She was so shocked by the email, she had to go through it twice for the news to register. Hannah Anderson had just finished reading Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, last August when the former first lady’s podcast team contacted her, asking permission to use her song “Love Me Right” in an episode. She thought it was a scam, but later on Instagram, she saw Obama had already included the song on her “Black Girl Magic” playlist.
“It was so surreal,” Anderson says. “How is this possible that I’m over here reading her book, and she’s over there listening to my song?”
It’s been a long journey to get to this point. The 27-year-old Houston native (she moved to LA when she was 22, but moved back to Houston in early 2020) has been writing music for the past decade, but she didn’t begin to find success until 2019, when she switched to her stage name, Sister. Her brother actually picked it out, although she passed off his suggestion at first. But after a year of ruminating on different names, Anderson realized her brother had gotten it right. “Really, it’s the nature of me,” she says. “I feel like I am a sister, a friend, a companion. I guess it’s this whole idea of creating community and finding support.”
That idea flows through her 2019 EP, Going through Some Things. In it, with a voice that’s reminiscent of a smoky coffeehouse—think Alicia Keys, Lana Del Rey, and Norah Jones—she sings about vulnerability and self-identity, embracing how everyone has something on their plate. The music itself is ethereal and sultry, drawing on jazz, soul, and pop influences. The EP was the first time in Anderson’s career that her music reflected her, she says. “As a person, as a musician, as a writer.”
Born in Spring Branch, the third of five kids, Anderson and her family bounced around Houston as she grew up, moving to Bear Creek, Spring, and other neighborhoods. Her family was religious, and her mother homeschooled the kids, which Anderson says gave her time to learn music. She’d finish her lessons at noon, then spend the rest of the afternoon pursuing different creative projects. Though they didn’t have a lot of money, her parents—her father’s an architect and her mother has a background in fashion—always fostered artistic expression. Art supplies were plentiful, and Anderson developed as a painter. And while she was jealous of other kids who got to wear new clothes, she learned to embrace the thrift stores the family shopped at, which helped her develop an eclectic style all her own.
Today, the singer is known for her colorful, flowery, and over-the-top fashions, regardless of whether they’re trendy or “right” for her body type. Case in point: She dons a thrifted vintage Victoria's Secret silk pajama top, a bedsheet-turned-dress, and a puffer coat that she stitched red hearts onto for her “Love Me Right” video. She’s even worked as a social media influencer for Reebok, Teen Vogue, and ASOS—“It’s just all part of me and my way of showing myself to the world,” she says—but make no mistake about it, her most sacred form of self-expression is her music.
In terms of where she goes from here, Anderson released her 2019 EP on vinyl in 2020 and is currently working on another EP that she’ll release in early 2021. Oh, and did we mention she did a livestream “Living Room Concert” back in March 2020 with Kristen Bell?
As for right now, Anderson says she’s living her dream. “It’s cool to see that the things I’ve always wanted are happening.”