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The Sound

Zen and the art of Annalibera


Annalibera plays Vaudeville Mews on Friday, Sept. 13.

Annalibera plays Vaudeville Mews on Friday, Sept. 13.

Anna Gebhardt is kind of a Zen master when it comes to self-effacing humility.

“I’m just learning as I go,” she said over coffee. “I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

That’s not completely true. Gebhardt is a classically-trained singer with a solid collegiate background in opera. It should also be noted that she’s done pretty well for herself in a very short period of time within the local music scene, which is just another testament to Gebhardt’s ability and sound. The 23-year-old from Minnesota’s Twin Cities fronts her own band, Annalibera, which is a dream pop four-piece that has been likened to high-minded acts like The Cocteau Twins. Through a deeply theatrical sound and some captivating live performances, Annalibera has very quickly established itself as one of the more buzz-worthy acts in the capital city’s indie scene.

But despite her quick rise, Gebhardt’s beginning was considerably slower.

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“It wasn’t until I was 20 that I wrote a song, because it was just a mystery to me,” she admitted. “I remember when I was 6 or 7, getting out blank sheet music because I wanted to write but couldn’t figure out how to write stuff that sounded good, because nobody taught me the chords. Nobody taught me theory. So I just kind of gave up. I had ideas for songs, but I couldn’t make them work, so I just figured, ‘It’s impossible to write a song. You can’t do it. Songs are made by magic.’ Then I went to college for music, and that’s where I learned stuff about theory.”

From there, Gebhardt’s music blossomed, and the perceived veil of mystery around music lifted. Gebhardt sees music as one of the universal things in life (“Anyone can make music,” she’s said with conviction more than once), and she teaches music theory to children in an effort to drive that point home.

As for her own sound, Gebhardt considers Annalibera a constantly evolving entity, as she continues to grow and gain confidence; something she never felt like she could do in her classic training.

“When I’m singing opera, I choke up,” she said. “I think it’s because I’m not the authority on those songs. Some amazing composer is. But when performing my songs, this is how I want them. I can sing them with bad technique if I want to, but I don’t get nervous. I’m comfortable on stage then.”

Audiences are comfortable with them as well, as the rave reviews from the band’s Gross Domestic Product performance and the sizable turnout for her performance at 80/35 will attest.

But when asked about it, the Zen master retreats to her happy place.

“We’ve gotten a lot of opportunities that don’t really correspond with how experienced we are,” she said. “Of course, I’m really glad that we’ve had such a good response, but I don’t like feeling unprepared. But you have to just go with it. You don’t really get to make that decision. You don’t get to decide when people like you.”

For Annalibera, it seems that time is now, and Gebhardt is making the most of it, with a full-length album in the works and a tour beginning next week that includes stops in Branson, Nashville and Chicago before returning home for the Maximum Ames Music Festival.

Regardless of where the future takes her, Gebhardt knows where she is in life. And she’s at peace doing it.

“I just want to make interesting, layered music.” CV

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