Geography has mostly conspired to keep Anne Elise Hastings and her Wyoming-based grandmother at a distance, but the little time they have spent together has proven productive. “Missouri” was a choice takeaway from one rare visit. The classic country ballad’s love-fueled narrative is so convoluted and compelling that it could only come from real life.
“My grandma’s parents were both musicians in the 1930s, and her mother joined a big band to play piano,” says Hastings. “One night, the drummer drove her home, and they fell in love and had this whole secret romance. Her parents found out, pulled her out of college and wouldn’t let her leave the house without them. They sent letters to each other through the editor at the local newspaper, and they schemed to meet at a high-school basketball game. Then they ran into the parking lot, hopped in the car and drove off.”
The couple zig-zagged around Missouri, getting married along the way. “Once her father died, my grandmother would find her mom sitting at the piano,” says Hastings. “She’d say, ‘When I play, I still feel him with me.’ My grandma’s such a great storyteller. I was just sitting there completely transfixed.”
Hastings’ vocal delivery—a sometimes uneasy balance of vulnerability and strength that’s part Loretta Lynn, part Janis Joplin—has the same ability to transfix. Growing up in Roanoke, Va., Hastings was classically trained in piano and violin as a child. Her parents weren’t musically inclined, though her mom is a talented painter and graphic designer and her attorney father can manage a respectable version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” on guitar.
“They were really good about making me practice,” says Hastings. “My dad would sit in the other room and [make a buzzer sound] every time I’d make mistake. He thought it was good parenting. I found it annoying.”
Arriving in Louisiana in 2015 to attended Loyola University New Orleans as a music-performance major, Hastings promptly began assembling backing band Her Revolving Cast Of Characters, which now includes drummer Isaac Worley, guitarist Dustin Dietsche, bassist Tristan Clark and multi-instrumentalist George Thomas. “Missouri” is the second track on Unmasking A Confidence Trickster, recorded at NOLA’s Marigny Studios and set for a self-release on February 25.
“The title is a Franz Kafka short story, which I guess is pretty pretentious,” Hasting says with a nervous laugh. “It’s about a con man trying to swindle this guy out of his money. That’s the idea with a lot of these songs—people trying to swindle me out of something, even it’s just my time and energy or my feelings about them. The album is pretty unfiltered, with the exception of ‘Missouri.’”