Our South by Southwest First Draft Pick: Anna Shoemaker

If there were something like Fantasy Football for South by Southwest (SXSW), indie-pop artist Anna Shoemaker would be my first draft pick. When I first listened to her music in my month- long preparation for the festival, I immediately passed her song “Liquor Store” to my friends who join me every year for the 4-5 days of unlimited tacos, unlimited booze, and unlimited live music. “This is our Southby 2019 anthem,” I told them. Sure, the song is about lost love, and the healing found in alcohol, but with a damn good beat that picks you up from the semi-sad lyrics the same way a good bottle of whiskey washes away the semi-sad thing that led you to it. And Shoemaker’s sultry, old-school jazzy/R&B voice is top shelf scotch, with just enough bite to remind you that anything less would hurt, but smooth enough to give you that comfort and warmth that only the pricey shit can get you.

“Here’s my pick for this year’s standout,” I told my friends, making up my own Fantasy Draft. I’ve been doing this a long time––my 10 th Southby in a row, and 12 th overall. Two years ago, an Australian band called Middle Kids was one of my top picks, and after South by Southwest, they were on many of the top major festivals in the U.S. In 2012, I saw Ed Sheeran play solo to rooms of 100-200 people, a year before he attended his first Grammys for his first U.S. single “The A Team.” In 2013, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis seemed to be everywhere in Austin during SXSW, five months before their first major single, “Thrift Shop,” was released. In 2011, Childish Gambino made a few appearances as well, eight months before his first major record release Camp. I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again and again, South by Southwest is a festival of discovery. Maybe bands aren’t getting “DISCOVERED” like they used to––meaning signing record contracts over tacos and Shiners, but the discovery potential for music fans, that is endless and matched by no other music event in the world.

Anna Shoemaker stood out, and after seeing all the acts on my must-see list, she still stands out as an artist with mad potential for breaking out and getting big––even to someone like me who prefers almost all types of rock over any kind of pop. But…good music is good music, I can always appreciate good examples of any genre, but with Shoemaker, it’s more than appreciation, and maybe it’s because she transcends genre. Something that’s made more clear through her live performance when she picks up a guitar and shows that singing isn’t her only talent.

Shoemaker’s songs are pop songs, in the sense that they should be popular, and that they’d be played on a pop radio station. But she’s not cookie-cutter pop. In fact, the only thing, and main thing, that comes to mind when I think of who to compare her to, is Taylor Swift, if Swift were a real human, who really lived in New York (I mean really LIVE), and really experienced life as a normal person in their 20s, and was able to express it without fear of the ramifications it would have on her career. That’s one of the few benefits Anna Shoemaker gets from not being a huge pop star yet––she can still sing about getting high or getting wasted, she can still be authentic and relatable, all while still giving us something to get wasted and dance to.

Check out her EP East Side, currently available, and her brand new single “Home”, out now too.

About Mike Henneberger

Mike Henneberger is a video producer/director and music journalist with more than a decade of experience. He’s put his live music addiction to good use by contributing to Billboard Magazine, SPIN, and Rolling Stone. You can follow his adventures and misadventures at @mikeyleerock and @abergerjoint on Instagram.

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