#LetTheGirlsPlay: Anna Vaus Preparing to Make Miranda Lambert Proud
When Anna Vaus was named the first Miranda Lambert Women Creators Scholarship winner earlier this year, it was the end of a long, somewhat agonizing journey for the singer, songwriter and Belmont University junior. Vaus really wanted to win. She lost sleep over it.
Seated outside the Listening Room cafe in Nashville after playing for another sold out #LetTheGirlsPlay audience, Vaus laughs at her intensity through the process. She doesn't strike you as the type to plunge deep into the depths of despair — especially over something so out of her control. She applied in January, was told she was among the final six in April, and asked to wait until June.
Then July. July 5 came and still no word. She assumed bad news was coming.
Lambert is someone she looks up to, but more than that, she recognizes what the "Vice" singer is doing for the young girls and women who want to be like her. She's actively holding open, or knocking down, doors.
I haven’t been friend-zoned, or maybe I have and I just didn’t realize it," Vaus says. "But I’ve friend-zoned people before, I’m really guilty of that. Like several times. I feel like I’m a serial friend-zoner.
“This is someone who has doing something," Vaus says. "More than just talking about the issue of females in country music, she’s doing it and she’s walking the walk.”
The first-ever Women Creators Scholarship was awarded to an emerging female in the music business. Part of the application was an essay that asked the applicant to name three influential women. Vaus chose Kacey Musgraves for her independent style, Taylor Swift for her support of women in music and her ASCAP representative Beth Brinker for her work ethic.
She never got a complete explanation of why she was chosen (a meeting with Lambert had to be rescheduled), but her poise, organization and positive attitude surely shined through in her essay, explanation and introduction video. Vaus says the award has opened new doors for her, made it easier to land songwriting appointments and presented new opportunities. But she's pumping the breaks. Finishing college is her No. 1 goal, and her junior year is kind of kicking her butt.
“I’ve had to sit down several times and write out goals for myself, like ‘What am I aiming for here?’” she says.
You'll find plenty of lists at her newly-created blog. You'll also find her songs and some stories behind them. Vaus writes what she knows and makes no attempts to write beyond her years. A song called "Friday Night Crowd" was the first that made an impact on others. She wrote it in defense of her hometown after she heard a guy complaining about Poway, Calif. What teen can't relate to that?
“And then I realized that he never left and was still there,” she says.
A parody of Hunter Hayes' "Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" called "Every Bruin's Got Somebody But Me" is a clever vent of the frustrations of a college freshman (Belmont University's mascot is the Bruin).
“I got to Belmont my freshman year and literally everyone had a girlfriend,” she says, smiling as she recalls the spirited, playful parody. “They were either engaged, at 19 years old which is terrifying, or they had a girlfriend back home.”
More serious songs like "Bathroom Floor" — literally written after she picked herself up from her bathroom floor after crying her eyes out over some guy — are speckled between relatable fair like "Friendzoned." She says she wrote the song after her brother complained to her that a girl he thought was into him just wanted to be friends. Ouch!
“I haven’t been friend-zoned, or maybe I have and I just didn’t realize it," Vaus says. "But I’ve friend-zoned people before, I’m really guilty of that. Like several times. I feel like I’m a serial friend-zoner.”
Vaus has great depth in songwriting that's rare to a college freshman. Most often it's songs about the opposite sex, love, heartbreak, etc. ... She's been truly focused on her craft since she was 11 years old, often calling on her father for help. He is a Grammy-winning musician who performed children's songs under the name Buck Howdy, and he objectively let her know if a lyric or single word was cheesy or just not precise enough for what she was trying to describe.
“I was writing about boys that I really liked and stuff like that," she says, "and boys that like he knew and so if it was a breakup song it was so awkward because it was like ‘I don’t want you to kill this guy.’”
Perhaps Lambert saw beyond pure potential, however. Vaus is relatively new to Nashville, but aware of and practiced in avoiding some of the pitfalls a new, female artist faces. She spent time reaching out to anyone and everyone in the music business for advice, and that led to some memorable, productive meetings with songwriters like Lance Carpenter and Nick Sterns. It also brought about an invite from an older business man who offered advice if she came to a party he was throwing. Good friends and good raising kept her home that night.