Monday, July 5, 2010

Interview with SciFi Songwriter John Anealio

Posted by Simcha 9:52 AM, under | 5 comments

I'm pleased to welcome here today the talented musician and songwriter, John Anealio, who creates unique and catchy songs based on scifi and fantasy books and movies.

Hi John, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.

According to your blog,
Scifi Songs, you write science fiction and fantasy songs, and while I’m familiar with sf&f books and movies I didn’t realize that the genre extends to music as well. Can you please explain to me about the kind of music that you write?

Well, there isn't really a Sci-Fi/Fantasy musical genre like rock or pop, although Filk can certainly be considered Sci-Fi music. Musically, I'd categorize what I do as a combination of pop, folk, and rock with a shot of electronic music and a sprinkling of progressive rock. Lyrically, I'm inspired by a wide variety of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and films as well as other "nerdy" things.
Over the course of the past year, I've embraced the humorous side of nerd culture and many of my songs have come out funnier than I ever thought they would.

Have you always been interested in writing this kind of music or is this an idea that just hit you over the head one day?

In terms of focusing my lyrics on Sci-Fi/Nerd culture, that did just hit me one day. For years, I was a fairly straight-ahead folk singer/songwriter. A little over two years ago, I was contemplating my musical path. I had already written a few songs inspired by some Science Fiction novels. I was also considering getting into blogging or podcasting. At that moment it hit me to focus my songwriting on Science Fiction and Nerd Culture and start a blog and podcast where I release those songs for free.

What was the first song that you wrote?

At the start of my musical education, I was an obsessive guitarist, so my first songs were guitar instrumentals. I couldn't even tell you the first vocal song that I wrote, because the first 100 songs that I wrote were surely dreadful. I think the first "Sci-Fi" song that I wrote was "
Sarene" which is based on Brandon Sanderson's Elantris.

Really? Why did you specifically choose Sarene for the subject of your song? (personally, I found her kind of annoying)

I liked the fact that Sarene was a strong female character and I just liked the idea of writing a love song that was set in a fantasy world.

What kind of reaction do your songs usually elicit from listeners? Do you think there is a large interest in music based on scifi and fantasy?

These days, it seems to be mostly laughter, which is good. Most people respond pretty positively. I think a lot of folks are just stunned that someone took the time to write and record a song based on something so niche or ridiculous. I think that there is an interest in music based on Sci-Fi and nerdy topics. For the longest time, song lyrics were only considered successful if they had universal themes or were aimed at the lowest common denominator. I think that people want to hear songs about topics that they are interested in. The more niche the better, it seems. My most successful song is "George R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch". It doesn't get much more niche than that.

So I've actually been hearing quite a lot lately about this song, "George R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch" which has garnered attention from both Neil Gaiman and Martin himself. Can you tell me the story behind it?

I'm a big George R.R. Martin fan. Neil Gaiman wrote a now famous blog post that advised a reader that "George R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch". I just thought that it would make a perfect song. I had the great fortune of both Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin discovering the song and liking it enough to blog and tweet about it.

Have any of your other songs gained the attention of the book’s author?

Fortunately yes. Brandon Sanderson, Gregory Frost, and Kay Kenyon all discovered the songs that I wrote about their books. Not only were all of them really nice folks, they were all quite enthusiastic about the songs and were nice enough to link to them. I even had the chance to chat a bit with Gregory Frost at Philcon last year. He's a great author and a super nice guy.

Wow, that's awesome!

Where do you see yourself heading with your sff song writing?

I'd like to get more into live performing. Prior to Sci-Fi Songs, I gigged all of the time, but I've done very little performing since the start of Sci-Fi Songs. I had the opportunity to perform at Balticon this year as a part of Mur Lafferty's "I Should Be Writing" live podcast. It was the first time that I performed in front of an audience of people who were into the things that I was singing about and it was a truly wonderful experience. I'd like to perform at more Sci-Fi conventions and I'd really love to perform at events like w00tstock and Nerdapalooza. I'd love to model the career path of some artists that I really admire like Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, and Marian Call.

Are you involved in any other aspects of the sff community?

The sheet music and lyrics to my song "The Ballad of Wilson Cole" appear in the appendix of Mike Resnick's "Starship:Flagship" novel. It was really quite a thrill to see my song and my name published in an actual Science Fiction novel. It was something that I never imagined would happen. I'd love to do that again. I also co-host a weekly podcast with author Patrick Hester called
The Functional Nerds. We chat about Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and TV shows, technology, music, comics, and other nerdy things. We've been fortunate enough to have a bunch of great guests, including: Blake Charlton, Lou Anders, and Mur Lafferty.

I saw that you recently attended Balticon where you dazzled Gail Carriger with your tunes. So how about a bit of gossip? Is Gail as awesome in real life as she seems?

Really? I wasn't aware that she was dazzled. I did have the opportunity to chat with her for a while after the show and she is every bit of awesome in real life as she seems. She's crazy smart and super nice. We also discovered that we share an interest in swing dancing.

Well, Gail mentioned your performance
on her blog and she sounded pretty dazzled (I believe the words "lovely" and "talented" were bandied about). Though I don't remember her ever mentioning anything about swing dancing...

Are there any other authors that you have become acquainted with through your music?

Peter V. Brett attended the ISBW live podcast at Balticon. He and I got along together quite well. He's going to be on our podcast in July. Although not a Sci-Fi author, Ken Denmead, who is the editor of Wired Magazine's GeekDad Blog and the author of the GeekDad book, and I have gotten to be pretty good online friends as well. He's played my music on the GeekDad Hip Trax podcast a bunch of times.

I'm a pretty big Peter Brett fan so I will have to make sure to listen to that podcast.

Are you ever approached by authors who are interested in having a song written for their books?

Lou Anders, Editorial Director of Pyr Books, commissioned the song for the Mike Resnick book. I have had some independent authors request songs. Each song takes a really long time to record (up to a month), so unfortunately I can't meet every request.

Which of your songs is your favorite and how did you come to write it?

Hard to say, I usually enjoy my most recent song the best.

In that case I guess the Unicorn Pegasus Kitten song is your current favorite since that is the latest song to appear on your blog, along with the picture that inspired it.

Are there any projects or songs that you are currently working on?

I'm getting pretty close to having enough good songs to put out another CD. This one will be a little different than my Sci-Fi Songs album. Most of the new songs have a humorous slant to them, which wasn't my intention at the start of all of this, but that is how things have naturally developed, so I'm running with it.

Can you tell me a bit about the CD you currently have out as well as where it is available for purchase?

When I started the Sci-Fi Songs blog, the idea was to write and record a new song every few weeks and give it away for free on the blog. People started asking about buying a CD/album. The Sci-Fi Songs Album is what I feel the 11 best songs that I wrote and recorded during the first year or so of the blog. You can buy the physical CD through
CDBaby and the digital downloads from many different outlets including iTunes and Amazon MP3.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working on your music?

Reading, Podcasting, and obsessively cataloging my iTunes library.

What books are you currently reading?

I'm currently reading The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, which so far is excellent. I'm also diving into a few of John Joseph Adams' short story anthologies.

It sounds like you have some great reading going on there. And a Warded Man inspired song would be really awesome...

Thanks again John for joining us here today and I can't wait to see what song you come up with next.

For more information about John Anealio visit his blog, Sci Fi Songs, and follow this link for a list of all his songs.


Great interview Simcha! I checked out his site, and he has some pretty great stuff! Thanks for the heads up!


This is wild! Great interview. Never even knew there were songs out there. :) Thanks!

That is amazing! For some reason, I thougt that sci-fi songs would lean towards heavy metal.

Great interview! John's music is wonderful.

BStearns: My pleasure! The fun of blogging is having other people to share these great discoveries with.

Melissa & Stephanie: It actually took me a while to actually get around to checking out John's songs, after I first came across his site, because I assumed scifi songs would be some weird alien music with strange background noises or something. But they are actually very catchy and fun.

Lou: Thanks for stopping by. I think having John write songs for specific books is a fantastic idea, particularly with the development of this new trend of creating playlists for books.

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