“Honest, bangers, and real” declares London-based pop songstress, Anna Straker, when tasked with describing her upcoming EP Growing Pains. Out this November, the rising sensation is on the verge of a new era–a stark difference from the party-loving “cool girl” that found her soaring into the limelight. While everyone loves a happy-go-lucky star of the show, Straker’s here to remind us it’s not all glitz and glamour after the set. Reading like a collection of sonic diary entries, Growing Pains pushes Straker’s boundaries into heavy personal territory. It’s her most ambitious and raw project to date, and likely her most poignant, nonetheless.
“I wasn’t really like ‘I’m going to make an EP,’” Straker begins. “It was like I’d written all these songs in the last six months and was like, these all sound really amazing together. It sounds like a body of work. And they all had this string running through them [of] lessons I’ve learned in the past few months.” She’s incredibly quick to reveal the intimate themes of the EP, but perhaps that’s the genius behind her power. “I think a lot of it was inspired by the sexual assault that happened to me, and that kind of was the turning point when I was like, ‘I really want to put some songs out about mental health’ because I was really struggling with that.”
That said, Straker is opting for a more honest and sincere approach when it comes to asserting her dominance as a pop powerhouse. While many of her previous releases are club-worthy anthems 20-somethings would adore, it’s become increasingly necessary for the artist to share a facet of herself that isn’t so calm, cool, and collected. Straker emphasizes the songs from Growing Pains are “really personal and mean a lot more to me” when compared to previous projects.
Even so, we need not prepare to say goodbye to the Anna Straker we’ve come to rave and dance to. “I’m still, like, the party girl, but I’m starting a new conversation that I haven’t had with my fans yet, which is really nice.” Describing the dichotomy between her old and new personas, she affirms, “I still love wearing bright pink and latex and chains and leather, but I don’t wear that all the time. I wear that when I go to parties and the pub and stuff. I also want to show the Anna that’s in a hoodie or a T-shirt.”
While we’ll always have an original Straker banger to paint the town red to, fans can anticipate new music to explore vulnerability and with a softer, tender perspective. As the name suggests, Growing Pains is quite literally her navigation through the distress of becoming an adult. Maturity can be beautiful, but it can also be bitter. For the singer, “I’m realizing what it is to be a human and an adult and everyone has to have these growing pains.”
On where she is today as a musician her answer is simple and certain: “I don’t care. This is me.” Her unapologetic clarity suggests what’s in store for Growing Pains is surely an unexpected and exhilarating experience.
The process of Straker achieving her current poised mindset was hardly an easy feat. A year ago, there likely wouldn’t be an opportunity for the candid musical journey experienced within Growing Pains. Revealing the details of her self-discovery, the artist calls attention to a recent traumatic car crash she endured while on vacation in Greece. “Before, I think I would have really struggled to be really open about that, but now I’m starting to have this conversation with strangers and fans. I feel like I can get over things, like, quicker. I have a support network, and I feel like I want to offer them the same thing with this EP.”
She recounts the incident in an Instagram post, “one minute we were having the time of our lives and the next we were spinning 270° off the road and rolling backward down a hill, thankfully missing loads of trees. I still can’t believe how lucky we were to survive this but those seconds of panic were mentally exhausting.”
Straker assures that it’s valid to face weak moments of reflection: “it’s not being ashamed of having these negative thoughts or having bad days and stuff like that. That’s what I want my fans to know.” Growing Pains is her way of conveying the same sense of support she recently found in her own life. The songstress wishes her words can aid those struggling with the unexpected twists that come with simply existing.
In a turn of fate, the singer’s September 4th single from the EP, “Good Days, Bad Days (feat. Gabrielle Aplin),” perfectly reflects the sudden accident. For Straker, collaborating alongside Aplin is a dream come true. “I just feel so excited to be doing a track with her! I remember when I was 16 and I would watch videos of her on YouTube and then suddenly I met her at the studio, and I was like “OMG!” she boasted with a major smile.
The duo’s connection far transcends any musical boundaries; their relationship holds personal commonalities that ultimately translated into the ideal song about resiliency. Praising Aplin, Straker highlights how “she’s also really open about her struggles and her mental health. It was really inspiring for me.” Continuing her words of approval, “it’s a lovely song for us to do together because it means a lot to both of us and I think she just sounds amazing on it as well.” The singer goes on to describe the upcoming single as a “perfect moment for us to do the song together,” and it’s undoubtedly a standout track from the project.
For the powerhouse, creating the Growing Pains EP is hardly her first musical rodeo. After posting covers on YouTube, she entered the radar of a slew of top of the line producers. Working with the likes of Emeli Sandé and Years & Years allowed the artist to realize her true ambitions: pop-stardom. “I think [they] really inspired me a lot and pushed me to not have a plan B.” She recounts the eye-opening, legendary collaborations as those where “I felt like I could do anything because I was around these people who were living their dreams.”
All the same, Straker soon found herself keeping up with the big dogs of the industry–and it’s partly thanks to her musically inclined background. Prior to becoming a full-time pop star, she nearly found herself dedicating a future to studying classical music; however, something still just wasn’t clicking. “I was set on being a classical musician and then one day I was like, no, mom and dad, I’m going to do pop music, I’m going to be a pop star.”
While the songstress took an early career turn, she recognizes that her classical roots are “the brains behind the music.” She has songwriting down to a science–literally–and for Straker, “that’s why I think I was really drawn to getting into production and playing live and being really technical.”
Destined to grace the stage, Straker makes it no secret she’s been taking full advantage of the rockstar lifestyle. With some of her proudest gigs (which includes a coveted set at Glastonbury), “there’s definitely a pinch-me moment. I feel so in my element when I’m being treated like a pop star” she laughs. “I literally just love it so much. I love doing shoots and gigs and I love how every day is different.” Performing is as though the musical stars aligned, “it feels right for me to be on stage” she affirms. “I’m happy that I’ve chosen this.”
So, what does a future Straker set look like? “Before, I really wanted to have loads of synths [and] be really technical on stage. I think that really went with the music that I was putting out before, but I think with this EP, I want to strip it back a little bit.” With her discography touching so many different genres, she “want[s] it so be a whole encompassing show” of everything she’s accomplished.
If anything, Straker seeks to foster an environment within which listeners are akin to her best friends. She stresses, “I just want to have an open, honest conversation with my fans.” She’s taken on the daunting task of exploring her traumas, penning them down, and letting the world hear her innermost thoughts. Just weeks away from releasing Growing Pains, “I feel more invincible now because of that which is such an amazing feeling.”
With life comes infinite beauty and splendor, but when a day turns sour and minds go into hiding our demons come creeping out. Straker wants you to know there is both power and strength to be found even in the darkest of days. Ultimately, the pain felt is nothing more than a temporary growing pain necessary to transform into the best version of oneself.