Nothing comes between Anja Kotar and her curiosity. The 22-year-old Berklee graduate has led a life of persistent pragmatism, leading directly to her career today. Her new releases will explore the relationship between youth and technology; speaking from her own experiences, she delivers a mature, nuanced perspective on contemporary life.
Fame will find Kotar for her talent alone, but her good humor and tireless drive will set her apart. She comes from the small central European nation of Slovenia, which has a population of just over two million and “looks like a chicken” on a map—her words. She began training in dance and piano early on (her dance group won the gold medal at the World Dance Championship in Germany), and she entered conservatory for piano and musical theatre when she moved to San Jose, California, at 14. It was there that she was finally able to truly immerse herself in another discipline she’d been working at for some time: vocal performance. She seized opportunities to sing in jazz troupes and has since trained with one of Los Angeles' most prominent vocal coaches, Micah Plissner. For her hard work, Kotar was awarded the Outstanding Musicianship Award several times—as a soloist with her conservatory’s jazz band and with the vocal jazz ensemble.
Like any young artist, Kotar has had to navigate obstacles, and each one has made her stronger. Her earliest hurdle led to an unforgettable milestone: she was temporarily separated from her beloved piano and all her sheet music when she relocated to the States, so when a burst of creativity came over her in high school, she found refuge in her campus practice rooms. “I just started playing around on the keyboard without any sheet music,” she remembers, “and that’s accidentally how I wrote my first song. A whole new world opened up.”
That world of original pop songwriting took shape as NOMAD, her first full-length record. Without the personal funds to make it a reality, she relied on the generosity of fans through Kickstarter, eventually topping $20,000 for the project. She debuted it to resounding acclaim back at home, where she continued to earn awards. In the US, the first single from the album was nominated for Best Pop Song at the 2017 American Songwriting Awards.
Utilizing her theatre background, Kotar was cast in a supporting lead role in Going Our Own Way, which is currently Slovenia’s most viewed and awarded movie; she reprised her role in the film’s sequel. Not to mention, she even wrote and directed her own short musical. In the same spirit, one of Kotar’s goals with her music career is to create a “multifaceted experience for the listener,” so she teamed up with designers to give each of the ten tracks on NOMAD a fashion piece to accompany it. Even taken just at its title, the album reveals much about Kotar: “I felt like I was a part of everything and nothing at the same time. I belonged everywhere and nowhere.”
Today, Kotar feels more at home as she questions other parts of life; she will build on her mission with her forthcoming releases. She plans to tackle the complexities of our digital lives with lyrical turn-of-phrase and visual symbolism, taking inspiration from Black Mirror and incorporating fashion at every opportunity.