If you watched America’s Got Talent last season, you saw how amazing Anna Graceman was. Only 11 years old and 4 feet, 3 inches tall, she looked tiny, but she was a HUGE performer! She didn’t win, but she’s 12 years old now and just released her first album. Definitely a huge accomplishment! Find out more about her life now. . .
Q: How long have you known that music was what you wanted to do?
Anna: I’ve always loved music. My mom actually played classical music to me while I was in the womb, and she always sang. We had this really junky van and it didn’t have a radio or a CD player in it, so she would sing to me. Whenever we got in the car, I just thought that was time to sing and it’s always been something I’ve loved to do. And I play the piano and guitar, and I’ve always loved to write books and long stories. Combining music with another thing that I love, writing, started me writing songs.
Q: What singers influenced you?
Anna: I really appreciate Adele and Taylor Swift and Alicia Keys. All three of them are amazing songwriters and they’re also very talented. So I’m very appreciative of all of them. And I also love all the classics like, of course, Etta James. I love the song “At Last.” I actually did a cover of that one. I love how big her voice is and how powerful she is, what an inspiration she is to everyone.
Q: Do you have an all-time favorite book?
Anna: I love The Hunger Games series (for ages 12 and up). One of the things I love about it is how in depth it is and how there’s a lot of emotion. It’s so creative. There’s nothing like The Hunger Games. I actually just finished the book, right before the movie came out. I also love the series Fablehaven. I’m on the last book. It’s like a sci-fi, fantasy book. I really love fantasy a lot.
Q: Do you write fantasy stories?
Anna: I like to write fantasy. The thing I like about fantasy is you can make it more of your own. If you write about a person and it’s like real life, you’ve kind of gotta stick straight, you know, but if you do fantasy, you can go outside of the box and create your own thing, which I really appreciate.
Q: What’s your songwriting process?
Anna: I could start anywhere. Sometimes I’ll be sitting at the piano playing something and then I come up with chords and I’m like, “Oh, this would be a good song.” Then I get a melody and start to build on words. Or sometimes I’ll just be writing and I’m like, “That would be a perfect chorus,” or, “That would be a perfect melody.” So it could really start anywhere, and I don’t know where it would start first. But if you don’t write it down or don’t record it, you totally forget and it just goes back into space.
Q: What’s it like in Alaska where you live? Is it cold most of the year?
Anna: Well, yeah, it’s pretty cold. In Juneau, it’s really rare to even go over 80 degrees F. And it has really harsh winters, but in the summer when you get that one special day . . . I mean, it might not be warm, but it’s still sunny and it’s beautiful. So when you see the sun come out you’re like, “Ahhhh,” and everything just stops and you just go do something outside. We always take hikes, even in the pouring rain. There’s a glacier in Juneau called the Mendenhall Glacier, and it’s really beautiful. There’s this one spot where there’s this flower called fireweed. When it just becomes summer, all of the fireweed starts to grow and it’s like this beautiful fuchsia color, and it’s tall and beautiful. There’s this spot where it grows and there’s the glacier in the background and it’s just so beautiful. There’s a hike right there and you just walk and it’s so pretty.
Q: You have to write a song about that.
Anna: I actually have a song called “Paradise” and I started writing it when we were at this spot. [Anna sings the rest of the paragraph.]
Fields of green, skies of blue, and salty seas are sparkling too.Music is my laughter. The sun shines in the sky. I hope you’ll hear my soul sing tonight.Paradise. Paradise.It’s a dream that I’ve dreamt before. Paradise. Paradise. It’s a world that I’ve heard of. Paradise.
I put up that one on YouTube and it started getting all these views. Then we got this personal message and it said “Hi, I work for The Ellen DeGeneres Show and I was wondering if you wanted to come on and sing this song.” I was nine, and I was like, “Oh my gosh! I’m going to be on TV and it’s going to be so scary, but I gotta meet Ellen. I mean she’s so great.” So we did it, and it was so cool. She’s like the nicest person ever. And she actually surprised me. After I sang “Paradise” I got to meet Taylor Swift, and she was so sweet. She was like, “You just have the cutest smile. I just want to take you home with me.” [Laughter] She said to always smile and keep going and just do your best.
Q: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
Anna: My friends and I were at this indoor ice skating rink and all these people started recognizing me. All my friends were like, “Oh, we gotta guard her. We’re her bodyguards,” and I’m like, “Oh, it’s fine. I’m used to it.” So we’re ice-skating and I’m like smiling, and everybody’s like, “Look it’s her!” and I totally fall flat on my butt, right in front of everybody. And I just laugh at myself because I don’t know what else to do, but I was so embarrassed.
Q: How did your friends react to all the attention and stardom that you’re getting?
Anna: They’re really down to earth. They just treat me like the same person, which I really appreciate because they act like nothing’s really happened. They’re just the same and they treat me the same.
Q: Do you have a personal motto or a favorite quote?
Anna: The song I just sang for you, “Paradise” has this line, “Music is my laughter.” I always sing that. I always write that everywhere. I love that line.
Q: What is one thing you wish everyone would do to make the world a better place?
Anna: Well, I think the thing that I wish everybody would do is just look out for one another and try our best to protect this earth because it’s the only one we got, you know, and we gotta work really hard to keep it. I know sometimes we don’t do our best for the earth. So I’d say just work together.
Q: What advice do you have for dealing with bullies?
Anna: There’s always somebody out there who feels like they need to make somebody else feel bad. They’ll pick on you or call you names or just say something rude, you know. I say just believe in yourself because even if people bring you down, it doesn’t mean you are that. You’re amazing, because everybody is amazing. Everybody has their own talents. They have their things they’re really good at. Keep working on those things and just try not to let things get to you.
I wish I could have been friends with Anna when I was 12 and kids were bullying me. That is such great advice! I love her. Do you? Leave a Comment to tell us what you think.
Interview by Marie Morreale