TIME OUT: It was (base)meant to be...

FORGET the traffic-stopping looks, Anna Calvi has the voice to close motorways.

Not another pop bunny destined to clutter the charts, this miss has all the haunting drama of a David Lynch flick and the charisma to melt men's hearts.

The latest signing to Arctic Monkey's label Domino, her music blends the old-school values of The Last Shadow Puppets as sparseness and lush arrangements battle it out overseen by a bitter- sweet voice that reminds of a younger Chrissie Hynde.

This week she released her self-titled dbut album ahead of a Sheffield gig at The Harley on February 24. She's glad to be finally out in public.

"Locked away in a basement, making an album in isolation, you do start going a bit crazy," reflects Anna.

"A lot of material came out of that – how to survive the making of this monster that took over three years of my life."

It certainly wasn't time wasted. On her record Anna ranges from stormy emotions in the dark corners of The Devil through the highlight upbeat Blackout and the picked guitar of I'll Be Your Man.

"The songs just come out," she tenders, modestly. "It's a record about the internal forces in life which are out of your control and can take you over, and how you survive them.

"It explores intimacy, passion and loneliness. There is an element of darkness to the record but there is also a sense of hope. This album is the culmination of my whole life up until now."

For Anna's darker inspiration and colouring you can look back as far as her earliest days. The Londoner spent most of her first three years of life in hospital.

"The way I dealt with that was to create my own world. And that's what my relationship with music is – a world of my own creation I escape into. I was always a dreamer. The early things stick with you.

"When I play live I'm a different person. I feel powerful and fearless; the things I wish I felt in everyday life."

Beyond hospital wards Anna was then exposed to – courtesy of a music-obsessed Italian father – an eclectic array of sounds which ranged from Captain Beefheart to The Stones to Maria Callas, combined with an early understanding of classical music developed in violin lessons.

She was compelled to learn guitar on discovering Django Reinhardt and Jimi Hendrix at 13. Combining all these influences, she aimed to make her guitar sound like an orchestra.

A music degree followed and then a calling to sing. Now an upfront performer whose demeanour and band outfits are fired by her passion for flamenco dancers, it wasn't always that way.

"I'd always wanted to be a singer, but it was hard for me because I'm so shy," she admits. "But I just worked on it, five or six hours a day. I was very secretive about it. It was the scariest decision I've made because of the kind of person that I am. But slowly this big voice emerged."

Always one to appreciate a maverick, legendary producer Brian Eno took her to lunch after witnessing an intimate gig.

"I gave him my early basement demos and he loved them. Since then he's been a real mentor. He came along at just the right time.

"He was the first person from the outside world who heard what I was doing and validated it. It was quite a pivotal moment in my life.

"He sent me a letter saying the music was full of intelligence, romance and passion, and what more can we want from art? It was like water at the end of the desert."

But it was producer, composer and musician Rob Ellis's past experience with PJ Harvey that maybe helped steer the album's final feel. He was co-producer of songs Anna had written and recorded on an eight-track.

"I spent two-and-a-half years making this album in secret in a basement studio. It was very unhealthy, actually. I didn't see the sunlight for a long time. It was such a great experience to then go and work with Rob. He's old-school rock 'n' roll. We both share a love of classical music - he loves the same composers as I do. So I didn't have to explain what I meant when I said I wanted a guitar or a shaker to sound like an orchestra. It was great to find someone who understood."

Another one who did was Nick Cave - master of love songs that present love and sex as wild and uncontrollable forces - who took her on tour with Grinderman.

"Music's so sexual. How can you not express that in some way? Playing guitar is a sexy thing to do. And there is that thing of when you love someone so much you think that you could kill them. I've definitely felt that."

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