As a rock journalist, Anne Erickson has been reaching people over the airwaves from radio stations like WRIF in Detroit and through the internet web site Audio Ink Radio. She’s also an accomplished singer and songwriter with her own melodic metal band Upon Wings and has a new single out right now with Primal Fear singer Ralf Scheepers called “Eternal Way”. Anne talked with us recently about her newest release and how growing up in a home filled with musical theatre and opera led to a career in hard rock and metal music.
You’re a classically trained vocalist, aren’t you?
I am, yeah, that is true.
When did you start singing?
I started singing when I was four, which is so hard to believe, but my parents took me to see Cats in Toronto. As the story goes, I guess I would not stop singing Memory and I just would not stop singing at four years old. I actually went to preschool and stuff singing show tunes. My parents were like, “Oh, we should probably you know, get her some lessons.” and I took lessons through high school. Then in college, I also studied voice and it’s just how I studied. Mainly opera and classical theater and stuff like that but later on I fell in love with rock music.
When did you start singing rock music?
Pretty much the second I heard it, which it’s funny because my parents are very artistic but they never played rock music at all. I always hear people say, Oh, my dad’s record collection and stuff like that. So for me, I just grew up seeing all this other stuff and hearing all this other stuff. It was in high school that I finally heard my first rock song, and I was like, “Whoa, what is that?” That’s what I want to do, I love that!” So the second I heard it I wanted to be in a rock band but it took a while for me to figure out how to do that because I do have a more operatic voice and in the US, I wasn’t hearing anything that sounded like something I could do with an operatic voice. Then I heard European bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and bands that had more operatic vocals and I was like, okay, you know, maybe I can do this.
Those were the bands that you first really started to like, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden?
Actually, those bands were later on, the first bands I really fell in love with were post grunge bands and even new metal bands so it was kind of like Shinedown and Puddle of Mud and stuff like that and I still love that stuff, but it’s essentially the very first stuff I ever heard on the radio.
You did a song last year, Amazing Grace with Corey Lowery of Seether. Tell me a little bit about that. What made you decide to cover that and how did you connect with Corey to do this project?
We’ve never really done a cover song with Upon Wings, I was kind of against it. We haven’t done a traditional cover yet but when COVID hit, I kept hearing Amazing Grace on the news and everywhere I went I just kept hearing Amazing Grace and I saw how it was bringing people hope.
It’s a song that everyone knows and it’s just a comforting song, especially during a difficult time. I think everything was shut down and it was before bands were kind of figuring out how to do stuff, if that makes sense, so just in the very, very beginning. So I was like, maybe I should record Amazing Grace with the Upon Wings, put it out there, and why not? Actually, Corey and I go way back because he mixed our track You’re My Weapon, which came out several years ago, so I got to know him before he was in Seether and before he was in Saint Asonia, so he’s awesome. He is so nice, like the nicest guy and really talented so I hit him up. And I said, “Would you have time to do this?” And of course, you know, he wasn’t doing anything at the time because it was right when everything shut down so he said, “Yeah, that sounds great!” He did a great job doing the instruments, and then he produced it and we ended up releasing it for charity, and put it on a Upon Wings website and asked people go ahead and donate to a charity of your choice and then e-mail us and we’ll send you the song for free.
That’s a great idea. You also worked with him on your debut EP in 2013, Afterlife, and with Brett Hestla from Creed. Creed was a band that you did follow when you first started listening to rock music, right?
Yeah definitely. They’re one of my first favorite bands as well.
So how did you hook up with Brett for that project?
I put out a little bit of music with Upon Wings and I wanted to do an EP and something bigger.
There are of course a lot of producers out there but I heard really good things about Brett and of course was a fan of his work not only in Creed but also Dark New Day. And so I went through his manager and sent him our music and he approved the project and everything so that’s basically how we hooked up with him. He is so great and so talented and just has a great ear for rock music.
So he produced Afterlife, the lead single on there and he also sings guest vocals on it so it turned out really well. Afterlife to date has been our biggest quote/unquote biggest hit. We’re hoping for big things for Eternal Way and it’s been played on a bunch of active rock stations around the country already so that’s great. But prior to Eternal Way, Afterlife has done really well.
For Eternal Way you have Ralf Scheepers from Primal Fear singing with you. Your voices go really well together.
I find that’s a huge compliment, because he’s such a great vocalist.
Yeah, he’s very intense, an amazing vocalist. I imagine he has a very big vocal range. What’s your vocal range like?
Oh my gosh, I don’t know, I should know. I should totally know, like, how high I go up but I do have a pretty big vocal range. I’m a mezzo soprano so I tend to have the vocal range of a soprano, but with a darker tone. I probably can’t go quite as high as a soprano and I definitely can’t go as low as a contralto but I’m somewhere in there. His range is amazing and I cannot believe how good he is. Every time I hear him, I’m like, oh my gosh so it was a thrill to get him on this track.
Do you listen to a lot of European metal? Because that’s what I would compare your sound too. I’ve listened to a lot of European metal in recent months and I think one of the bands that people compare you to is Epica.
You know, I don’t listen to it a ton but you are definitely not the first person to say that. A lot of people hear us and they’re like, “Wow, I love the European vibe!” and especially when we were starting out I was like, really? I did hear bands like Nightwish.
I remember Nightwish is one of the first European metal bands I heard that I thought, Whoa, that sounds like something I could do because it’s so operatic and Epica was a band that, especially early on, a ton of people said we sounded like and I’d never even heard them, which is so funny.
Now of course, I’m very familiar with them but I finally went to listen and thought, oh my God we do sound like this band and they sound amazing, too. So I think for some reason it’s the kind of music that I produced but I don’t even listen to it a ton. I know it’s out there and I do really enjoy it when I hear it but I’m all over the place when it comes to rock music I guess. I’ll always have a special place for the 2000s type bands or all those bands like Perfect Circle, Tool, and Linkin Park.
Yeah, it seems to me that you just sort of fell into this style because of your voice and your operatic training, right?
Yeah, I guess so and I’m really grateful that I did hear some of it early on even if I don’t listen to it all the time. It’s so weird. We put out music and it’s like, wow, people say it sounds like this genre and it’s kind of cool. You don’t know what people are going say it sounds like.
I don’t think that genre is really popular over here at this point but I think we lag behind Europe with a lot of these things and over there, that’s like their pop music basically, isn’t it?
Yeah, no, that’s a good point. I’ve never heard it described like that but you’re right, it is from what I hear, it’s just so massive over there.
Do you write all your own music or do you have anyone write with you?
Well, I do the lyrics and the vocal melodies and then depending on the song, like for Eternal Way, Kevin Jardine was our producer and he’s super great. He is in Canada and he’s in the band Slaves on Dope and he’s also a producer as well pretty much full time with both those projects. With Eternal Way he did the guitars and stuff. I play bass but I don’t play guitars and I don’t really write music on guitar or anything so he did all the guitars. And then I did all the vocal melodies. So it’s a mix.
So you don’t write the bass parts either yourself?
No, I don’t. I would love to be able to play and sing at the same time out there but it’s very hard for me to sing and play bass at the same time. I love playing bass but it’s more that if I’m doing bass, I’m just the bassist. So far it’s not an Upon Wings thing.
What is the reason why you chose bass?
For me, I was looking for an instrument that would be in the rock realm and complement my singing and love for music and I tried guitar because that’s the first thing people throw at you and it just didn’t feel comfortable for some reason. I’ve been meaning to go back to it again because I think it’d be cool to do some acoustic music and go out with just an acoustic guitar but long story short, I tried bass and for some reason I just loved it. I don’t know why but I love the feel of my fingers on the strings and I love kind of being in the background and being with the drums. I just liked it so much more than guitar.
You juggle a lot of different jobs. You’re on air at WRIF and you write for the radio station, you write for a lot of different publications. You have your own website, Audio Ink, How do you balance everything?
I guess I just love music so much that so much of what I do is related to music that it just kind of works. It doesn’t hurt that during the pandemic we haven’t been able to do too much and so what else am I going do?
But yeah, I love all the different things that I do and I guess that that’s how it just ends up somehow working out time wise.
Was it difficult recording music during the pandemic?
Not for me because I have a home studio and I have already done some music this way. Some of the music that I’ve released with Upon Wings I already did the vocals on my own at home, and then would send the files to Kevin, so that’s what we did with Eternal Way. The Christmas music, that’s what I’m thinking of. We have two holiday singles out because I’m cheesy and I love holiday music and I recorded all that at home. So I was pretty familiar with that whole thing. I do love being in a studio, though you know with people, it’s so fun and creative and everything but that wasn’t possible obviously this time around.
You have an EP planned in the next few months. Right? What’s the status with that?
We have an EP that will actually kind of be a compilation of some of the stuff we’ve been releasing so Eternal Way will be on it and Amazing Grace will be on it because we never properly released it. It’s not available right now on Spotify or iTunes or anything like that, so those two tracks will be on there as well as the new stuff and we’re hoping it’ll be out this summer. We’re pretty much finished with it so that is the hope. I’m just excited to have new music out and even with Eternal Way, even with it just being a single, I’m so excited to get some heavy music out there with Upon Wings again. We did Amazing Grace and then some holiday stuff but it’s been a few years since we released something with a lot of guitars and a cool song like that.
Do you have a touring band for when things eventually do open up?
Not really. I mean, that’s a great question. Kevin you know is in Canada and then so is the drummer, and it’s not really like a touring band right now but I would love to do a show when things are more back to normal, safe and stuff like that. I would love to get those guys in or bring together some other musicians to do it, but I’m definitely determined to get Upon Wings on the stage sometime soon.
I can see it could be a little bit of a challenge with all the guest artists you’ve had and everything else, right?
Right! I think it’d be awesome to have Ralf when he comes over here, you know they have tours lined up all the time, it would be really cool to get on stage with Ralf but I mean, right now, who knows? All these tours are being postponed and I’m seeing some that aren’t being postponed so who knows? I just have no idea when things are going to be back to normal.
I just saw some posted today that they’ve scheduled the big festival in Ohio for September.
Yeah, I saw that too and I am a huge Mudvayne fan. I love Mudvayne so I would like to go to that because it’s one of the festivals Mudvayne is reuniting at but that’s September so it’s like who knows?
Well, it’s been really great talking with you and where can people find your music, is it on YouTube and Spotify, all the streaming platforms?
If you go to https://uponwings.com , that will have links to Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and YouTube and you’ll be able to find all of our socials and stuff like that. So definitely it would be awesome if anyone out there wants to support and just following us on socials and Spotify that always helps.
And they can find you as well at Rock and Alternative Music News – Audio Ink Radio right?
I write for them and do interviews, and I’m managing editor and stuff. https://www.itsmeanne.com is where you can go to my personal site and that is where you can link up with me personally on social media.