For as long as I’ve known Annie Blackman, she’s been funny. As colleagues and friends, I’ve always trusted Annie to make biting observations that make me think a little bit. I expected that she’d be funny on Tik Tok in a way that only she can, but then she used the flourishing platform for something more sincere: her songs.
Currently based in Montclair, NJ, Annie Blackman is a singer-songwriter with a heart of gold. After sharing her catalogue of solo songs with the Tik Tok world, she is ready to release new music with a renewed, robust sound. We caught up about quarantine final examinations, making music with classmates, and what it’s like to take a risk on a digital platform where maybe you’re not sure you belong.
Slumber: What made you decide to make a Tik Tok account in the first place?
Annie Blackman: I made a Tik Tok account last fall because I felt like I was missing out on all these burgeoning cultural references and I wanted to be in on the trends and the joke. So I made an account and it was all very facetious for a while with me being like “Oh, haha, I’m too old to be on this app,” but then I started to spend more time on it and, although I still felt too old to be on the app, I started to really like using it.
The whole school year, I was really embarrassed to post anything because it still felt like a silly platform and that I would be judged. Then quarantine hit and I’ve been spending more time on Tik Tok and seeing more independent musicians/teenage girls in their bedrooms posting clips of songs and getting a lot of likes. I thought maybe I could do something like this. A lot of these songs I wrote when I was in high school and there are a lot of high schoolers on this app, so maybe if I post something it might stick. So I posted a song, and the first song I posted, I didn’t get any likes. I thought I’d try it again, and then it was very well received! So I thought maybe I could continue to do this.
Slumber: Nice! How has the platform evolved for you and what’s surprised you about it?
Annie: I’ve been surprised with the engagement from people that have resonated with the songs. There are a lot of girls in particular commenting and being super supportive in the comments. It is so not a requirement to do that, especially since these aren’t people I have relationships with. They’re just people who see my video and keep scrolling.
Tik Tok’s been so supportive, and while the internet can be a really hostile place, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised to just be lifted up by the people who are seeing my videos. I haven’t gotten any hate comments yet, which has been really cool. Another thing about the app which is really surprising is how the algorithm works for people’s “For You” pages. It’s so random. I could have one video that has 5,000 views and then the next one I post will have 300. You can’t really control it, so a lot of it is luck.
Slumber: Word, that’s what it seems like on there. I was scrolling through your page and found myself really laughing at the one with the neighbor kids screaming!
Annie: That one was actually staged, believe it or not.
Slumber: Good, I’m glad.
Annie: Yeah, those were two of my best friends, actually. That was like, a very concerted effort to try and go viral and it didn’t work. A lot of people did think it was real.
“Tik Tok's been so supportive, and while the internet can be a really hostile place, I’ve been really pleasantly surprised to just be lifted up by the people who are seeing my videos.”
Slumber: Has quarantine made you discover anything new about your neighborhood?
Annie: I’ve been taking a lot more walks, I’d been really walk-averse. But, walking around and passing by all the cool teens hanging at the skate park makes me feel pretty nostalgic for what was only four years ago. I definitely haven’t made many new discoveries, but I’ve been outside more. That’s probably it.
Slumber: Nice. I was just revisiting your EPs Blue Green, Laundry Room Songs, and the sessions from Gambier that I thought were super cool. How has your process or relationship with music changed since you put those out?
Annie: Well, all of the songs on Blue Green were written over the course of high school. Some of them are from as early as sophomore year, and they go up through senior year. So I feel like I hear a lot of personal growth in my own writing. While themes have stayed pretty consistent, liking and loving and feelings and all of that, I like to think that I have matured since 17. I feel like some of that is reflected in the way that I write and the observations that I make.
Listening to some of the music from back then, it isn’t cringe in terms of the quality of the songs, like I still have an appreciation for all the songs from then, but sometimes I think “wow, did I really see the world like that? Was it really chill to talk about other people like that?” Now, when I’m writing new songs, I like to keep that growth in mind and keep moving forward in my maturity as a lyricist and participant of the world.
Slumber: Wow, that was bold, I love it. Chills. Obviously then, Blue Green was a bluish green record, but looking towards some of the new stuff — I’m obsessed with “Wrong Again,” I’ve listened more than a few times — what colors do you associate with your new projects?
Annie: Oh! Good question. Should I pick one color or two colors?
Slumber: As many as you want!
Annie: Maybe like pink and yellow. I think that those are adventurous. Pink is sort of reliable, it’s always been there. And then with yellow, you’re not initially sure it matches, but you sort of like it together. Together, I think that it’s a strong combo.
Slumber: Love it. Back from college, I obviously remember some of the great gigs, like when you opened for Soccer Mommy. If touring could become a thing again and you could go on tour with anyone, who would you want to go on tour with?
Annie: I mean, Soccer Mommy would still be awesome. But, I really have been liking Samia. I have been obsessed with her song “Big Wheel.” I really can’t stop listening to it, truly. Also, love Phoebe Bridgers, love Lomelda. I mean, I opened for Field Medic and I still love Field Medic.
Slumber: Well, I can’t wait to see it.
Annie: Thank you, me too!
Slumber: In the movie version of your life, who would you want to portray you?
Annie: The only celebrity I’ve been told I look like is Zoe Kazan, and I would be very content to have her play me because she is very talented, and super amazing in The Plot Against America, which my dad and I watched early in quarantine. I think that’s a safe bet, she’s super cool.
Slumber: Agreed. Obviously this year has been a little intense, and it started off with you finishing college virtually. How would you say that was, in terms of wrapping up that experience?
Annie: The thing that I mourned after not having an in-person graduation wasn’t so much the goodbyes because like, given modern technology it’s been easy to stay in touch with people as long as they’re willing, so much as I missed the finality of [what would’ve been] the last conversations before we walked the graduation stage.
I think that I imagined my friends and I would have important conversations about the way that we see each other in our lives moving forward and going over the near futures with each other. That would’ve been like, very comforting and also productive. It’s hard to do that over the phone, to sort of have those final very comprehensive ending conversations. That’s something that would’ve helped to make a final push of closeness, where we could all feel like we just wrapped up this very special experience together and now we’re ready to have the strongest long-distance relationships possible. But with us ending right as spring break is starting, people are stressed and comps [major exams] are happening, so everyone’s feeling like “okay, this is a much-needed break, I have to get out of here.” In doing that, you lose some of the momentum. It’s a waste to end at what is such a stressful moment in the semester.
Slumber: Did you have your comps before quarantine?
Annie: I did! I had them for the first semester as an English major.
Slumber: Oh, God bless.
Annie: Yeah, God bless!
Slumber: I really felt for the people who suddenly somehow had to finish their comps from home.
Annie: Yeah, like art comps!
“Now, when I’m writing new songs, I like to keep that growth in mind and keep moving forward in my maturity as a lyricist and participant of the world.”
Slumber: Musically, what’s next for you?
Annie: So, I have teamed up with Marshall and Jameson Ghalioungui. Marshall and I met each other at school, and then in early quarantine as Tik Tok was starting to pick up, we decided to start seriously working on the upcoming single, “Wrong Again,” remotely of course because they’re based in the suburbs of Chicago. I knew that I wanted to move towards a more produced sound, and Marshall’s a really wonderful person and I trusted that his brother would be a really wonderful person. They’ve been in a band together for a long time called Camp Edwards. They were generous enough to take me on as well. We started the process of remote production, sending files back and forth together all the time. I got to go out to Chicago in the middle of August and we spent a day in the studio, in a very safe way, and that sort of solidified our working relationship. We have all committed to each other and are a band now.
It’s hard to work remotely, everyone’s on a different schedule, communication takes work to maintain. We’re moving forward on other songs we recorded in Chicago, but it is a slow process. Totally understandable given everything. We’re just continuing to work together and I’m writing new things. It’s just all happening the way it always has, but with more teamwork and more love to go around.
Slumber: More love to go around! Speaking of love, can you tell me about your pets?
Annie: Yeah, I have two dogs, a chocolate lab and a yellow lab, named Weezie and Bluebell respectively. Weezie is 2 and Bluebell is 12. I am obsessed with both of them, but I’m super obsessed with Weezie because she is truly my baby. I was sort of a baby when Bluebell was a baby, about 10, but I really feel like a mother figure to Weezie. I often wonder if I’ll love my child with the same love I have for her. My friends and family have told me that I will, but it’s an “I’ll believe it when I see it” sort of thing.
Weezie has been a godsend in quarantine. Every night at 11:30 when I watch The Late Show with Stephen Colbert — which I watch because I’ve been watching The Colbert Report since middle school, I can’t stop — Weezie will get on the couch with me. Every night at 11:30, we watch the show together. It’s been a very important constant in my life.
Slumber: OMG, I’m in tears. My roommate just adopted a cat, she’s 4 months old and named Bailey. She’s not sure of us yet, but my roommate definitely feels like her mother already.
Annie: It kicks in, this parental love. It’s kind of crazy.
Slumber: OK, last question: do you have any advice for young musicians turning towards social media to help them get word out about their projects while we’re stuck in quarantine?
Annie: I think my advice would be: even if you think it’s embarrassing, just post and promote yourself. It is a little embarrassing, but self-promotion isn’t embarrassing, it’s cool. It’s cool to be proud of your art. Even if you feel shy sharing and hyping yourself up, or you’re running the risk of embarrassing yourself, it just doesn’t matter. Embarrassing yourself is cool and fun. It’s also like, whatever! Who cares! If anyone does care, it’ll be amazing. That’s it. I wish I’d started posting earlier, because it’s really like, who the fuck cares? It’s social media, social media is stupid so try to have fun with social media and make it work for you.
Listen to Annie Blackman’s latest single “Wrong Again” below: