Location - Nashville TN (Recently moved there from Brimingham AL)
Instruments - Vocals Guitar
MySpace:  http://www.myspace.com/leeannaloves

Article by Jonalan Wright, Courtesy of ARTS in Alabama Magazine

lee anna culpOn a hot and humid August Alabama day, Lee Anna Culp relaxes on a worn white leather couch in a cold studio basement discussing music festivals with her manager and guitar player. They spend a bit of time working on an electronic press kit (EPK) that will be submitted to get them into their trophy gig, South by Southwest, SXSW. She’s a bit ridged, she seems a nervous about sitting down for the interview. Most of all, She is Lee Anna knows that what she has to do is get more face time with potential fans, but is torn between the idea of more shows, or better shows. For a young musician, that is a question that plagues them all.

“Who I am is who I am not.” She says. Lee Anna is a seemingly winsome young woman who appears to have it all under control. She spent her formative years overseas. Her father worked a job with the Goodyear Tire company. The family lived in Europe, in and around Luxemburg and Greece before moving here to Birmingham. The only time she had ever heard of Alabama was in the song Old Susanna. “Come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee.” She laughingly sings. “It was a culture shock.” Her previous schools had been relatively small American schools in the overseas environment, but in the third grade, her parents placed her in a private Christian school, Shades Mountain Christian School. This was in an effort to maintain the integrity of her education. “That was a defining moment for me. It really put me off to the whole Christian school thing. It was hard for me to grasp that the same people in public school getting into honor society, their Christian character had no bearing on that. But from our honor society, if you didn’t get high marks from all your teachers and all the students in Christian character, you didn’t get it. I’m like that’s going to affect me getting into college” Her reason for this is that she feels that academics are based around the structure of the bible and the way that people are perceived. These experiences also lead her to rely on the instincts of understanding “genuineness of people.” There, she was an athlete. Soccer was her game. She was voted best dressed. “If there was [an award] for meanest it would probably be me.” She was the girl that “didn’t put up with anybody’s shit” she tells. “I felt really out of place there.”

“Her mom’s family is musically creative.” Her father, Charlie Culp said in a phone conversation with AIA. She had been in piano lessons at a young age, and her father bought her first guitar. It was inevitable that she would try, but Lee Anna’s getting started, her mom Jackie Culp describes, “was really private in her practicing. She didn’t like to play or sing in front of us, so we didn’t hear much of it. After she was in a talent show at school, that changed and we started hearing her more.” So there was always a possible lean toward music after sports had landed her in surgery after surgery. Letting Go was her first song. Written at age 16 and was the first performance that she had. It took place at a high school talent show. No one at her school knew that she played or sang, not to mention the fact that she was about to deliver a performance in front of the school that would make a lasting impact. Her persona changed in an instant. “I learned that I could play in front of people with out dieing. My leg shook the whole time.”

Writing is why she gravitates to music. She focuses on what song mean lyrically. A final cut is her decision. She has never had any formal vocal training. She does read music, but struggles a little with that. That is why she says that all of her “girly characteristic come out” when she is writing. She needs music in her life because it is her gateway to what she is feeling and thinking. This has gotten her in trouble with friends after they realize that songs were written about them or her experiences with them. It doesn’t stop her from staying in touch with her own reality, but she does know that sometimes it is better to be careful.

As if the difficulties in the music business weren’t enough, an added pressure of being a female musician is constant. She knows that the male driven ‘rock’ scene is different. “My first formal band experience was actually my old guitar teacher. I worked for him for a while. He asked me in my freshmen year of college if I would like to be in his band, Sticks and Stones. I did it, but I hated it.” It probably didn’t mix with her because it was a classic rock band that didn’t appeal to her. “I’m not gonna’ ever be a rock-n-roll kind of style which is easier for people like. Singer/songwriter style of music is something that you just have to like.” She explains. “You have to do something to be different.”

In these days of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, it can be very difficult to separate the equation of music and just the right amount of skin. Lee Anna feels that performers such as these have sold themselves out by selling sex in place of their talent. She is not one for devilry. “Would Katy Perry and Lady Gaga be so famous if they didn’t do what they do? Being risqué and singing about kissing girls and lesbian affairs. I don’t know. People like controversial stuff and sex. I find it hard to wrap my head around that not being a factor. You have home grown musicians that will never get discovered because they don’t do that.” “All of my songs are reality from my point of view. I don’t try to make people mad, but sometimes I do.” Is how she defines her writing. Her lyrics stay true to what she feels and her experiences. Her songwriting style is musically a jazzy pop. Whether or not she knows that she’s jazzy is another question. She avoids giving her self a genre box to live in. Which, if you ask most musicians they strive to do the same as well. Marketing however, has to have that tool. Hey Hey Girl, a song that was written about an old roommate that she felt was sort of brutal. When asked by the Birmingham ABC TV morning show to perform it, she heard it and other people heard it, and got mad about it. “It is rare that I have a sweet song. I have very little of the ‘luvvy duvvy’ singer songwriter stuff.” She explains. Sorry Charlie was in many ways the same, but she has no intention of changing the formula for writing that seems to be working for her.


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