Have you ever wondered how to preserve a moment? How long a moment is when the feeling it evokes extends beyond? How long a moment is when it can change you for the rest of your life? Have you ever wondered: how long is now? The Berliner singer and songwriter Anna Hauss poses that question with the title of her solo debut album how long is now. I met the singer for a coffee and a chat during the last summer days in Berlin and found out more about the philosophy of the artist as well as her journey to releasing music solo.

Coming from a background in contemporary jazz studies in Leipzig, Anna Hauss has been playing and touring with the band Still in the Woods for a while. After her song I Can’t Remember Love was featured in the series “The Queen’s Gambit”, her music gained more attention. Now, as a solo artist, Anna embraces the autonomy of working alone but, of course, it also brings difficulties. The artist has to take care of her own booking as she does not yet have a booker to work with. Responsibilities like social media, advertising, and graphic design are also things that she has to take care of in addition.

“Working as a solo artist is definitely more work, but I can also decide more things on my own and that speeds up many things.”

Tapping Into Intuition

how long is now showcases the distinct voice of the solo artist brilliantly. The songs melt into each other while still telling individual stories of longing, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Anna Hauss explains that during her time with the band, the songwriting process was often based on loose improvisations or jams. This is something that the studied jazz singer tries to preserve in her solo work as well: “I always write very intuitively, I would say. I don’t usually make plans to write certain songs, rather I try to feel out what feels right and good in the moment.”

The voice is clearly Anna’s main instrument. During her intensive studies, she barely played the guitar, the other instrument that shaped the record. Talking about the routines of a solo artist, Anna Hauss tells me that by picking up the guitar again, she was able to write songs more independently and work at her own pace. Most songs are carried by only the voice and the guitar with some minimal drumming and production aligning into the mood that Anna creates. On songs like the mellow dishonest, the vocals drive the melody, and the instrumentation weaves around their soft timber.

Emotion in Motion

The topics on how long is now are deeply emotional – with an emphasis on the “motion” part of the word. This is music that moves. Anna Hauss lays bare and taps into her feelings and by making herself vulnerable. Through her music, she encourages others to deal with their feelings as well. Movement played an important role in the songwriting process itself. Anna explains that she wrote the title track on a subway ride.

“I like writing when I am on the road, and I take notes on my phone daily. Sometimes they turn into songs, sometimes they don’t. But I have the feeling that like this I remain in contact with my thoughts and emotions.”

The subway provides an interesting space for contemplation. Sitting amongst strangers, face to face while you avoid eye contact until the person in front of you gets up and it’s your reflection in the window staring back at you. To Anna Hauss, the dynamics in public spaces, of witnessing the lives of others just for a moment, provide inspiration. “I think I am inspired by public spaces and by the things that happen there, the stories and people that I observe. I wrote the song ‘how long is now’ when I was feeling lonely in Berlin. You can really get lonely in this city and that is the feeling the song describes,” she says.

Struggles of A Solo Artist

Berlin can get very lonely – an experience that both Anna and I share. During our chat over a cup of tea, we exchange anecdotes and find ourselves faced with the similar struggle of making long-lasting and meaningful connections in a city of strangers. Even though Anna grew up here, she is still just now starting to reenter the music community after living in Leipzig for a long time. Living the life of a student there, the artist says that it was easier to connect to people because you would often see familiar faces.

“It is difficult as a solo artist”, Anna goes on to talk about the local music industry. “It works a lot through word of mouth. You need to know people who tell others to listen to your music.” To Anna Hauss, as a solo artist and a female singer, it is not always easy to navigate a scene that is still male-dominated. She shares moments from her studies when the female students had to fulfill certain gendered stereotypes like wearing make-up and high heels: “As an early 20-year-old, I was just not strong enough to say “no” even though I had a bad feeling about it. It was very much about fulfilling a certain stereotypical ideal of a female singer. I learned about the term service artist, which is about fulfilling the audience’s expectations at paid gigs – like wearing high heels and dressing up. That was a role, I did not want to play. I do not want to embody that image of a woman.”

“As a singer, people sometimes do not take you seriously – especially men do not take you seriously as a female singer. Women are still underrepresented as instrumentalists. The field is extremely male-dominated. During my studies and as a singer, I noticed how hostile the industry can be towards women. Looking back at it, people definitely abused their power positions.”

How Long is Now?

how long is now and Anna Hauss do not adhere to stereotypes. On the album, the singer shares her multi-faceted character and weaves a beautiful net of songs that shift from jazzy, to soulful, to groovy and from stripped-back guitar-and-vocal ballad like the title track to the percussive headgames. During our conversation, the singer, dressed in purple overalls, speaks with the confidence of someone who had to fight to have their voice heard. Some questions make answers and stories bubble out of the singer, others make her fall into pensive silence before choosing her words deliberately.

Answering questions about an album that poses them is maybe ironic, but finally, I cannot resist asking Anna the obvious: how long is now to you? “I don’t have an answer yet to those questions. There have been moments when I realized that things are coming to an end. How I feel now is so different from how I felt a month ago. I look at it as different phases of a transition. I can observe where something ends and where something new starts. Moments are short. I think I am sometimes looking for extensions of certain moments. I want things to last longer than they do.”

Chocolate-coated Moments

Music can be a tool to preserve moments and to remind us of what a past now felt like. It happens to me all the time when a song transports me back to remembering the smell of a loved one or to the streets of a city where I used to walk with that song in my ears. For Anna, as a songwriter, the power of music goes beyond listening and being transported to emotions. “Music captures the mood of moments,” she says. Her songs carry memories and emotions. Each of them is a tiny now. “Through [the music] I can reenter moments and when I play certain songs, things resurface,” the artist goes on.

licorice with chocolate coating is one of those songs. Next to music, food is also a transporter of memories and nostalgia. Growing up with a Finnish mother, Anna shares that they travel to the country regularly and that these special chocolate-coated licorice balls were something that her mother always brought back to Berlin for her. It is a tangy and sweet memory of childhood and a connector to family, shaped into an intimate and quiet song. The song how long is now captures the feeling of loneliness and is contrasted by so right!. Over dragging soul percussion and cloudy synthesizers, Anna Hauss tells the story of feeling completely found, alone but not lonely. “I can go anywhere from here”, she sings and expands on that notion in our conversation: “[so right!] is about having the feeling that you are completely awake and ready to go. For me, the song is very empowering.”

In the end, the answer to the question “how long is now” is one that you will have to find for yourself. But Anna Hauss’ thought-provoking and intimate album is just the right soundtrack to let your thoughts wander.

how long is now is out now. Stay up to date with Anna Hauss by following her on Instagram.

All photos by Liv Toerkell.

Every few weeks, the NBHAP staff brings an exciting new artist to your attention alongside a 30-track-strong Introducing Playlist on Spotify. Feel invited to follow the playlist and give these talents a spin. Sign up for our Newsletter to receive monthly updates about new music.

This week’s playlist update was curated in collaboration with Anna Hauss. Along with tracks from how long is now it includes personal inspirations from artists such as Ilgen-Nur, Alice Phoebe Lou, Arny Margret, and more. Tune in below.