Finding your voice and realizing its power is something Rochester artist Annie Mack is only now understanding. Mack grew up in North Minneapolis, raised by a single mother who went to prison when she was 10, setting Annie in foster care during her formative years.

She carried around her luggage for much of her life, and it wasn’t until her mother passed away in 2006 did she begin writing about her experiences. At the urging of a friend in 2012, she set her poetry to music and began singing out her feelings. Mack’s music blindsides you with its honesty, sparse enough to allow you to connect to it, yet lush enough to get lost in.

Annie Mack will be performing with her band at the MSP Airport for Arts@MSP on June 12 from 1:00 PM-2:30 PM (CST).

A@M – Where am reaching you today?

AM – You’re reaching me today from a place of wanting to take up space – as a black woman, as a working mother, as an artist — I’m embracing that. I’m not tiptoeing around any longer. Even the material I’m creating is really specific in what I want to say with my intentions. I’m thinking very intentional these days when I’m creating musically.

A@M – Last year, you were talking about this Operation Minnesota Love. How did that go?

AM – It went really well. It was awesome to reach Minnesota and become a presence. It was important, as an artist of color, to be seen and not just in accepted places. Surprisingly enough, people came out and showed up. That was a beautiful thing to see. I’ve been given wonderful opportunities.

A@M – Did you do what you set out to do?

AM – I did and even a little bit more. I’m very overwhelmed. My kids have been surviving on PB&J for a month now, because I’ve got stuff to do. If you work really hard and lay these seeds down, it’s true, the fruits can be sowed down the line. There is go time, and there’s time to sit back. All of this booking has taken place, and we’re coming to the end of it. Now I get to enjoy performing. I’ve been thinking about the types of opportunities I’ve been presented with, and I lean more towards the listening room realm. There will be a time where I can enjoy it, and I don’t feel the need to be seen a lot. More than likely, I’m gonna push out this new material, then I’m gonna step back a little bit. I’m gonna enjoy it and be thankful for the work that is allowing me to be a waitress and enjoy my summer with my kids.

There’s a lot of anxiety over the prep, but when I get to the gig, that’s when I can breathe. There’s about ten things going through my head. It sounds silly, but I adjust my body, and I dress for comfort, so I can do my job and not fall on my face. I get to the first song, and the rest fades. After the second song, I’m able to enjoy the music and able to connect with the audience. Whatever I’m dealing with before, I leave it. This is my job; it’s time for me to step outside myself. I enjoy creating and sharing that energy onstage. That’s a sacred thing for me.

A@M – Were you apologetic in the past?

AM – It took me a long time to learn how to say no. We’re taught to say yes. My point is I’m learning how to say no and set my boundaries and knowing people are gonna meet me there or they’re not. It’s okay. I don’t need to be liked by everybody. I’m working on a song about how much more can a black woman take. My producer asked to generalize it to how much more can a woman take. I said, “No, we’re gonna keep it black.” I don’t have to generalize it. I don’t need to. I want to know how much more a black woman can take.

A@M – Do you ever feel tokenized when you’re the only minority on a bill?

AM – Yes, but I’ll be your token black woman. I’m just going to be very vocal about it. We have to show LGBTQ; we have to show Black and Asian people. It’s important to show up and be there.

A@M – Does it scare you to be viewed as a troublemaker when you speak out?

AM – It doesn’t anymore. I’m at a point in my life where I’m okay with losing. I don’t need to be anybody’s friend, and I don’t want others to live like that. There comes a time where you have to choose and be transparent. We can’t always stay in the neutral zone. A car will only get so far in neutral. You’re either for something or against it.

Arts@MSP 2019 AFTACON Schedule

North Rotunda

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM – David Gerald Sutton

1:00 PM – 2:30 PM – Annie Mack

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM – Cameron Kinghorn

North Mall Performance Space

11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Holly Nelson (Live Illustrations)