Modern artist rooted in tradition


When The Beat called and chatted with Anna Vogelzang at her Madison, Wisc., home during last week’s cold snap, she informed us that her local temperature was -2. She also noted that when her husband’s car wouldn’t start, he rode his bike to work. Suddenly, we felt a little bad for complaining about temperatures in the teens.

Despite her husband’s willingness to rely on throwback transportation, Vogelzang said she doesn’t consider herself a folk artist in the traditional sense.

“I play banjo on some of my songs, but not in a traditional way,” She said. “So, when I see someone going to town playing clawhammer banjo, I start to think I shouldn’t be getting mine out any time soon, and I hope they don’t come see me play,” she joked.

While there are hints of old-time folk music in Vogelzang’s work, it’s less because of a rootsy approach and more because she is part of that timeline.

“One of the hardest things about making this a career is that you need to fit, so that somebody can sell you, but of course, you don’t want to fit,” Vogelzang said.

Vogelzang began carving her own unique niche as a student at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. She began as a voice major studying opera, but "ended up designing my own major," studying recoding engineering as well as jazz guitar and poetry. Vogelzang said she expects she "doesn't have the chops anymore" to sing opera, although she did some stage performing in light opera and in choruses after graduating. But the overall skill set she was able to hone has proven helpful on any number of fronts.

"It was kind of a singer-songwriter major. It was wonderful," she said.

And despite her apparently significant discography, Vogelzang contends any notion she’s a prolific songwriter is “a ruse.”

“I just did a self-imposed songwriting retreat,” she said. “As a songwriter, you always want to have new music. I’ve toured on (her most recent record) Canary in a Coal Mine twice now, so I’m putting a lot of new songs in my set that haven’t been recorded.”

While continuing to write new songs, Vogelzang continues to be a road warrior. New technology allows her to write even while she’s on the road.

“Thank goodness for the phone voice memo,” she said.

A modern artist indeed.