When she first moved to America, Anjulie Persaud didn’t know a soul.
She was young, just 19 at the time. “I told my parents I was going to visit a family friend in Montreal,” she says. “And I ended up in New York.” Persaud left behind everything: family, friends, and her hometown (the Toronto suburb of Oakville), for the great unknown. She arrived in the Empire City with big dreams, and empty pockets, like so many before her. And, like so many before her, things didn’t quite work out the way she planned. At least not initially.
“I moved without a visa or a place to live,” she says. “All I had were some songs that I really believed in.” And she would play them, wherever people would listen: on the subway, on the street. Anjulie remembers crashing the lobbies of record companies: invading tall, chrome and glass buildings, armed with nothing but her guitar. Often, she wouldn’t make it beyond the door. One time while strumming in the entrance of Arista Records, she was asked to leave (she calls the experience “kind of heartbreaking”).
Then there was the incident at Warner Brothers. “I got stopped,” she says. “And the police had to escort me out.”
It was a tough time—-emotionally and financially (she took up waitressing to help pay the bills), but for Persaud, quitting was never an option. If she could just make it there, in New York, she could make it…well, you know how that goes.
So she stuck it out. Eventually it started paying off. Anjulie caught the attention of a few higher-ups, and things snowballed quickly.
These days her songs can be heard regularly on hit shows like MTV’s The Hills and the network’s new spinoff, The City, on the repurposed Melrose Place, and on the popular new ABC television drama Eastwick.
Her video for the track ‘Boom,’ secured an MTV nomination, for Best Breakthrough this year. And while it’s true she lost (to Indie popsters Matt and Kim), it’s still enough to have been recognized. The nomination caps off a great year for her. A year where she’s enjoyed extraordinary success, including a Number One hit on the Billboard dance charts (again, for ‘Boom’), and performances from coast to coast (she’s shared a stage with Franz Ferdinand, N.E.R.D, Common, The Roots, Amerie and Talib Kweli, to name a few).
Then, at the end of August, another coupe: performing live on MTV Canada for the first time.
Her self-titled debut album can now be purchased both digitally—-and physically at Starbucks across North America. That’s a lot of locations (roughly 12,000 at the last count). It is confirmation that Anjulie has entered the big leagues.
Most of her album was co-written and produced by Jon Levine, keyboardist with the popular ‘90s R&B band the Philosopher Kings. Her vibe on the record is both polished and lo-fi; her brand of pop fragile, yet seething with an “I’ll-show-you” sort of attitude. Comparisons have already been made to fellow Canadian chanteuse, Nelly Furtado (the two met for the first time at the 2009 VMAs); interesting, as Gerald Eaton and Brian West, also of the Philosopher Kings, were the forces behind Nelly Furtado’s first two albums. Maybe it’s coincidence. Or maybe it is sign of a shared fate.
Either way, Anjulie seems to be emerging as Canada’s next big pop export. Here in the States, moviegoers can hear her song ‘Big Things’ during the opening credits of the Fame remake (starring Kelsey Grammer and Megan Mullally). There’s also Fefe Dobson’s latest album Joy. Anjulie confirms that she’s written four songs for Dobson, including the up-tempo ‘I Want You,” featured in the latest Drew Barrymore film Whip It.
But what about India? Will she visit soon? Yes, she says. “We are planning a show in India in the near future.” It will be Persaud’s first time in the country. “I’m dying to go,” she says. “It’s so rich with culture and history and food. I can’t wait.”
And neither can we.