Doing it for herself
By Andrew Woodger
Bungay singer/songwriter Vashti Anna has a lot to live up to - her big brothers Tom Baxter and Charlie Winston are already stars. As well as gigging and busking, she earns her keep by being an artist's life model.
We'll come to sibling rivalry later, but first Vashti ("it's Persian for good and beautiful") talked about her early years at the family's King's Head Hotel/Charlie's Bar in Bungay:
"From the age of six, I'd put on little shows coming on in stilts and playing chopsticks on the piano, singing Mary Had A Little Lamb, dressing-up and being girly I suppose!
"We also had a farmhouse about 10 miles away in the All Saints and I learnt to play the piano in a cowshed and I had lessons later."
Writing songs came about when Vashti moved to Southwold at the age of 10 while still going to school in Bungay.
"I think I wasn't particularly happy at school and my parents splitting up had an effect on me, so I started writing songs to get the sadness out. All my friends were a year above and I missed them went they left the middle school and moved onto the high school.
"None of us [meaning her brothers] were particularly academic and there was one teacher who particularly didn't like us and I had to change forms. Something didn't work and I was off school a lot - I wasn't really naughty, I was just a bit of a day-dreamer."
An artist's muse
Vashti describes her influences as ranging from Madonna to Nina Simone to The Beatles to Nick Drake.
Vashti moved to London when she was 19 and as well as busking on the London Underground she pays the rent with a job that suits her:
"Now I'm paid to be a day-dreamer - I wish I could go back and tell my form tutor that!"
In bed with Vashti...
What 'day-dreaming' actually entails is being a life-model for artist Geri Morgan who's in his 80's. She takes her clothes off for him three times a week and, later in 2009, he'll be holding the first exhibition of his work in London.
"My friend was doing it and I was fed up with waitressing so I thought I'd give it a go. It was a bit daunting at first, but now I don't think anything of it," said Vashti.
"It's kind of liberating. It's made me less self-conscious about my figure. Not that I've got a bad figure, but I had a big-bum complex and that's gone now!
"It's different doing it with one person and we've got a really nice friendship. With a group they're looking at you from different angles and you're a bit more exposed and feel vulnerable."
Vashti has released her third album You Are Free which was recorded by Roy Dodds who's also worked with Eddi Reader, Jacqui Dankworth and Boo Hewerdine. Her previous albums were Scrapbook (2004) and Dragonfly (2005) - all self-released and available via her MySpace. She's also done backing vocals on Tom Baxter's Skybound album.
"I'd like my music to be heard by people, and it seems to be liked by people, which is nice, and I love gigging, touring and performing.
"At the moment I'm trying to get a publishing deal so that I can go into a studio and do it properly, because all the albums I've done have been with people who've been prepared to do it with very little money and I do need to start paying people properly.
"I think I'm ambitious, but I want a simple life. I've supported my brother and done TV with Tom, but I'd love to do something like go on Later with Jools Holland."
Clearing her head
"I have spent all my 20's thinking I wasn't good enough - up until about a year ago. Because my brothers are so good, I thought I wasn't good enough and I'd just be compared to them and everyone's going to say 'oh, she's sweet, but not very good'.
"So I had this thing going on in my head which is really a load of rubbish and it's taken a long time to realise that. And it doesn't really matter either - music is such a personal thing some people prefer my music to my brothers'.
Vashti with brother Tom at Latitude
"I've got over that element of competition now!
"Charlie's been number one in France and I'm just really happy for him. I don't think Tom and Charlie are competitive either. We learn from each other - we're just very supportive of each other.
"We'll bring each other down to earth by being honest if we don't like something or think something could be improved. It's nice to have that around you rather than people saying you're good because that's what they think you want to hear.
"I think we all did music because our parents were singers [Jeff 'n' Julie were on the folk circuit and appeared on Opportunity Knocks in the 1960's] and it was just natural."
When she's in full-band mode, she shares a stage with Tom Fry and Danny Keane who also play in Tom Baxter's band, so let's hope no-one forgets anyone's birthday or there could be serious musical carnage.
Hadar and Vashti at BBC Suffolk
In September 2009, Vashti and her musical partner Hadar Manor recorded a session at BBC Suffolk. Stay tuned to Stephen Foster's Drivetime show for details of when it'll be broadcast.
For the latest on Vashti's activities visit her MySpace using the link on the right.
last updated: 04/09/2009 at 16:47
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Can Vashti follow in her brothers' footsteps to success?