When singer-songwriter Anna Stine first moved to the Twin Cities in the summer of 2015, she found solace in the lakes near her South Minneapolis apartment. Biking around, the lakes became a place for introspection in an unfamiliar city.
“I remember a lot of times just sitting with really uncomfortable emotions,” Stine said. “It was almost like the lakes became this companion to me.”
Stine grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and moved to Minneapolis to continue a career in music therapy. Her relationship with music began at a very young age; her mother is a piano teacher.
“Some of my earliest memories were eavesdropping on the steps during her lessons and listening to her teach and just yearning to learn music,” Stine said.
This relationship only became stronger and more intimate as Stine grew older. She began songwriting in high school as a way to help process emotions and cope with mental health issues.
“Music was the light for me,” Stine said. “I remember there being days where there was nothing that made sense, nothing helped, nothing that gave me any sort of hope. That was when I would sit down and write something and find myself again.”
Stine’s songwriting was more than a hobby — it was an outlet, a way she could explore her own experiences and be present.
About a year ago, Stine decided to flip her life around and focus more on her music career.
With that intention in mind, she set out to record an album. Released this week, “Company of Now,” resembles the musical styles of Norah Jones and Billie Holiday, combining jazz instrumentals with Stine's blues-y melodic voice.
“As far as being an artist, it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Stine said.
Last winter, Stine performed at open mics and small shows around the Twin Cities, searching for people to collaborate with. At one of those shows she met Robert Bell, another local musician, who became her producer.
“I knew when I was talking to her, that something was going to happen between us,” Bell said. “There was definitely … an immediate connection.”
Bell had been looking to work with a singer-songwriter at the time but didn’t have a clear idea of the direction he wanted to go.
“[Stine] said, ‘Well whatever it is, it’s right here,’” Bell said. “Those were her words. I remember it. ‘Whatever it is, it’s right here.’”
After about 10 months of mixing, mastering and writing, “Company of Now” was released on Sunday. The album still retains a lot of the themes Stine wrote about in her early years, but this time wiser.
“I’m still writing about the valleys and the mountains, the ups and the downs, the heavy emotions,” Stine said. “It wasn’t until I realized that emotions don’t go away until you befriend them … [that] was when I really saw a transformation in my life."
Stine draws on nature in her lyrics. She recalls a solo backpacking trip to Utah's Canyonlands that inspired a lot of the album.
“I got totally lost in the desert by myself. I didn’t have enough water. I was very under prepared,” Stine said. “I was so amazed by how much life could flourish in a seemingly desolate place.”
Growth became a theme both in the album and in making it.
“For me, she’s not even the same person I knew when I first met her,” Bell said. “There are so many areas of growth and that’s what’s interesting. This entire process was nothing but growth and discomfort.”
The album includes songs that Stine wrote while she was in college. In a way, it honors her past and points toward a better present and future.
“When I was home last, [my family and I] put the CD in the car. We just had to stop the car because we started crying together about [how far I’ve come], not only as a musician but just as a woman,’” Stine said.
This is apparent in her live performances. The music appears to take over Stine as she moves across the stage, singing with intention.
Stine’s Midwest tour begins in Minneapolis on Nov. 13 at Honey. In less than one year, Stine has created a record that invites listeners to move their feet and enjoy the present moment.
“Recording this album and releasing this album has definitely been a rich experience,” Stine said. “Lots of mountain tops, lots of valleys.”