Northern Virginia musician Anees had just released his single “Slip” and was quickly gaining popularity last April when celebrity fan Justin Bieber made a surprise visit to one of his Instagram livestreams.
A year after that unexpected cameo and on the verge of his first tour, Anees’s fame has continued to grow—his song “Sun and Moon,” released in April, is climbing past 32 million Spotify listens. We caught up with him to discuss his career, his new track, and his life after the “Bieber boom.”
What’s the story behind “Sun and Moon?”
I think it depends who you ask. For me, it’s a love song, and it’s clearly a love song, and I wrote it about my wife. It’s a romantic little lullaby. But this is something I’ve learned: Once you release a song, the universe gets to decide what it really means. The first trend that came with this song was a father-daughter trend. It was just like, dozens of thousands of fathers showcasing their daughters on Instagram Reels and showing them love with my song in the background. So to some people it’s a song for their daughter; for some people it’s a song for their son. For me, it’s a song for my wife. But I think the overarching consensus is that it’s a song for the person you love the most.
What gave you the idea for the music video?
The whole point of the song is it’s like a devotional poem, so it felt natural to put the music video and set it on a stage in a small little auditorium that maybe even felt like a spoken word vibe. I wanted to put it where there’s me, there’s her, and then there’s a bunch of mannequins, because really, even though they take up the seats, they’re not even real, it’s still just a one-on-one.
How does it feel knowing a whole generation of children are coming up on your music?
As an artist, I don’t think you could ask for anything more beautiful than for children to be listening to your music. Children have the purest spirits, purest heart, purest ears. If they are getting down with your music, you’re doing something right in my opinion. I don’t say this just to be poetic, but, like, that’s more important than a Grammy.
You’ve said before that you’ve written songs about your wife. Is she your main inspiration?
It’s a trinity of her, God, and nature. I think a third of the time I go outside and nature just compels me to write something, because I really find peace and center and creative inspiration from the blue in the sky, the green in the grass. God: I’m a person of faith; I think all music is inherently spiritual. I’d say my wife, if there was a larger third of all thirds, it would be her. I think specifically of her more than anything else when I write my songs.
“Sun and Moon” has over 20 million more listens on Spotify than your next most popular song, “Slip.” Why do you think so many people have connected with it?
I finally found a way to make music that is open to all people. “Slip,” it’s an awesome song, but I wrote it from my rapper mind. I was trying to get as many words in it as possible, because at the time I don’t think I had learned yet how best to write with melody and with space. As I’ve evolved in every part of my craft, I’ve learned that you don’t need to fill every gap in a song and that people love space, because space allows people to fill in the gaps on their own.
You post a lot of fan covers. Not everybody takes the time to do that.
I can’t imagine not reposting these fan covers, they’re so so so good. I’ll never stop being a fan myself of the artists that I’m a fan of. The goal of an artist is to create art that tells the story of your human experience in a way that other people feel personally. I share these covers because they make me realize how much this song means outside of myself. My fans are everything.
How did your career change after Justin Bieber made his unexpected cameo?
Shout out to Washingtonian for showing me love from the very beginning and being one of the only publications that I’ve run it back with for multiple interviews. But yeah, that moment last April was pivotal for me. It opened a million doors.
What do you like best about being a DMV artist?
We live in an area of such rich culture. DC is this hub where there’s people from all different backgrounds. There are some really homogenous areas in this country, and DC is just not one of them. This area loves music and it loves supporting its own. It loves promoting its own local artists, and so, although I’m not the only incredible artist from this area, I feel proud to be one of them.
Anees will head to the East Coast for his first tour starting July 15, and will finish with a birthday show back in DC on July 30. Tickets should be available soon.
This interview has been edited and condensed.