Anika Paris honed her craft as a respected songwriter and background singer through much of the 1990s before landing a solo deal and releasing her debut album. Paris was born into a family rife with artistic talent. Her father is a respected classical conductor who worked with Duke Ellington and Leonard Bernstein; her mother is a poet and publisher of a literary magazine; her brother is a professional drummer, and her grandmother was a renowned flamenco dancer. Paris was something of a child prodigy; she wrote her first song at age five and began playing piano and attending concerts at age six. Her earliest influences were musicals, theater, and the works of Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Paris then discovered pop music and embraced Carole King, Elton John, James Taylor, and Billy Joel (particularly 1978's 52nd Street.) After graduating from Kansas University with degrees in music and film, Paris moved to New York and joined her brother's pop/jazz band. This endeavor didn't fully allow her to concentrate on songwriting, so she left the group. Paris' instincts were correct, because she soon won an ASCAP award as the best unsigned songwriter. She moved to Los Angeles in 1995 and quickly landed a job as a songwriter and background vocalist for popular Canadian singer Roch Voisine. For two years, Paris wrote songs with Voisine producer/collaborator Dean Landon. When they submitted demo tapes of songs, people kept asking who was singing on them. It was Paris herself, and this positive feedback led her to pursue a solo career. After Paris and Landon spent seven months writing and recording new songs, they asked their friend, music industry veteran Don Grierson, to send out copies of the demo tape and secure Paris a record deal. Within a few days, Edel America Records president Jonathan First heard Paris' demo and signed her immediately. Her debut, On Gardner Street, was released in 1999. ~ Bret Adams, Rovi