Rising Music Star Anna Luisa Daigneault, Quilla, on The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

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Failure is often part of doing anything that is worth doing. You learn as you go along and keep integrating lessons as you progress. Art is not just about success and recognition; it’s about understanding and expressing that you are on a path to understanding the human condition. That path is precarious and fraught with danger and heartache along the way. You will reach terrible lows as well as beautiful highs. For example, I have screwed up live performances many times because I sometimes try to do too many things on stage at once. I have learned to simplify, focus, and rehearse with discipline.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Anna Luisa Daigneault a.k.a Quilla.

Quilla — the moniker of Montreal is an electronic music producer, vocalist, songwriter, and educator based in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is known for her piano riffs, hypnotizing beats, and vocal loop compositions, as well as for teaching music production workshops for women. She was a featured vocalist on hit dance tracks released by Universal, Revealed Recordings, Armada, Vicious, and Ministry of Sound. Her third album, The Handbook of Vivid Moments, was released in September 2020 to critical acclaim.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Montreal, Canada. I grew up in a multilingual, multicultural household that was very into arts as well as sciences. My mother is Peruvian and my father is French Canadian, and I heard English, French, and Spanish in my daily life. I was surrounded by a lot of music and sports. I grew up doing rhythmic gymnastics until I was 17 years old, and I also studied classical piano until around that age. I lived and worked in Montreal until I was 27 years old, and then I lived in Peru for a little while, then in the Bay Area, and now in North Carolina (USA).

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was 15 years old (in the late 90s), a musician friend made me a mixtape full of powerful and visceral songs by Tori Amos, Bjork, and Diamanda Galas. Listening to that mixtape on repeat was very influential. I remember thinking, “Wait, I’m allowed to feel like this and write about it in songs? Sign me up!” That mixtape was one of many factors that sent me down the lifelong path of pursuing songwriting. I wanted to find ways to express inner landscapes of emotion and imagination.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I was a student at McGill studying anthropology and linguistics, I had friends in the Music Department who needed to record a local artist for a music production class that was being taught by legendary music producer George Massenberg. It was very formative for me to see Massenberg in action, and understand how he approached the production of a composition. He sat with me at the piano and had me play through the song while we talked about the dynamics of each section of the piece. In the end, he looked me in the eye and said, “Listen to me; this is very important. I can sense there is a bit of craziness inside you. Make sure that you don’t ever go insane, you hear me? Stay sane and you’ll be fine. You’ll do great. ” I walked away from that conversation feeling strangely…grounded? He was right: mental health is something that needs to be tended to constantly, not taken for granted.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s not exactly funny, but like many other rookies, I did not know much about publishing rights and master recording rights when I first started releasing music commercially. I learned quickly that all kinds of people will try to take away those rights from you unless you fight to retain them. I encourage all emerging artists to learn about their rights and not be afraid to negotiate when the time comes.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am working on producing two folk-electronic tracks with Americana artist Molly McGinn. The songs are hauntingly beautiful and I am thrilled to be working with her. She calls me her “ride or die chick” because I take these productions very seriously. The details are very important when I am combining acoustic and electronic elements. Other than that, I am working on solo material such as new vocal loop pieces and instrumental pieces that will become the score for a documentary film series called “The Mothers” (working title) about women artists who balance motherhood and creativity.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

  1. Representation is important. As a woman of color, I am proud of my heritage and of being visibly Latinx. This is important because young people of color need to have role models who look like them. I would have loved to look up to more Latina women electronic producers as a teen and young adult.
  2. True diversity and representation will eventually come when there are people of all ethnicities, genders, and walks of life working in front of the camera and behind it, and that applies to music production as well.
  3. Music, stories, and films are the backbone that shape our cultural conversations. Production roles in those realms have traditionally been dominated by men, but the tide is now shifting towards being more inclusive and diverse. I am proud to be part of that tide.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Failure is often part of doing anything that is worth doing. You learn as you go along and keep integrating lessons as you progress. Art is not just about success and recognition; it’s about understanding and expressing that you are on a path to understanding the human condition. That path is precarious and fraught with danger and heartache along the way. You will reach terrible lows as well as beautiful highs. For example, I have screwed up live performances many times because I sometimes try to do too many things on stage at once. I have learned to simplify, focus, and rehearse with discipline.
  2. Embrace learning new software and tools. In music production, I have learned this lesson many times and it has expanded my horizons. With each album I release, I try to learn and understand my electronic tools a little more.
  3. Dreams are symbolic art. Write down your dreams when you wake from sleep. They will help you understand what is going on inside your own mind. I take notes or record voice memos when I have vivid dreams and I turn them into songs. There is so much material circulating in the subconscious.
  4. Your body will change over time and this process is not a disaster. As women, we are taught to strive towards perfection. I am learning to dismantle this belief and appreciate my body for what it is, and what it is capable of. Our bodies are smart.
  5. No matter what success or failure comes your way, your friends and family are the most important people in your lives. Do not take them for granted while you pursue your art. This lesson resonates for me because I have seen too many artist friends sacrifice their close relationships in pursuit of their art, and end up miserable. I think a rich and meaningful personal life is an important part of every artist’s well-being.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Learn to work hard in the moment, and also let yourself relax. You can’t force good art. You need to be rested before doing big performances. Your mind and body need to rest in order to stay sharp. I also recommend a healthy level of intermittent fasting to help with mental clarity (but obviously talk to your doctor first).

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Reclaim your ancestral languages in your daily life and see what comes out of it. I am very dedicated to the cause of documenting endangered languages and protecting language diversity on Earth.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My friend Eric Hanson always encouraged me, even when I was a novice songwriter who wrote cringe-worthy songs. He always booked me in local shows in Montreal and told me to keep going even when I felt discouraged. Thanks, Eric! You made a difference for me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I just wrote in my journal the other night: “Mothers hold up the sky. We also create the eyes that see the sky.” This is important to me because as a mother, I am always inspired by the joys of motherhood but also I am constantly constrained by my role as a mother, so I always have to remember the important roles that mothers have in this world. We are shaping the next generation of human beings. We are also shaping ourselves in the process.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

In terms of other songwriters, I would love to talk to Sia one day. She is the most prolific and gifted songwriter that I can think of. I would love to have a chat with her about so many of her songs, and about her process. In terms of music producers, I would love to have a conversation with Jack Antonoff because every time I hear a song I like, more often than not, it’s Antonoff who produced it.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website: http://quillamusic.com/

Instagram: @Quillamusic

Twitter: @Quilla

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

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Edward Sylvan CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group
Authority Magazine

Edward Sylvan is the Founder and CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc. He is committed to telling stories that speak to equity, diversity, and inclusion.