As a Songwriter, Lili Añel honed her skill in NYC’s Greenwich Village’ thriving music scene. Alongside peers like Cliff Eberhardt, Carolyn Mas, The Roches and Steve Forbert, to name a few, she successfully showed diversity within her musical ideas and sensibilities, performing both solo or with her band executing her music and voice with amazing power, rhythmically and melodically. Lili and her band opened for legendary acts, Etta James, Taj Mahal, Stuff (featuring the Saturday Night Live Band) and The Persuasions. In the early 80’s, a group of singer-songwriters met at the Cornelia Street Cafe for the first time. Inaugural members included Cliff Eberhardt, David Massengill, Lucy Kaplansky and Lili Añel. It was called The Songwriters Exchange.
Lili was nominated for a New York Music Award in the “Best Songwriter” category, winning in the “Best Unsigned Artist” category; and has appeared across the U.S. and Canada in support of her first album “Laughed Last”, as well in New York at such venues as The Bitter End, The Bottom Line and Joe’s Pub.
“People have often described my music as Joan Armatrading meets Joni Mitchell meets Steely Dan, Lili says. “I agree and disagree. I do resemble Joan somewhat in my singing-we’re both altos, my songwriting is influenced by Joni amongst many others, and I love the sound of Steely Dan. But I don’t sing exactly like Joan, I don’t write exactly like Joni and the album doesn’t sound exactly like Steely Dan. I am influenced by a great deal of other songwriters and musical styles including Garland Jeffreys, Janis Ian, The Beatles, John Coltrane, Patato Y Totico, Celia Cruz amongst others.
Born in New York City of Black/Cuban parents she utilizes rhythms primarily as the basis of her songwriting. “I often play guitar as if I were playing a drum of some kind, keeping time, playing against time. It’s what I grew up listening to at home.” The traditional Cuban recordings of Orchesta Aragon as well as the drum stylings of Patato y Totico, known for their incorporation of traditional African drumming with Cuban call-and-response songs (masters of “gua-guanco” and “Rumba”) were among the artists her mother played regularly. “Mom always played her jazz records too, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Frank Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Mongo Santamaria; all that music stayed with me; it’s all had an influence, especially the singers”. Next door neighbors who blasted reggae music on the weekends left its mark as well. “When The Beatles arrived in America, the damage was done. Mom bought me Introducing The Beatles (Vee Jay Records) and my sister Meet The Beatles on Capitol. From that point on I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up”.
Having been accepted into the Leonard Davis Center of Performing Arts at City College of the City University of New York, and after a successful first year in university, securing an 3.75 index Lili was at a stalemate: “I was bored out of my shoes; I had great grades but didn’t know which way to go. I decided to go after what I always dreamed of doing, to perform, sing, write songs and play guitar”. Lili studied with legendary jazz singer Shelia Jordan for one year in her vocal performance workshop. “The year under Sheila’s guidance was invaluable, the class covered all of the practical aspects of performing in the real world”. Lili lasted under the stress of traditional music training for an additional year. “It was essential and important study, but I didn’t know where/how to use what I was being taught with the kind of music I was trying to create”. Lili took a leave of absence from CCNY never returning. Instead, she enrolled in Eddie Simon’s “Guitar Study Center”. Only able to afford to pay for one class, she audited as many classes as possible. Gaining the respect from the instructors, who admired her diligence, she was often allowed to participate in class like the students who were fully enrolled. “I always came prepared, was able to execute what they taught; they often gave me extra work, pushed me. It was just what I was looking for”. During her time at Guitar Study Center, Lili also began to attend open mics in New York City’s Greenwich Village, and other clubs. She began to get gigs and subsequently put a band together. Lili continued performing, building her following which eventually took her to recording her first CD, Laughed Last in 1994 on Palmetto Records.
In 2002, Lili recorded Hi-Octane Coffee which was produced by J.B. Moore (co-producer of “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow). Hi-Octane Coffee featured some of New York City’s famed session players including Drew Zingg (Steely Dan, Alana Davis, Gladys Knight), Frank Vilardi (Donny Osmond, Jill Sobule, The Bacon Brothers), Seth Glassman (James Brown, Paul McCartney, Maceo Parker, Carol King) and Johnny Gale (co-producer Ryan Shaw “This is Ryan Shaw”). This union provided the opportunity for Lili’s songs go shine, showcasing her in her music in all its diversity, from the funk of “The Way Out” to the Americana-Country tinged “Nothing in Common” to the folk-acoustic guitar-vocal “Zora”. Hi-Octane Coffee received excellent press, continuing to raise Lili’s profile within the industry.
A Philadelphia resident as of September 2004, Lili began winning local fans, performing at venues like The Point, World Café! Live! and Tin Angel. Lili was invited to participate in 2 Katrina benefits shows at World Café Live! and the Grand Opera House in Delaware. In 2005 she participated in a live radio broadcast as part of WXPN's one year anniversary celebration. Lili has also not gone unnoticed by the media. In January 2006, Lili was interviewed by Helen Leicht in another WXPN, show and more recently was featured in the Courier Post and again in the Philadelphia Inquirer. She continues to win new fans as she headlined to an SRO crowd at the Perkins Center For The Arts in Moorestown, NJ. Songs from her CD Hi-Octane Coffee have received airplay in Philadelphia, Delaware and New York. In April 2006 Lili independently re-released her first CD "Laughed Last" having added 3 live bonus tracks. Lili continues to perform as a headliner and opener for national acts such as Rhett Miller, Teddy Thompson, Alana Davis, Richie Havens, Jeffrey Gaines, Alejandro Escovedo among others.
“Dream Again” (Wall-I Records/Quarry Hill Studios) Lili's third and most recent recording was released January 2007. “Dream Again” marks Ms. Añel’s first recording as co-producer. She is joined by her bassist, Cooke Harvey as the other half of this creative effort. Mr. Harvey’s impeccable bass stylings and arrangements make this joint effort the perfect collaboration. The CD showcases various sides of her songwriting and arranging, with sonic textures in different configurations, strings, to solo bass, guitar and voice as well as enlisting the expert playing of Dave Bozenhard on guitars and John DiGiovanni on drums and percussion as rhythm section (appropriately named “The Dream Again Band”), stretching jazz, pop, r&b and alternative boundaries.
“Dream Again” along with her previous two recordings prove that Lilis’ got the goods to be a mainstay in the music industry. While compared to various artists at times, she’s truly one of a kind. [sic] “… and every indication says she’ll win big…” [Paul Iorio, freelance writer, NY Post, Village Voice, Cashbox]
“pure dynamite...her songwriting is consistently excellent...ofttimes Joni Mitchell sharp...and her sharp wide-ranging but unswervingly thoughtful performances do her songs full justice”
“A performer to watch [for]….a velvet voiced, vocal powerhouse whose earthy, jazz-laced tunes stretch the boundaries of traditional "singer-songwriter" turf.”
"Dream Again is a fabulous, rock-solid gift of exquisitely penned and sung songs. This deserves to be a commercial hit”
-Long Island Press