Message Accomplished
Annabella Lwin, the Voice Of Bow Wow Wow, returns to town

By Lee Valentine Smith

She's best known as the voice of English New Wave band Bow Wow Wow, but Annabella Lwin has been active in the British music scene since she was 13 years old. The once-controversial band, formed with members of Adam and the Ants by former Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, scored a number of effusive, early '80s hits including their first single "C·30 C·60 C·90 Go!" through their remake of The Strangeloves "I Want Candy."

A successful solo performer and producer, Lwin returns to Atlanta tonight as part of the latest edition of the popular Retro Futura tour.

INsite caught up with the busy performer by phone from England.

Welcome back to Atlanta.

That's right! Last time, Howard Jones was headlining the tour with some really good bands. I only did a couple of shows on that tour, as I was filling in for Paul Young. I guess they thought I looked like him! We have a good line-up this time, too. I'm hoping we'll get the same great audiences who enjoy '80s music.

You are releasing EPs and singles. Is there a new album on the way?


Yes and I've wanted people to hear the ones that are out already as they can see there are different sides to Annabella Lwin. For the Retro dates, I'm not playing with my own band. I do a completely different thing with my band but I'm very blessed to be asked to be on this tour. I'm really excited about it.

Your career is all over the map, literally.

Well, when the bassplayer of Bow Wow Wow decided to go off on the road with a 22-year-old singer in 2013, I found a new band of musicians. It's really developed into something. When you play with a band and then go into the studio, you kind of know how each other work. It makes life a little bit easier to work with people on a regular basis. So I'm really itching to get back into the studio this year. I think that will happen after some more of these live shows I have coming up. I think it's time.

As an artist who began your career at such an early age, you've seen an incredible amount of change in the music industry.

I started when I was 13 and a half, so you're absolutely right about that! I worked with Bow Wow Wow through my teenage years. Then the band kicked me out, which was not all that unusual for those guys who were all much older than me. But I ended up trying to find the elegance within me. I'd been encouraged by the lead guitar player of Bow Wow Wow, Matthew Ashman. Unfortunately he passed away before we made it to Australia on tour. But I still remember him fondly and I've written a song about him, which I want to put out sometime in the future.

When they put you out of the band, did it open a new door of creativity for you or was it a temporary setback?

Well, it caused a lot of confusion. I was 17 and I was in a record office having a discussion with people telling me I should write a new album with older people. It was just confusing to me. I told them I wasn't really ready for it. I said, 'I'll try my best but I'm not really ready for it.' I was in deep shock. I loved performing - and I still do - and we were moving in a new direction musically so I was just confused.

So you were propelled into becoming a solo artist.

I wouldn't have called myself that, though. I just wanted to write and pick with where I'd left with Matthew, writing songs. I was like, 'Well now what am I going to do?' So I just continued writing songs. I'd hook up with different musicians to work with. I'd go out to clubs and if I liked the way someone played, I'd end up getting in a room with them and doing a song. Not just musicians, but producers and DJ's, too because I love and respect all forms of music. I have loved music since I was a little girl, just singing along to the radio. As for being a solo artist, I think my idea of a solo artist is Prince or Stevie Wonder. I can not play an instrument enough to be what I'd call a musician, but I can go into a studio and come up with bass lines and drum patterns and going plinkety-plonk on a keyboard. But I wouldn't want to go on stage and do that because it would take away from what I'm supposed to be doing, which is to relay the songs and connect with the audience.

You come from such a visual time, with the advent of MTV and all the European music/fashion trends, the sight of you behind a guitar or piano just wouldn't be the Annabella we know and love.

Well there are some people who can pull that off with panache. [Sings a bit of "Cornflake Girl."] Tori Amos, right? She looks absolutely amazing playing piano and that's all I have to say about that. Since you're a guy, you know what I'm talking about. Lady Gaga, too. She's just getting stronger and stronger as a talent. From writing her own material to her entire career. It's about 'finding the flower of your joy' as they say. It's not about trying to copy anyone else. It's about moving in your own artistry, using the gifts you've been given in the best way you know how. Hopefully it makes it enjoyable for everyone and it helps people to feel uplifted.

Is that your goal for every performance?

Yes, I'm hoping that people feel uplifted when they hear or see me perform. People are accepting and receiving what you are trying to communicate with them. Because that's what I am, I'm a communicator, I'm a messenger.

The Retro Futura tour arrives tonight, Wednesday July 11 at Chastain Park. Showtime is 7 p.m. For more information visit annabellalwin.com.

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