’s all kind of a blur,” Lawrence said. Obviously, this totally rearranged priorities in Annie’s life.
Thankfully, doctors successfully removed the cancer from Annie’s body with surgery and she has been in remission for the past five years. It hasn’t been easy being a cancer survivor as Annie has struggled with various other health issues. Through these struggles, Annie has learned to be strong in spite of her difficulties.
During 2015, Annie recorded and released her first album, “Everything Changes.” Lawrence played mandolin for the first time on the album and singer-songwriter Natalie Grant is featured on the title track. Lawrence’s song writing showed maturity during this time period.
Over the past few years, Annie has toured or collaborated with Jenny & Tyler, Ellie Holcomb, Lauren Daigle, Kayla Woodson and Leslie Jordan of All Sons & Daughters. She also performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage with Natalie Grant five years ago.
Forward to 2019: Annie is extremely happy that her new album, “If I’m Being Honest” is now available for the world to hear. Lawrence’s new full-length album has 11-tracks, with Thomas Doeve and Adam Agin as the producers of this new music.
The album liner describes Lawrence’s new music as: “Inspired by a number of meaningful experiences, Annie draws inspiration from these memories as well as from songwriters including Nicole Galyon, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally.”
Two main themes of Annie’s new album are: understanding that she has been given a second chance in life as a cancer survivor and the overcoming of three broken relationships.
Annie explains, “This project is so much more than a bunch of breakup songs: it’s anxiety, it’s illness, it’s questioning faith, it’s losing people you love, it’s losing yourself, and slowly but surely finding it again, it’s overcoming, it’s triumph, it’s the heart of me, If I’m Being Honest.”
“These are the 11 songs that make up my last 3+ years and there are 5 million things I could say about each one of them. So many feelings, so many memories, so many emotions wrapped into each song.”
“I think you will find that Annie Lawrence is not who you thought she was. That in every situation there’s a lot more then meets the eye. That maybe I’ve never gotten the chance to truly be honest, until now.”
Here are the 11 songs on the “If I Am Being Honest” album.
- Over Thinkin’
- Ashes & Smoke
- Good Luck
- New York or Me
- Dead To Me
- Losing You
- 3 Years
- Out of My Head
- Follow Through
- Last Goodbye
My favorite song from Annie’s new album is “Good Luck.”
The lyrics begin by mentioning Lafayette, Indiana and it reminds me of a song by the 1970 “one hit wonder” R. Dean Taylor and his number 1 tune, “Indiana Wants Me.”
“Indiana wants me
Lord, I can’t go back there
Indiana wants me
Lord, I can’t go back there
I wish I had you to talk to”
Annie now has an answer follow up song to “Indiana Wants Me” with her “Good Luck” tune, as she sings during the chorus: “Nothing you can do can bring me back to Indiana, good luck to YOU.” A clever song, indeed!
You can purchase Annie’s new album, “If I’m Being Honest” at Annie Lawrence Music.
Lawrence is now touring with a band in support of her new album. Stops include New York City, and four Virginia cities: Vienna, Harrisonburg, Richmond and Roanoke.
Annie’s story is unique to her. Her life experiences continue to mold and shape who she is and where she is headed in the future. “If I’m Being Honest” is a direct outcome of Annie’s struggles, understanding and acceptance of daily life realities.
When I interviewed Annie, I came away with the following: No matter what trial or tribulation Lawrence faces in life, she is determined to make lemonade out of lemons. “If I’m Being Honest” is a reflection of that mentality. Her honesty in exploring hard topics is refreshing. Without a doubt, Annie Lawrence is a survivor!
To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.