Cambridge singer-songwriter Anna Hester releases new album inspired by postcards
Postcard Songs, the debut album from talented Cambridge-based musician Anna Hester, was released on Friday (August 6).
Every song on the LP was written in response to a postcard. The project is the culmination of five years of work, including a successful Crowdfunder campaign, and three of the songs have already been released as singles – A Line, Alone in Glasgow, and Summer Is a-Comin’ In.
Postcard Songs was recorded and produced at Gladeside Recordings by Dan Wilde, and session musicians Maddy Hamilton (cello), John Parker (double bass) and Jamie Welsted (drums) feature, while Josh Brewin has a guitar solo on Café Sacher and Dan Wilde lends guitar and additional percussion to several tracks. Some of the backing vocals were arranged by Anna’s cousin, Rachel Agard.
Anna says: “I really liked the idea of having something tangible and identifiable as the starting point for a song – something I could set in front of me and focus on. My family is full of artists – photographers, painters, poets, comedians – and the interplay between art forms has always interested me.
“One day in 2013 I found myself writing a song about a postcard of a David Hockney painting I had bought at a gallery.” This postcard idea returned to Anna in 2016 when she attended an Arvon residential songwriting course.
The course was an opportunity to meet people, immerse herself in music, and write something new every day. Course tutors Kathryn Williams and Samantha Parton provided guidance on songwriting, while popular Cambridge singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine turned up as a guest speaker.
Boo recalled writing songs with Duke Special about a set of photographs for Duke’s 2011 album Under the Dark Cloth, which reminded Anna of her postcard song. Inspired by the course, Anna set to work writing songs about postcards – about the images, the messages, and the people and places behind them.
The 10 songs tell lots of different stories. Some were sent to Anna by friends and family, some were postcards she picked up on holiday, and some she found on the back of shelves in her childhood bedroom.
Anna’s friend Louis, a songwriter and painter she had met on the Arvon retreat, sent her a solemn postcard of a Scottish castle, with a few lyric ideas on the back, and one phrase stood out to her: “Alone in Glasgow”. This inspired the album’s opening track.
Anna continues: “People sent me postcards, I picked up postcards in Berlin, Lisbon, Vienna... I found old postcards in my childhood bedroom, I bought postcards after visiting The Barbican and The Tate Modern... By late 2019 I had more than enough postcard songs for an album.
“That these songs span several years only adds to the project, because they tell the story of many different moments, places, and people. Two of the songs are inspired by my grandfather’s art. He was an artist called Alec Pearson, who lived in Cambridge for many years.
“My song Summer Is a-Comin’ In is inspired by a postcard of his tapestry of King’s College (East Anglian Landscape). Another of my songs, A Line, is inspired by a postcard of his vibrant yellow and orange watercolour, Path Round a Desert Hill.
“In the music video for A Line, filmmaker Alice Cromwell and designer Kate Cromwell even used some of my grandfather’s drawings as part of the stop-motion animation.”
Originally from Milton Keynes, Anna now lives in Cambridge. She has performed in Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, London, Milton Keynes, and Berlin, in a range of venues including The Stables in Milton Keynes and Cambridge Junction.
In 2020 Anna played a livestream gig for The Stables and #SaveOurVenues, which has had more than 3,000 views. She has released two EPs, In the Meantime (2014) and Towards Today (2018). She was featured in the Fatea Showcase Sessions in 2019 and her music has been played on BBC Introducing Cambridgeshire and the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Folk Show.
Her next Cambridge gig is this Sunday (August 15) with Mahogany Tales at The Elm Tree, Orchard Street, Cambridge.