For most symphonic metal fans Manuela Kraller is famous for her work with German band Xandria. After leaving the band back in 2013, Manuela went solo, releasing an EP under the name Alanae in 2020. She later went on hiatus due the health problems and now she returns with re-named project Anaya. Read about solo project, artistic visions, thoughts about music business, Xandria and many more in our exclusive interview.
MG: Manuela, there’s been quite a long time of you keeping silent in your music activity, and now you’re back announcing your re-named project Anaya. Tell us please, what was your life filled with during the last several years?
Manuela: The last years have been quite hard for me as I went through a period of burnout and depression. It was not an easy time and I had to clear many things in my life. I decided to quit my job. I left some friendships behind who weren´t good for me anymore. I had to go deep into myself, into my childhood to heal some very old wounds. I also went to a clinic to get professional help. There I met some great people. I am thankful for every step on this way, for every stone, that I had to push away. Everything had a deep sense and it all brought me more to myself. I had the time and chance to discover my true and higher self even more. And I knew for sure that I could not return to my old job or to any toxic relations, that I had to leave this behind to recover and to be who I really am. It felt like there has been a kind of wall around me. A kind of protection that I built not to be hurt. But this wall also prohibited me from living the life I wanted to live. To live a secure life, isn´t always the right way. I recognized, that there is even something better to come, when I begin to trust: in myself and in life itself. And in the end I knew, that there is a way that I HAVE to go. That there is no other choice anymore. I know, I have to sing, I have to do arts, I have to fight for human rights and for nature. Not only for me, for my inner fulfilling, but because I realized that this is my task in life. So that´s why I am where I am now: since half a year I´m building up an existence as a freelance singer, as a human and nature activist. Cause I know that I have to change something for the better in the world with my voice, my words, my arts. And this is the greatest present I have been given after those hard times. To finally know why I am here. To have found my sense in life. And this makes me incredibly thankful and happy.
MG: All the fans were extremely excited by the news about your project. So… Manuela, would you please introduce your project to the audience? How was it born?
Manuela: Anaya was born in 2019 and was named Alanae back then. After releasing my first EP (with the songs „Return to Elements“ and „Hometree“) in 2020 I fell into burnout. And during this 2,5 years „break“ I got in contact with some alternative healing methods and also even more with sound healing instruments such as the shamanic drum. Drumming helped me to transform my feelings like anger and sadness. When I was drumming I recognized that I fell in a trance-like condition. And the words spoken and sung came to me very intuitively. It was a very liberating experience for me. So, to come to the point: This drum is kind of responsible for the name Anaya.
MG: What does the name Anaya mean? Tell us please about its origin. And why have you changed the name from Alanae?
Manuela: While drumming I always sang the name „ANAYA“. I didn´t know what it meant so I googled it. It means „absolutely free“ or „absolute freedom“ (there are some different meanings, but this was the first one I found). And when I read the meaning the first time, I knew this HAS to be the name of my project, there was no doubt anymore. Cause this is what I want my project to be, being free in any way: Concerning my symphonic music style, being free/independent from a label, free in my clothing/in my artistic expression, free in my vocal style. Alanae was a nice name and it came up to me one day. But I never felt this deep connection as I did with the name Anaya. Anaya feels like a kind of soul name. So for me it was clear to leave the old name Alanae behind. It was a decision by heart.
MG: In your recent Q&A session, you have said that it will be a blend of genres. Can you tell us a little bit more about the music style of Anaya?
Manuela: As I said before it is very important to me that I am free in what I am doing, especially concerning my music. Anaya is a project focusing on symphonic music in any style. Where the main focus will lie, has to develop over time. I don´t want to put myself in a box now. Cause this would mean that I limit myself. And I don´t want any limitations on me nor on my music. I think every human is always part of a lifelong development. Also life itself is a continuous process. To think that music is an exception from this natural development, to think music will always stay the same, is just naïve. If I develop, my music will develop also. This was one reason why I left Xandria. I had developed in another direction and wanted to find my very own way of music, my style. Still the symphonic part of „my old music life“ is very important to me. I love everything concerning symphonic music, so this will still play an important role, also in ANAYA. But there are soooo many facets of symphonic music, more epic one (trailer music), crossover (classical crossover), reduced one with maybe only some strings, with/without choir, maybe mixed with some other music styles like electronic, with rock, metal, whatever. I don’t know yet. But right now I will focus more on a kind of cinematic soundtrack music, without rock/metal elements. But maybe I will add some of those elements in my music in future. Let’s see;) You can expect me singing mostly classical, but also exploring other vocal styles and classical/symphonic music in any kind.
MG: Does your upcoming music have any concept? What inspired you in composing songs – nature, emotions, books, cinema, etc.?
Manuela: My upcoming music does not have any concept, but as you already might have noticed (concerning my first 2 songs) a main focus is on the topics of nature and our connection to nature. With my music I want to help shift the consciousness of people, to make them aware of how important it is to protect nature and our earth. But I also want to draw attention to topics like intolerance, war, hate, racism etc. and use my music, my voice, my words to change people’s thinking about themselves and about others, to shift their minds and hearts more towards tolerance, freedom, peace, love and harmony throughout the entire world. It’s a big vision, I know, but this is what I am really longing for in my heart. And I will fight for it with my music, words and arts 🙂
MG: As you said, you will release Anaya song by song. Will it turn into a full-length album?
Manuela: To be honest, at first I thought not to make an album because of financial issues, but I started thinking about doing one;) Give me a bit more time for a decision… It really depends on how successful my first crowdfunding campaign will be (the first crowdfunding starting at the beginning of May, date to be announced). As I said, I want to release my songs step by step. Means, for the first — hopefully successful — crowdfunding campaign it is planned to professionally record two new songs and to do two videoshootings plus photoshootings. So I hope that many of my fans will support me on my crowdfunding journey, so we can go step by step, maybe even to an album 😉 I think releasing (maybe even an album) song by song is a good way for an independent artist to publish music. It’s financially possible with the support of my true fans and it is a way to give every song the appreciation it deserves. I see it like Dianne van Giersbergen: If you make a full album at once, then it might happen that some of the songs are just skipped, and that’s very sad as every artist puts so much effort in every song. So I think this is the best way to give my songs the appreciation they deserve.
MG: Is Anaya planned to be a long-lasting project?
Manuela: Yes, of course !
MG: And what about your second project Valkea Valo? Can we expect the album this year?
Manuela: I cannot tell you a date for the album release yet, but I can say that we started working together again. You will definitely hear more about Valkea Valo this year and yes, we are heading towards an album. But it still needs a lot of work to be done. Tobi, me and Micha are more than excited about what’s coming. And we think the music material has come out great after all those years we put our hearts into. And let me tell to all our fans: We are so happy and thankful that you are still interested in Valkea Valo´s music and waiting for the music to come. We appreciate that a lot!
MG: Manuela, did you receive offers to join any metal band after leaving your former band? Or you don’t see yourself in metal as a genre anymore? If so, then why?
Manuela: I have received some offerings, but for me it was clear to not return into the metal scene. Maybe for a few songs, but not as my main music style. To be honest: I still listen to some metal, but my heart is now more with the „pure symphonic part“ of this music. Still I think and hope that many metal fans will love my music too as it contains the epic symphonic stuff they love to hear 😉
MG: How do you think, is it important to have a professional vocal education to become a good singer? Or is it enough just to have an inborn talent for that?
Manuela: I think both are needed to be a good singer. To have talent makes it at least easier, but to have a vocal education can make a diamond out of a raw crystal.
MG: Anette Olzon said that the music business is dying. Do you agree with that?
Manuela: I don´t agree, but I think there will be a big change for musicians. In my opinion there will be more and more independent artists and less ones in a label. I think that this construct will once fall down. But that’s just my way of seeing it. I believe the future lies in an independent business, where many freelancers (manager, booking agencies etc.) work together and support musicians. Also crowdfunding will even play a more important role I think or a similar system like this. Let’s see…
MG: Have you listened to the new Xandria album?
Manuela: Yes, I have, but not the whole album, just 4 or 5 songs. I think the songs are well produced and Ambre does a good job on the vocals, even if it is very different from what me or Dianne did vocally. Listening to Xandria after such a long time made me think about the past and I recognized one thing: I don´t regret having left Xandria. It was a good decision, cause leaving this band allowed me to work musically more creative and free and to find my own way. And this was very important for my development. I am fine with everything now. And that´s a good feeling.
MG: Do you follow another ex-Xandria singer Dianne van Giersbergen? Did you listen to her music?
Manuela: Yes, I follow her, and I really love her new song „After The Storm“! Great operatic vocals and expression! I think she is a lovely person (we met once after a Xandria concert) and I wish her the best with her solo project! Excited what’s coming up next 😉
MG: Manuela, what experience have you received from working with Xandria and Haggard as a metal vocalist? Would you ever want to work with Haggard again in future?
Manuela: Working with Haggard and Xandria is not comparable as in Xandria I was the lead vocalist and in Haggard I was kind of „one of many musicians“. I don’t want to stir up my experiences concerning Xandria, I talked about that already. But I can say that my time in Haggard was a lot of joy with a lot of wonderful people. I often remember those times, especially that Asis made it possible for me to join Haggard and to be able to sing in front of thousands of people for the first time and travel the world. This was a dream coming true for me. And I will always be thankful for that. Asis and I are still in contact sometimes and I am thankful he always has supported me and my work, he is a really good and lovely guy. Despite that I cannot imagine returning to Haggard, but maybe joining the group once for a gig as guest singer, that would be fun 😉
MG: Do you have a female singer who is a kind of idol for you?
Manuela: No, not anymore. I love Floor´s voice and Amy Lee´s, but I try to focus on my voice and not to compare it with others.
MG: It’s a kind of traditional question for us… we ask it to almost everyone ☺ Manuela, what book can you advise the readers of our portal?
Manuela: I really can recommend „Rock Your Life“ by the Scorpion’s guitarist Rudolf Schenker. It’s very inspiring!
MG: And the last question is… could you say a few words to our readers?
Manuela: Dear MetalGossip readers, I´d like to thank all of you who are still supporting me after all those past years and I hope you are in for the „ANAYA JOURNEY“ 😉
Take care! Love, Manuela