In a smoky Orlando club a couple of months back, Anna Becker stood on a tiny stage and curled up to her acoustic guitar. On the tall side, with striking features, she becomes instantly vulnerable under the lights, and her ethereal voice can fill any gaps in the crowd. On this night, she strums delicately, sings about a lost lover, then halts mid-sentence and turns her head.
"I couldn't stop coughing! I was so embarrassed," she remembers.
In a sense, the North Carolina native permanently resides in just such moments, lush and full of possibility until a left turn breaks the spell and starts a new moment. After nearly two years in Orlando, preceded by a run on the Nashville circuit, Becker is currently spending a few months at a specialty school in Fort Lauderdale preparing for her next head-scratching move.
"I've always wanted to own a day spa, and I just decided I would like to get into the skin care aspect," she says. "Two months and you're licensed! It's great 'cause, see, I have commitment problems."
Welcome to the world of a truly free spirit.
Becker's first and still strongest love was horses, and the rodeo was the first of many activities she excelled at. She began competing on the high school circuit in North Carolina and she and her father moved to Oklahoma when she was 15 to enter a higher-profile rodeo market. A week before her first major event, her horse broke its leg.
"It was the worst thing that ever happened in my life," she says. "That's when I started playing guitar." The thrill she felt when songs began to pour out of her was something that she — as a ranch girl — could only compare to the exhilaration of a cattle drive.
"That's when I'm the happiest, when I've breathed the air and felt the sun," she says. "When `my audience` are done listening to a song, I want them to feel peaceful and content."
At the age of 16, Becker gave herself a year to get good enough to play in public, and she naturally succeeded. Nashville was the next stop, but as with her last move to greater things, there were bumps in the road for her.
"I got in a real bad production deal," she says, adding in her typically optimistic tone: "I did some showcases and that was a lot of fun."
It may be difficult to determine where music falls in Becker's collection of larks, but it couldn't be easier for her. In her world, music is simply music, and any success or attention she gathers from her work seems to be just another fun diversion.
"I'm totally open for bigger things," she says. "I'm still trying to go through every door I can find, musically, but maybe what people view as success in music … they need that recognition to feel successful. I don't feel like that defines me. I feel successful right now."