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Annet Artani: From “Everytime” to “Alive”

It was a very organic, sad experience, but I think that’s where the truth comes out.

While many people have heard Britney Spears‘ heartfelt ballad, “Everytime,” hardly anyone has ever heard the story behind its creation from the song’s co-writer herself.

After learning of her involvement in an interview about Britney for the upcoming NBC series called Killer Comebacks, I got in touch with Annet Artani to discuss her time spent working with Spears on the Dream Within A Dream tour, as well as their songwriting sessions together and her own musical plans for the future.

The Greek singer-songwriter first got her start with Britney after auditioning to become a back-up singer for Britney’s upcoming promotional tour. Though she had no idea what the job entailed, she assumed it was a one-off gig for Britney’s upcoming performance on The Rosie O’Donnell Show. Only hours after their performance on September 10, 2001, she was asked to join Spears and the rest of the tour crew for what would become the Dream Within A Dream Tour.

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Artani was unsure about whether or not to go on tour with Spears after having already generated buzz as a solo artist in New York. However, the events of the following day would quickly change her mind. “I needed to get out of the city. When they asked me to go on tour, I was like, ‘Absolutely,'” she explained of her decision. Looking back, Artani is proud to have chosen the tour rather than staying put. “It was an amazing experience, and an escape for me as well.”

The tour was also a brief time of romance for Artani, who struck up a relationship with the tour’s musical director for the duration of the show. “I was enamored, we fell in love from the beginning.”

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However, their relationship didn’t last long. “I was so young…It was just too much too quick,” she noted.

So how did she and Britney begin to write with each other? Their interactions up until the very end of the tour were brief, limited to vocal warm-up routines, short chats in the gym, and time spent together on stage. Finally, by the last date in Mexico City, Britney struck up conversation with the singer. “She was getting her nails done at the pool area. At one point, she called me over to tell me how cute me and the guy are and I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to last.’ She goes ‘What do you mean?’ and I was like, “Well, it looks like we’re going to break up,’ and she said ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to hang out with me.'”

Spears and Artani slowly began to forge a friendship following the tour’s end. “I didn’t expect her to call me, but then she did. She invited me to L.A., and then she invited me to Milan and I went with her to Donatella Versace’s fashion show.” According to Artani, their relationship grew out of their shared dating experiences at the time. “Basically, we commiserated because she, at that time, had broken up with Justin [Timberlake]. Maybe like nine months before, but of course it was really fresh in the media. I was just breaking up with this guy, so we kind of like–I think we kind of needed each other.”

As a result, Spears and Artani began to write together. “I was staying with her in her house in LA for a few weeks…she had a piano in the middle of her house, so, of course, we’d sit around and start writing.”

After spending time in L.A., the two traveled to Lake Como. “It was me and her, her stylist and Felicia, and we had this humongous house to ourselves, and they had a piano there as well.” From out of these sessions came a song called “Everytime,” a deeply personal, heartbroken ballad that displayed Spears at her weakest and most vulnerable state. “It was a very organic, sad experience, but I think that’s where the truth comes out,” Artani says of the songwriting process.

As most people had quickly assumed, “Everytime” was in large part a response to Justin Timberlake’s release of “Cry Me A River” as well as various radio interviews, including a particularly raunchy moment on Hot 97 which Artani cited as an all-too-personal moment on air. “He was talking shit about her at that time on the radio. He was getting personal. Here, she had a different type of image, and he was really exposing some stuff that she probably didn’t want out there, and in front of her little sister…I remember her sister being mortified and her being mortified. I’m sure that that really hurt her.”

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And so “Everytime” was born, although it wasn’t the only song to stem from the writing sessions in Lake Como. “There was a song…she basically started writing something for Jamie-Lynn, and we called it ‘Shine.’ It never came out, we never finished it…she was obviously very close to [Jamie-Lynn]. That song never came into fruition for some reason. I don’t even think we finished it, to be honest.”

Additionally, the two singers also started collaborating on a somewhat unexpected project–a film: “I started writing a screenplay when I was in Donatella’s house because I was staying in her daughter Allegra’s room and I was just really inspired in there. I started writing a screenplay about these two best friends, and then she and I were working on it on the airplane…it was an idea that we both started developing. We actually started to write a screenplay that we never finished.”

Though contact with Spears has since slowly diminished following their songwriting sessions after the Dream Within A Dream Tour, Artani remains grateful for her experience and the time spent working with Britney.

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Since then, Artani has stepped out from the sidelines and begun venturing on her own solo endeavor. Along with the release of her latest single, “Alive,” which premiered last year (click here to check out the video), the up-and-coming artist is now making steps to recording her first album.

In 2005, the singer was chosen to enter Greece’s Fame Story, a kind of American Idol spin-off in Greece. Though personally responsible for some of the highest ratings the program ever received, she soon walked off the show after refusing to sign an extended recording contract in Greece. “I got a record deal anyway, and I put out two gold albums. I wound up touring on my own as a pop artist all over Europe, all over Australia,” she explained of her fame at the time. A year later, she was chosen to represent Cyprus in 2006’s Eurovision with the song, “Why Angels Cry.”

Shuttling between the U.S. and Greece, Artani finally found a management team and home stateside with Ultra Records in the past few years, although she’s currently being serviced to larger labels for her eventual debut’s distribution.

As she explained to me, the album is progressing–albeit slowly–as she continues to find the right collaborators to create a distinct, Mediterranean-inspired sound. “It’s not about getting the producer, it’s about getting the combination of two producers together who understand what I want to do that’s never been done. I don’t want to show them something and have them recreate it–I want to create something from scratch. It’s going to be a whole new thing,” she explained of her desired sound.

“Basically it’s like, and I hate to compare, sort of like if P!nk and Katy Perry were from the Mediterranean. There’s a little bit of that Shakira ethnicity, but hers is more Latin and Middle Eastern, whereas mine is more Mediterranean. It’s authentic to who I am,” she says of her upcoming music. “People haven’t really tapped into the Mediterranean thing.”

To hear more from Artani, check out her music on iTunes here, as well as her MySpace here.