Between chasing her dreams and staying in her comfort zone, ANNA forges on
“Youth is asking yourself what you are, what you can accomplish.” —Hayao Miyazaki, 1982
We all have dreams, don’t we? On the cusp between youth and adulthood, twenty-somethings face the crossroads of pursuit. Does one go after what they love or seek after what is practical? For ANNA, there has only been one answer.
“I cannot see myself doing anything else,” she says, without hesitation. An upcoming Pop/RNB singer-songwriter, ANNA’s music career started when she was 14, busking in BGC alongside her brother. Eight years later, she released her debut single Before You Leave My Heart, under Bauhaus Music.
She’s made steady growth in her craft: the starlet was a part of De La Salle University’s premier vocalist group, Innersoul, until the pandemic, and made her mark on Kumu as a full-time livestreamer under the name annuhbae. ANNA recently performed in MOA Arena for the Tugatog Filipino Music Festival alongside Top Class trainees—a prize she won from a competition she joined on Kumu. Now about to graduate, she talks to Wonder about pursuing her own identity, setting personal deadlines and doing what you love.
She has big dreams ahead, and she’s not afraid to chase them.
Wonder: When were you first introduced to music?
ANNA: I grew up pretty much in a really musically-inclined household. My dad taught me how to play the guitar when I was really young, my brother din. He and I would go take guitar lessons every Sunday, but I started sa guitar talaga (but I really started with the guitar). I didn’t sing until I was like 14? [I took] guitar lessons, and eventually I tried out taking piano lessons.
Around 14 [or] 13, I saw someone singing sa BGC sa streets, ‘yung busking (Around 14 or 13, I saw someone singing along the streets of BGC, doing busking). So my dad made me audition for it, and the rest is history.
W: If I remember correctly, you used to do song covers, right?
A: Yeah, I did. A lot.
W: Were you doing it in the same period you did busking?
A: My brother and I would release a lot of covers, but then eventually we stopped. We stopped busking, we stopped producing covers din kasi (also because) we didn’t want to be known as people who can sing other people’s songs. We want to be known for having our own music. So I told myself and told my dad, I will stop performing in BGC, and the next time people will see me perform is when I have my originals.
From [De La Salle’s] Innersoul, we would perform live, and because of the pandemic we had to stop. And as an artist, I needed a space to perform. At Kumu, I sang there for over a year, I’m still there now, and it’s through Kumu that I met my team, my record label.
W: To construct a timeline, could you talk about the pivotal moments that led you to where you are today?
A: Definitely my busking, 2014. For a few years, my brother and I would get invited in our school to perform, [and] outside school, we got hired by other companies to perform, which really helped, but ayun nga (the thing is), we stopped.
I think the next would be my Innersoul journey. It was my first legit concert that I was a part of. Not only as a performer, but ‘yung behind-the-scenes, like the production process talaga. There, I really learned how to sell tickets, [choose my] costumes, [do] choreography, everything.
Ever since I left Innersoul, I focused on Kumu, and I joined maybe two [to] three contests to get my name out there. [The] first contests that I ever joined were in Kumu. Because of my exposure [there], I got contacted by Bauhaus Music, my label now.
[Last] January 28, I released my first single, Before You Leave My Heart. And my most recent would be… last April! Last June, I performed in Makati [for] my first live gig as a singer-songwriter…I was with really talented people like Tiara Shayne, Syd Harta, Ej de Perio. My most recent [gig was in] Tugatog, I performed in MOA Arena with Top Class trainees.
W: You said that you and your brother stopped performing because you wanted to have your own sound. What made you realize that?
A: Well, if I’m being honest, I got tired, I got bored. Because we did it for a good four to five years. It [was] good training for me, I’m a very shy person. Because of performing, I got to become more confident, but there were just days where I would get so burnt out. Like yeah, there’s money, but [the] money is not a fixed [income], you know.
You meet strangers but then they don’t remember you, or they just pass by you. I wanted something more. I wanted to grow, and I felt like I wasn’t growing after five years. I needed something different.
W: We’ve been watching you from the sidelines as well, and it makes us proud to see your steady growth.
A: Thank you! It’s not as “pretty” as others, I think. Actually, recently, it’s been maybe three to four months that I’ve been having a hard time in Kumu as a streamer. Kasi syempre, bumabalik na ‘yung mga tao sa labas (Because of course, people have been going back outside).
People started going out more, less are staying on the app. I had to start over, reintroduce myself like, “Hey, I’m a singer. I hope you can support me.” So I had to meet new people, reevaluate what I’m doing, try out new things.
W: What made you decide to try out Kumu?
A: I have a friend who invited me. Actually I was supposed to start two years ago pa on a different app. During the pandemic, my family and I were constantly moving, different homes, and ‘di ba very limited lang ‘yung [space]. I was stuck in a condo, and I don’t think I can sing at midnight when I’m in a condo—I’ll get noise complaints.
I started last year, January 2021, and I joined as a performer, I didn’t want to just sit around at home. Like I said, I have a deadline for myself. I had goals. [For example,] at this age, I’ve done this. I’m not gonna achieve that if I’m at home doing nothing. So I started singing.
I met a lot of people in the industry, like songwriters, producers who helped me get to where I am. Without Kumu, I don’t know if [I would] also have a music career right now. So, [I’m] very grateful.
W: What is it like to be a streamer on Kumu, and how has the pandemic affected your art and your career?
A: It’s a responsibility rin to take care of the people who support you...I have to keep making people interested in me and [in] what I’m doing. It’s a struggle talaga. But the good thing is—since, I don’t know, pabalik-balik ako dun sa [pagkamahiyain ko] (going back to being a shy person), but—‘cause it’s online, I feel a bit more safe.
It’s not the safest online talaga but ‘pag binabash ako (it’s not really the safest online, but when I get bashed), it’s through a screen. From that, I don’t know if it’s regularly a good or a bad thing, pero merong filters, ‘di ba (but there are filters, right)? Not just on Kumu but Instagram. You don’t see the real me. After I sing, I end my livestream, and [go] back to reality. Maybe I’m crying, maybe I’m working on my thesis on the side. People don’t know what I’m doing or who I am behind-the-scenes. I guess I can keep more of myself to myself. But at the same time, when you’re online, when you’re trying to build an online personality, it’s like everyone knows you better than everyone else. It’s a gamble talaga, but when you’re in this industry, you have to accept it.
W: You mentioned setting a timeline for yourself. What made you want to pursue music full time?
A: I cannot see myself doing anything else. And um, hindi sa nag-fifish ako or anything, ito lang ‘yung kaya kong gawin confidently (It’s not that I’m fishing for compliments or anything, this is the only thing I can do confidently), this is what I know I can do.
I dropped my marketing degree in college because I knew I wasn’t happy there. Sinasabi ko sa sarili ko (What I tell myself is), I only have one life, and how many years? I don’t know when I’m going to die, I can die tomorrow. I might as well be doing something that makes me enjoy it. This is that one thing.
There’s this saying na if you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t have to feel like work.
W: What’s next for ANNA?
A: Oh my gosh. *laughs* I wish I knew! I mean, I’m still working on my music, I have a couple demos na I’m [about] to submit to my label…and I’m also trying out other apps, other streaming apps like TikTok. I’m trying to see if I can stream there, get a wider reach, and we’re also trying to get our songs on the radio, trying to get gigs.
A lot of people have been telling me to join contests…And I also want to join the songwriting contest, Himig Handog.
W: Make a manifestation.
A: By the time I’m 25 years old, I would have had my own concert. At least here, in the Philippines. Hoping.
It takes courage to dream big, but chasing after them is what demands respect. ANNA does both as she forges ahead.
Words Gwyneth King
Art Pis Trinidad