Anna Wilson and Monty Powell, on Connecting in Love and Music

By Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Anna Wilson and her husband Monty Powell — who’ve been writing music together practically since the day they met — make collaboration look easy. But the longtime lovebirds, married 20 years, admit there are moments of disharmony. 

Anna Wilson and Monty Powell

“The creative tension is real, and we do bicker about creative vision,” Anna admits to Rockmommy. “But when the work phase passes it’s all about the love and we just go have a nice dinner together.” 

Their chemistry is obvious onstage too. The couple, longtime Nashville dwellers who relocated to Utah a few years ago, are the driving force behind the musical duo Troubadour 77, which infuses gorgeous rock vocal harmonies with Monty’s layered, often intricate, guitar playing and Anna’s piano melodies. As American Songwriter noted, Troubadour 77 came together as a sort of “tribute to the legendary Troubadour club in LA,” where artists of the ’60s and ’70s like Carole King and The Eagles made a name for themselves. 

It’s a beautiful transition from their former life, as a songwriter-and-producer team behind some of the greatest songs performed by stars like Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, and Lady Antebellum.

And while the pandemic put touring on hold, Troubadour 77 still managed to pull together weekly 15-minute Facebook Live-streamed “T77 Squared” concerts. When I asked Monty about them in mid-April — at the tail end of a conversation about which home-recording gear I should buy — he told me the shorter duration of these sets was intentional. A couple could enjoy a glass of wine, listen to a few songs, relax, and then move on to the rest of their night. No strings attached.

We recently caught up with Anna and Monty to learn more about timing, parenthood (they’ve got two daughters), and what’s next in the post-quarantine world. 

Rockmommy: For those who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe it?

Anna Wilson: I’d say our ‘sound’ captures the spirit of the SoCal Laurel Canyon era of the 70s. Folks like Carole King, Jackson Browne, CSNY and others who graced the stage of Doug Weston’s Troubadour club in West Hollywood. I am continually trying to keep the flame alive of what that community represented musically, lyrically and artistically.

Monty Powell: Organic, classic singer songwriter — pop/rock with an Americana palette. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell us a little but about how you met? 

Anna Wilson: We met backstage at a Diamond Rio concert in Nashville in September 1993. Monty was the band’s producer and I was the band’s publicist. I was trying to sound all cool and deep and told Monty I wanted to make a concept album about the “Seasons”. It’s amazing he continued to talk to me. I swear this was not drug induced!

Rockmommy: Let’s talk about the challenges of 2020 for musicians. What was that like for you two?

Monty Powell: Learning how to entertain over virtual platforms with no audience was hard. 

Anna Wilson: I’d also say learning how to keep our fan base engaged in a meaningful way via social media since we could not tour and interact with them like we normally always have. The reinvention of how to bring quality virtual concerts and content to our followers, and the technical aspects that go along with that pursuit, was a definite learning curve. 

Anna Wilson (Photo credit: Juan Pont Lezica)

Rockmommy: The Facebook Live series was brilliant. How did that come about? 

Anna Wilson: The virtual two-song session that we called “T77 Squared Concerts” was born out of the pandemic and not being able to be out on the road and performing live. With everyone online and screen weary we thought the short format would be welcome. After 6 months of that series, lots of folks mentioned they wanted longer sets so we moved to an hour long, once a month concert that we call The 777 Show that featured 7 songs on the 7th of the month at 7pm EST. Both series have been great but in some ways the virtual concert is starting to feel like it’s run its course. Everyone is fatigued by the online virtual experience from just all content in general. In light of this observation, we are doing our last episode on March 7, 2021, and that will complete a one-year cycle of virtual concerts for us. We will still do some special episodes of virtual concerts but just not a regular series and we hope to get back to live performing and touring by Fall 2021.

Rockmommy: How did the past year’s challenges influence your music and creative process? 

Anna Wilson: We definitely wrote and released songs that matched the moments we were in and the experiences we were all collectively going through. Troubadour 77 wound up adding two bonus tracks, The Love Forward Project, to our existing album Revolution & Redemption to create a Deluxe release. These songs were my artistic and creative reaction to the virus, social justice conversation, the political climate and other issues that were swirling throughout 2020.

Monty Powell: It definitely pushed our writing into a more socially active space with more commentary on current events.

Rockmommy: Any recent or upcoming projects you’d like to share? 

Anna Wilson: Monty and I are writing a play similar in format of what Bruce Springsteen did with his “Springsteen on Broadway.” It will weave in songs spanning our careers along with a unique and compelling narrative that ties it all together. We hope to have it written by the end of this winter, rehearse it in the spring, record it over the summer and find a way to begin touring it in 2022.  

Rockmommy: What advice do you have on balancing parenthood with creative life? 

Monty Powell: Involve your kids in your creative process. Make them understand that it’s not a mystery, that is mostly just hard work ethic. 

Anna Wilson: Just because you are spending time helping your kids do homework or driving them in carpool doesn’t mean you aren’t feeding your creative soul. In fact, it may be the very portal that you draw inspiration from and where your next song idea or melody comes from. Creativity can exist in the midst of the chaos. In fact, it is often sparked in the midst of it. When it hits, grab it, write it down until you do get some quiet time to refocus on it. It will still be there for you to access when you do. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and the Complex Sadness of Loving, and Losing, an Addict

I never saw “Capote,” “Magnolia,” or “The Big Lebowski.” But watching Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Boogie Nights” — one of my all-time favorite movies — was enough to make me a fan. It doesn’t take a film critic to know that every movie he ever acted in was brilliant.

So much has been written and posted on Hoffman’s tragic death, and about heroin addiction. And I agree with a lot of it.

For me, Hoffman’s death feels particularly painful because it reminds me of Bruce, the junkie I once called my boyfriend.

I’ve always been more than a little attracted to bad boys. And in my teens and 20s, I needed mine with more than just a faint hint of danger. They were my escape.

Bruce was no exception. I was 25 when we met. One look at his tattoos and a conversation about guitars during his cigarette break and I knew I wanted more. He turned out to be a total romantic, the kind of guy who showed up with roses before a dinner, who wanted to go to all the rock shows I wanted to go to.  

Little did I know that his dating me would contribute to his heroin relapse.

I could go on and on about the time he overdosed and missed seeing me perform, or the month-long rehab stint at NIH (I’m from DC), when I brought him pumpkin pie and we made snow angels on the lawn. Instead, I’ll fast forward to February 13, 2002, one day before Valentine’s Day. Bruce had supposedly been sober for almost three months, though unable to find a job. We had tentative plans to go to dinner somewhere. Hours after I dropped him off at his group house, I left my office with plans to hang out with friends. But as soon as I hit the parking lot, I discovered my car was gone.

Long story short, Bruce stole my car to cop dope in Baltimore. It took cops three weeks to find and catch up with him — after my car had been repossessed he stole another — and I only visited him in jail once to break up with him.

But the damage was done. When I found my car, I also found the belt he’d used to squeeze his arm and pop a vein out, and the maroon bookbag stuffed with orange-tipped syringes. In my trunk, his eyeglasses case was stuffed with three more syringes and brown-speckled baggies of junk. While I shudder now at the memory, at the time I found myself consumed with morbid fascination over the contents of his eyeglasses case.

Which brings me back to Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was found with a syringe stuck in his arm, and something like 50 empty bags of what is believed to have been heroin.

Most people mourn the loss of a brilliant actor. I mourn the loss of a father. I can’t imagine being seven, or even ten, and losing my father in that way. And even as I vacillate between feeling anger toward his “selfish” behavior — as a mom I cannot imagine how anyone could use heroin when they have children — and compassion for him as an addict, I can’t help but reflect on the tragedy of all of it.

Most everyone I know who is an alcoholic or a junkie is misjudged. Bruce wasn’t a super-talented actor, but he was a tremendously talented guitarist, and a truly kind, charismatic person. He was funny as hell, possessing a raw intelligence that begged to be tapped. He was an amazing sous chef who taught me how to roll sushi. He inspired me to write so much music.

Bruce died nearly ten years ago. We weren’t together at the time, but his passing made me so sad. Like Hoffman’s death, Bruce’s death was such a waste.

I’m not sure what the answer is for junkies like Bruce or Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have seen addicts with five, ten, 15 years of sobriety go out. Addiction never truly leaves your psyche; if you’re lucky you just learn how to manage it. And it doesn’t take much to lose everything you’ve worked for. From what media reports are claiming, an encounter with prescription meds was all it took for Hoffman to sink into a full-blown relapse.

Unfortunately, most addicts who die won’t get obituaries on the front page of The New York Times. But hopefully the death of someone with so much clean time will inspire those who are getting help to keep fighting for their sobriety.