“How Can I Say This?” Local Songwriter Annie Capps Reflects on Her 30-year Music Career


Singer/songwriter Annie Capps. Photo by Robin Scully.

Singer/songwriter Annie Capps and her husband Rod are icons in the Ann Arbor music scene and the entire state and Midwest. Annie sat down with me to reflect on her 30-year music career.

Annie’s love for music began at a young age. Raised in Beverly Hills, MI (now Birmingham), her mother was an accomplished pianist, and her father was a drummer who loved rock ‘n roll. Like many kids, Annie began piano lessons but fell away when she was seduced by the acoustic guitar. She was writing songs by age eleven.

“I knew I wanted to do this ever since I was a kid,” says Annie. “I’m a performing singer/songwriter who stands up in front of a crowd and shares my heart and passion with them. The songs I share come from a place that only I know.”

Now living in Chelsea, Annie and Rod are regulars at the city’s Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights during summer and other area and statewide venues. You wouldn’t know it today, but Annie was reluctant to take the stage.

“I was very shy,” recalls Annie. “I wasn’t brave enough to perform in front of people. In high school, I was introverted with a small group of close friends.”

At Michigan State University, she found people who were really into music. Her fire and drive for singing and songwriting were energized. She dropped out after a year to become a rock star.

“I auditioned for this band in Ann Arbor, and I was bad,” laughs Annie. “I could sing to the radio, but live singing is very different. However, the other singer in the band believed in me and gave me voice lessons. It built my confidence. And really, it’s all about confidence.”

Annie and Rod Capps. Photo by Robin Scully.

Her first gig was at Annie's Dugout, now Knight's Inn. The band did well. At 21, she was engaged to the drummer. Her fiancé was playing an informal gig when this "hotshot guitar player" just out of high school arrived, Rod Capps. It was love at first sight for Annie, but she kept her commitment and married the drummer. The union ended a few years later.

“I was too young,” says Annie. “I didn’t understand what love was. I had a lot of growing up to do. Rod and I stayed friends for the next ten years, but it wasn’t until I was about to marry someone else that he came back into my life.”

Annie called off the wedding. Three years later, she and Rod were married.

When asked what it’s like to make music a career, Annie smiles and answers, “I like to call it that, but I don’t make enough money actually to call it a career. Rod has a day job as a web app developer at UofM. I freelance in graphic and web design. I am very lucky that I don’t have to support myself on this. We both have jobs and are active musicians.”

One of the most significant challenges for creative people is the business side of art. Creation, display, and performance can be thrilling for both artist and observer, but the hustle to achieve that can wear you down if you’re not careful.

Annie quickly admits she is terrible at promoting herself, and the stress of getting her music out can be nerve-wracking. “When you book a gig, you’ve got to fill the seats, or you’re never coming back, even if you’re great. A week before the gig, you still have 100 tickets left. That’s always stressful.”

Annie’s latest release, “How Can I Say This?” Courtesy Annie Capps.

It is easy for young dreamers with a head full of lyrics and a case full of talent to overlook the one element vital to their craft—perseverance.

“There are exceptional songwriters and performers who should be famous,” says Annie. “They should be playing everywhere. But that’s not how it works. You’ve got to do the legwork. If they don’t, they just don’t have the hunger. You have to need it.”

“You’ll know early on if you’re passionate enough to put the time in,” she adds. “If you’re distracted by too many other things, if it isn’t the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning, and if it isn’t keeping you up at night, that’s not saying you won’t make a living at it, but that’s the kind of passion I had when I was young.”

Besides having passion, Annie advises young artists to find a good mentor in the craft. Annie has worked for years with Folk Alliance International, running the Midwest Conference from 2006 until recently. She has formed many songwriter groups, including “On the Tracks Songwriter Showcase” in Chelsea’s Historic Depot for ten years.

“In the words of singer/songwriter Tom Paxton, ‘Just get good,’” stresses Annie. “Audiences want to relax and not feel nervous for the person on stage.”

It’s not easy. So, why? Why work so hard for so many years to get your music out to people?

“For those moments at the end of a song when you hear somebody say, ‘wow,’” explains Annie. “Or, there is this perfect silence. For those moments when people really relate to what you just did or connected with you.”

“When they hear their story in your song,” she adds. “Songwriting is how I can connect with people at that deeper level.”

Annie and Rod are working on their ninth album. The CD release is set for June 22 at The Ark.

Learn more about and connect to Annie and Rod at http://annieandrodcapps.com/about/

Find Annie’s latest release, “How Can I Say This?” at https://annieandrodcapps.bandcamp.com/album/how-can-i-say-this

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