Anna Calvi Takes a Breath

The singer opens up about her new look and sound

Anna Calvi

Karl Lagerfeld has shot her and Frida Giannini has handpicked her tour outfits, but Anna Calvi’s style icon status is born directly from her music. “When I started, I wanted to have a strong visual presence,” the London singer-songwriter says. “So I started dressing a bit like a male flamenco dancer to reflect the strength of my music.”

Calvi is one of the few female solo pop artists who both strum and sing. “I like to create an atmosphere with the interplay of guitar and voice,” she explains. When she was younger, Calvi, 33, had a severe phobia of singing onstage. Though she’s a confident performer now—she’s playing Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight to promote her new album One Breath—it wasn’t until her mid-20s that she found her voice.

One Breath was produced by John Congleton, who has worked with everyone from Joanna Newsom to R. Kelly, and the album has a brooding ’90s sound. It covers “a wide spectrum of emotion,” says Calvi. In conversation, one can still sense shyness in her barely audible whisper. But she’s more than happy to let her music do the talking.