We had the good fortune of connecting with Anna Xarissa James and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anna Xarissa, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
My business is the AnnaXJames (social media) and Xarissa (music) brand. Xarissa is my legal middle name, and I always wanted it to be my artist name, but AnnaXJames has always been my Instagram username, so I just decided to keep both projects separate, in a way.
My social media platforms are where I post my silly, little relatable videos that show my personality, AKA the “Anna” side of me. As the platforms grow, I’m also able to utilize them to promote my music to the people who watch my videos.
The “Xarissa” side of me is my alter ego in a sense. I feel like every musician needs an alter ego that they can channel when they need to perform or be in music videos, etc.
I’ve always been a content creator. I’ve been posting YouTube videos since 2007, back when “clout” and numbers didn’t exist or matter (the wholesome days). I started taking social media seriously in 2020 when I was isolated in Toronto during the lockdown. I had nothing to do and no one to hang out with, so I just made TikToks all day. Eventually, I grew my TikTok and Instagram accounts to a point where content creation became a job, in the best way possible.
I lived in Toronto from 2019 to July 2021. I’m from Gainesville, Florida and I was isolated from all of my friends and family because the border was closed. When they announced the third lockdown in May 2021, my fiancé and I decided that we needed to move back to the States as soon as possible. We moved to Atlanta because he is from here, and I always loved driving up to Atlanta for shows and festivals growing up, so I was excited.
Now that the world is open and I’m back in the U.S., the platforms I created over lockdown have helped me connect with songwriters, producers, and other creatives in the music industry in person. I still consistently post on my TikTok and Instagram, because I know that if anyone’s going to take me seriously as an artist, I need to have solid numbers and engagement (TikTok controls the music industry at this point).
The end goal for me is to be a full-time musician, so that’s why my social media brand is just as important because it’s how I’m going to get my music heard once it’s created and ready for release. Both AnnaXJames and Xarissa are amazing creative outlets for me, and I’m really grateful to have something I’m passionate about.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a singer-songwriter who makes indie rock/alt-pop music (I’m still trying to nail down my sound). I’ve been told that I have a distinct voice, and I think that my songwriting is witty. I’m most proud of and excited about the folder of unreleased demos that are sitting on my desktop.
My solo project is fairly new because I was in an indie-electronic band for 5 years. However, it’s been fun to look inward and create the music that feels most like me as an individual. I’ve been flying to LA and driving to Nashville to set up writing sessions with producers and songwriters, and I’ve been collecting a bunch of great songs that I actually want to listen to, and that’s just the best feeling. My goal is to finish them and slowly release them over the next year or so.
As a musician, I’ve been working on my craft my whole life (I was writing songs at 7 years old about my family dog). However, I would say I started taking it more seriously in college when I was a part of my old band. That’s where I learned about branding, having a team, regularly playing live, etc. I did not know much about the music industry, though.
My next steps in Atlanta are pulling a live set together with my new collection of demos. I’ve never played in a full band as my solo project, Xarissa, so I’m stoked to see how it all comes together. This solo project is just getting started, but I’m excited to pour love into it and watch it grow. I definitely plan on playing live shows in Atlanta by the end of the year.
I’m doing this all on my own – no trust fund, no famous parents, no manager, no label. I work a full-time job in marketing so that I can financially fuel my passion projects. I think it’s so neat that thanks to the TikTok algorithm and the internet, there’s room for everyone to make it without help from a label for new eyes and ears.
A lot of artists get discouraged about all of the “competition” online and in bigger cities like LA or Nashville, but I genuinely see other artists as an opportunity to learn something new, create beautiful music, and have a like-minded friend in a scary industry. The internet is so big, and there’s room for EVERYONE to post their videos/release music and we can all create and grow our own audiences.
I’m all about collaboration and supporting other artists, even if they’re my direct “competition.”
Community, not competition.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would definitely have to hit up Superica, Bone Garden Cantina, Emerald City Bagels, and Poke Burri for food.
I love the festivals that Atlanta hosts like Shaky Knees and Music Midtown. Some of my best memories growing up are at Atlanta festivals, so we’d definitely have to plan the trip around then.
I also really love Highland Row Antiques. I love vintage furniture and knick-knacks, and you never know what you’re going to find there.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to shout out my fiancé, Hunter, who has been my support system through all of my music and creative endeavors. As an artist, I tend to have some pretty wild ideas and projects, and he’s always been there to help when I need it – especially when it comes to carrying heavy equipment after shows, lol.
I also want to shout out the people who genuinely listen to and support my music and silly, little videos. It’s cool that what my brain decides to create one day can resonate with strangers across the globe and help us connect over niche human experiences to make us feel less alone.
The photo of me with the pink gloves – please credit Sara Tolie The photos of me on the beach (black dress and yellow sweater – please credit Angelo Manalac