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The terms ‘multi-talent’ or ‘polymath’ can be true for Annie Haslam in many ways. First of all, the albums she has made with the band Renaissance, her solo recordings and her shows represent her very high artistic approach. Moreover, as an extension of her music, Annie has become a painter. A very good and interesting painter. The term ‘intuitive’ describes well the unique style she has created. Apart from painting on canvas, she also paints musical instruments and her most recent stage dresses are her paintings printed on silk.

In addition to music and art, she has had her own jewellery line named ’Ananda,  Angel of Bliss’, whose proceeds went to various charity organizations she supports and she is an avid animal lover and activist, too.

’Rainforest’ • Annie with her painted guitar • © Annie Haslam


In the first part of our interview, we were talking about her band ‘Renaissance’ and her present and future plans with the band. Now it is high time we were putting the emphasis on the other sides of her as well; her solo career, her art, her inspiring intuition, the roots and the spiritual way she leads her life.


You mentioned you like to listen to your older albums. What about the ones Renaissance made in the 1980s?


I love all the albums from ‘Prologue’ to ‘A Song for All Seasons’. I think they are masterpieces. ‘Azure D’or’ is okay, the changes within the band and sound started with this album, there were rumblings of changes to come... This was the first album we didn’t use any classical musicians during the recording. It was decided (although I wasn’t happy about it) that our style needed to progress BUT I felt we were going in the wrong direction and away from our roots which were what made Renaissance stand out from other bands at that time.. So this was the first step. After the early 1980s, several members left the group and Jon Camp led us into another style of music taking us away from our identity along the way. These were the ‘Camera Camera’ and ‘Timeline’. Personally, I feel we shouldn’t have abandoned who we were and our heritage.


In parallel with Renaissance, you embarked on your solo career in the mid-1970s.


Yes, I have made 10 solo albums. The first one, ‘Annie in Wonderland’ was a great start for me. I worked on it with Roy Wood, he wrote many of the songs, played nearly all the instruments, and produced the album too... We were also engaged at that time. Roy Wood was one of the founding members of the Move, ELO and Wizzard. He is very much loved and respected in the UK and has written many top ten hit singles and is in demand for his production skills. Roy brought a different sound that was edgier for this album and he got me to experiment with my voice which wasn’t possible within the music of Renaissance. I love all my solo albums because I was able to experiment with a different musical approach. From folk to jazz, from classical sound to New Age music you can find everything in these albums and songs. By the way, it was fantastic to work with Justin Hayward from The Moody Blues. Justin had written a song for Agnetha from ABBA called, ‘The Angels Cry’, Justin felt it would also be perfect for my voice and he was right! This was on my self-titled ’Epic’ Records album in 1989 ’Annie Haslam’. When we were in the recording studio, he asked me to do the backing vocals ’with’ him. That was such a great idea and we sounded great together! But as he is much taller than me, I had to stand on a wooden box so we could use the same microphone. I was a bit nervous but it came out wonderful! This album also contains my cover of ‘Moonlight Shadow’. I really love this track, I had always wanted to record this song. Larry Fast did a great job of producing the album.


‘Ocean Gypsy’ was covered by Blackmore’s Night. How do you feel about their version?


I like their interpretation very much. This one has got its own story. In the early 90’s as I was about to take the stage with my solo band in upstate NY, someone came backstage to tell me, to my surprise, that Ritchie Blackmore was in the audience! After the show, my tour manager came and told me that Richie wanted to talk to me. I went outside and met him and talked for a while... He said how much he loved ‘Ocean Gypsy’, and said that one day he might want to do a version of it. At that point, Blackmore’s Night hadn’t been born. I gave him some tapes and it was very nice to read it in his biography that he kept listening to them again and again. Soon after he started Blackmore’s Night with Candice Night and they recorded ‘Ocean Gypsy’ on their very first album! Recently I received a message from a guy who had just interviewed Candice Night to say she sent her greetings and she was very happy with how Renaissance helped Blackmore’s Night to find their own sound! I think it’s very touching to be an inspirational source!


Who were the ones that led you towards music in your childhood?


My first introduction to music was from my Father George, who was an amateur comedian singer, and he used to practice at home. It’s only recently that it dawned on me that my Father had the voice of a tenor even though he sang the songs of Nat King Cole and Frankie Laine... I think he probably would have had a successful musical career if he had been ’discovered’, but he was our Dad and that was his role in his lifetime, and he was a great Dad too, and Mum was a great Mum! Then in the sixties, we moved to Cornwall from smoky Bolton in Lancashire for my Mother’s health... which was wonderful for my Mum and Dad and great for me too for many reasons, one is moving to the seaside! What a gift! It is interesting that although my parents didn’t know that I would become a singer they unknowingly helped me to fulfill  my dreams by sending me to elocution lessons (to help me speak the Queen’s English instead of my broad Lancashire accent), I was only ten then! 


Your brothers also established on careers based on arts, as well.


My brother, Michael Haslam a successful singer himself managed by the ’Beatles’ manager ’Brian Epstein’, encouraged me to sing too. Sadly we only got to record together once, which can be heard on my solo album called ’Woman Transcending’. We sang the song ’Somewhere Out There’. His voice was magnificent. My other brother Keith was a graphic designer, this is where the ’art’ came into my life, watching him... he also could sing but didn’t follow that path. Obviously, my Father passed the gift of voice to all three of us kids.

’Flying Through Summer’ • © Annie Haslam


As I know, when you lived in Cornwall, you took your first steps towards fine arts.


I went to a secondary modern school for a year and then got a scholarship for Redruth Art School, where I would follow my first dream to be a dress designer. After finishing art school, where I had studied drawing, typography, photography, weaving and fabric design, I went to London and got a job in London to work for David Coombs, a Saville Row tailor. There I learned the trade, it was a great start for me to learn from the best of the best. The tailors' shop was very close to the ’Apple’ building owned by the Beatles. They performed their last concert on the roof of that building, I heard them from down in the street, not realizing the magnitude of the event! I remember the excitement in the streets and felt privileged, having NO idea I would become a singer and one day I would meet Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr!


What distracted you from designing?


After tailoring, I worked for a few clothing companies, learning all aspects of dress design business from the ground up. However, after putting all my energy into this, I lost my interest when I had a book of all my new designs stolen from me by a well known Clothing company. I was devastated. Then not too long after that my life was about to change, BIG TIME! I was fortunate enough to have another path unfold for me.

Annie in 1973 • Photo by © Michael Dakota


How did you get into the musical world?


I had a boyfriend Eric, who heard me singing at parties and encouraged me to enter some talent competitions, at which I did very well at and that eventually led me to pass an audition to sing in London at the ’Showboat in the Strand’ (a dinner/cabaret club) in the West End, with a band called The Gentle People. My year there was so great, wonderful people to work alongside, dancers and other singers and cabaret acts, it was a fun learning process and my very first professional singing job! After about a year David Gardner the guitarist said he saw a unique potential in me and felt I was wasted singing cabaret. I remember feeling I didn’t feel like I fitted in, but as I was so young and naive, I didn’t know what to do to change it. David showed me an advert in the Melody Maker music magazine. It said ’International pop group looking for female singer’. I immediately called and found out who it was for and went out and bought the band’s first album Kings and Queens. I learned every song in preparation for my audition which was on December 31st 1970. I remember that Jim McCarty and Keith Relf, the founding members of the band were also present beside the rest of the band and they asked me to sing ‘Island’. I knew the song well, it was my favorite, and that is the song that got me the job! I got the phone call new years day 1971 and three weeks later we were touring in Germany.


When did you discover that you have a very special range of voice?


Prior to my joining Renaissance, I had gone to voice lessons with Sybil Knight, an opera singer, where I learned to sing correctly from my diaphragm and also discovered I had a 5-octave I was ready for Renaissance, which would be a match made in Heaven.


You mention the word, intuitive, which you use yourself when you paint.


Yes, I do, I am an intuitive painter, and when I work on a painting, intuitive defines my working method. Going back to my art school days in Cornwall I wasn’t interested in paintings but I did try one class color painting. I didn’t like the fact that the paint dried so quickly so I only stayed in that class for one day...on  and as I was there any way for dress design, I didn’t need to paint actual paintings.


Why did you turn towards painting? You had a successful musical career that time.


In 2002, when my music career was winding down, I was home in my den and out of the blue, I heard a voice inside of my head telling me it was time to start oil painting now - as clear as day! I knew this was a sign and so I acted immediately... I bought a book about oil painting, bought lots of oil paints and brushes and canvas and turned my all glass sunroom into an art studio. I got everything I needed but I didn’t start painting for another wasn’t time. ...somehow. Then I woke up another day and knew that was the day I would start... As I have never been, what you would call a ’reader’ I had not read the book on how to oil paint... I had read only one page from the book. I knew I would have to learn the hard way, so I went to the garden and picked up a Tiger Lily. When I brought it back to the studio, I started studying it. Where to start? at the top or the bottom?


How did you finish it?


So really it was guesswork, I did the sky then the grass with a sketch of a flower (the Lily) I was a bit disappointed at the outcome but while painting, I had this feeling someone was holding my painting hand while I was painting grass at the bottom of the piece. It had a flow to it and I knew instantly that I had help. So I put up a new canvas and decided just to paint grass, and yet again, my hand was being guided and it came out really beautiful and flowing, .just grass. This presence of guidance could be felt while I was painting, almost an otherworldly feeling, so when I did my third one, I experienced something different. This painting was basically different shades of reds, looking like a horizon with a large setting sun, but with a dusky greyish blue sky fading in the background. As I was sitting just about to put my brush on the canvas a tiny dark red spider came down on a skein of silk right before my eyes about 6 inches away from me. It appeared from nowhere and in the blink of an eye, it disappeared. From that moment my studio filled up with the smell of pipe smoke! yes, my whole studio was full of pipe smoke. Then I immediately knew that the guidance had come from Vincent Van Gogh, the red spider (his red hair) the smell remained there for months. After this episode, when I painted, my own personal feelings, became very strong and deep and I felt that I was channeling the images I was painting. I know this must be what is happening because when I paint I have no preconceived ideas unless I am painting a commission of a pet portrait or a painted song. It is an extraordinary and exciting feeling that is still with me to this day.

Various paintings of Annie Haslam:ABOVE: 'The Living Planet'. UNDER: 'The Lost Shamrock', 'Irish Oak', 'Land of New Beginnings', 'Bugle'• © Annie Haslam 


What have you been working on recently?


Recently I was asked to paint the Renaissance piece ’Song of ‘Scheherazade’, it is in 9 suites, but I am going to paint in 6 paintings. I am excited to put this song on canvas.


If I study your paintings and listen to your music, I find them very spiritual.


Oh, yes, definitely! I think the world around us is much bigger than the one we can see and detect with our eyes. I think there are many things we cannot see but can feel if we listen to our intuition. I think if you really believe in and want something to happen, you can visualize it and make it happen. I have done this many times during my life and it works! I believe my paintings have a positive effect on whoever sees them and I have been told they are uplifting too. Sadly my parents didn’t see my paintings, however, I think they would be proud of me. As an intuitive person, it’s natural to understand things of the hidden world around us, such as angels and fairies.


Are there “Faeries” (Living at the Bottom of the Garden) ?  


In the late 90’s I went to a friend of mine, a clairvoyant and while we were talking, she was looking at my shoulder, then she said to me, there is a fairy on your shoulder and she told me to tell you her name is Twig! When I got home, I wrote a poem about her, TWIG the fairy angel. I gave the poem I had written to Rave Tesar (piano player and producer of Renaissance) and he wrote a very beautiful piece of music to make Twig into a song. This is on my album ’The Dawn of Ananda’.


You are also known to be a huge animal fan, who gives shelter to rescued animals.


You are right, I really respect the earth and all it contains, and the beautiful animal kingdom. I live in Pennsylvania, which is very similar to the English countryside in many ways. I like the forests, the rivers, lakes and the fields of this area. There are many wild animals here. We are often visited by foxes, raccoons, deer, possum, geese, frogs and the list goes on.. and I like the summertime in my garden because this is the time when dragonflies and hummingbirds come! I love the beauty of them. They are wonderful creatures. I also have pets in my home, however, I like the term ‘family members’ for them.  Sadly, one of my feral cats, Baby, died recently and it broke my heart. I love having animals, keeping them as close to nature as I can. There is a pond close to my house where Canadian Geese live during the summer. They are such graceful beautiful birds.


How many cats do you live with, Annie ?


I have five feral cats outside, and three rescue cats inside. I also have a little rescue poodle called ’Angel’, she was a puppy mill dog, meaning that she was kept a prisoner in a rabbit cage for 3 years for the purpose of breeding. She was traumatized when I brought her home in 2013. I am very angry that these mills still exist! There are many animals in shelters all over the world that need homes... no need to go to a breeder!

'Fuzzie’and ‘Charlie’• Commissioned Pet Portraits • © Annie Haslam


According to the things you mentioned I am convinced you have a full, prosperous life.


Yes, it seems I have. In my lifetime I have faced many highs and some lows; however, I have always felt if you want to live a happy life, you need to be true to yourself and stand in your own truth. Honesty and trust are very important to me. My parents gave me a wonderful upbringing full of love and laughter as I was a child from a working-class family. When I had finished school and all my friends were starting work, my parents must have seen an artistic vein in me and so they helped me by encouraging me in the areas they detected, art and singing, the rest is history. They themselves were nurturing and inspiring examples. As a closure, it was a magical time for the band when we performed at The Royal Albert Hall in 1977. All our parents had their own private box to see the show, it was nothing short of spectacular and heart wrenching in a good and proud way! To have my Mum and Dad there, was so very special, as my Father had cancer and didn’t have long to live. They both got to see a sold out concert with their daughter ’Anne’ (the little girl with the Lancashire accent who far exceeded her dreams) singing at the Royal Albert Hall with full orchestra and choir, the wonderful timeless music of Renaissance. PRICELESS!


A Symphonic Journey – ’Live’ in Concert with The Renaissance Chamber Orchestra

Worldwide release September 14th 2018

UK and Europe: Symphonic Rock Recordings/Cherry Red Records

Japan: Symphonic Rock Recordings/Disk Union

USA, Canada and rest of the world excluding above: Symphonic Rock Recordings