ANNA Buckingham is 30 minutes late, due to M1 roadworks, when she bounces down the Merewether Surfhouse steps in a flurry to greet Weekender on the beach promenade.
"Come on, give me a hug. I'm a real hugger," she says.
The afternoon August sun is shining with a spring-like warmth and below the surf - swollen from an east coast low - is pumping.
But immediately on meeting Anna the environment is pushed to the periphery. Dressed in a baggy black jumper, Converse shoes, a pink boiler suit and hair band, the 27-year-old could pass for any other Novocastrian enjoying Merewether's famous coastline.
However, you only have to spend a minute in Anna's effervescent presence to know she's different. She's a natural entertainer.
Whether it's rattling off stories littered with impersonations of record label bosses (who are almost always posh or cockney Englishmen), breaking into songs like Christina Aguilera's Come On Over (All I Want is You) or being blatantly honest about the peaks and troughs of her journey; Anna is lively company.
"I love to perform, it's my favourite thing," she says. "Give me a million people in a room and I'll go off. Give me two people in a room, I'll go off. It's what I live for."
The days of Anna performing to a room of two people have long passed. A fortnight ago she released her second solo single Sick Of Loving You, under her stage name BOI (pronounced boy).
"I actually called myself BOI to make a statement and say why not?" says Anna. "Why is blue a boy's colour, why is pink a girl's colour and challenge stereotypes.
"I'm a girl who calls herself BOI and it came about because I wanted to give myself a name that wasn't myself, because at the time I needed a superpower because I didn't feel as powerful as I used to.
"To become BOI, or write as BOI, was my mask I could wear and say all the things that Anna wanted to say."
Sick Of Loving You was preceded by BOI's debut single Imaginary Boys in June, and collectively the tracks have attracted more than 1 million streams.
Both electro-pop tracks have been wholeheartedly embraced by triple j with presenter Declan Byrne, writing that Sick Of Loving You, "could be the work of a global pop star, instead it's BOI hitting it out of the park. More of this and there won't be an 'instead' in that sentence for long."
BOI has also collaborated with Australian producers L D R U and Godlands and she has shared the stage with American DJ duo The Chainsmokers.
However, BOI's biggest break came at Splendour In The Grass last year when she performed with L D R U.
Backstage she met artist-producer Xavier Dunn (Jack River, Peking Duk) and gave him a demo of a song called F--ked Up Family, which was passed on to Outpost Management director Mark Richardson.
With 35 years experience in the music industry at major labels Virgin and CBS Records, the UK-born Melbourne-based Richardson has an eye and ear for talent. He's worked with Paula Abdul and Jamiroquai and is credited with discovering Kiwi pop singer Kimbra at 17 and guiding her towards her Grammy Award-winning duet, Somebody That I Used To Know, with Goyte.
"The first thing that got my attention was her lyrics - the stories and narrative are raw and real and paint an authentic picture, that she's experienced these moments," Richardson says.
"Anna's voice has a quality and a soulfulness, her delivery emotes she has a deep connection to the lyrics. When we met, her energy and passion were overwhelming - bordering on crazy - if Pink and Jim Carrey had a daughter it would be Anna.
"She is a force and has the work ethic to match. She's been around enough and has had enough experience to know the commitment she needs to have to make this happen. I don't think she realises she's as good as she is."
Two months after Splendour BOI joined Outpost and in December she signed a publishing deal with Universal Music.
"He's a great mentor and somebody who believes in me and that's what I needed, someone to believe in me more than I did myself," Anna says of Richardson. "Because I was losing it."
THE emergence of BOI in the Australian pop scene may, on the surface, appear sudden, but it's been the result of more than a decade of grafting for recognition.
Anna grew up around Hamilton and Eleebana where from a primary school age she was fascinated with acting. That passion was fuelled by appearing in numerous Young People's Theatre Newcastle productions, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Bugsy Malone.
"I loved the camaraderie of the people you're in a show with, or in a band with," Anna says. "That's what I really loved about it. The family you made at the time around making something."
Anna's love of entertaining grew at Broadmeadow's Hunter School of the Performing Arts and at 15 she starting singing and writing songs with her older brother James.
By 2010 James (vocals, guitar) and Anna (keyboards, vocals) had formed the indie-pop four-piece Nova and the Experience with fellow Novocastrians Laurie Mahon (drums) and Jake Asser (bass).
The four-piece took their cues from indie-folk acts like Angus and Julia Stone and Of Monsters and Men on their early EPs Alfresco Disco (2010) There's Something Here (2013) and Where We Go (2014), before they attempted a more polished radio-friendly pop sound on their 2015 single Whole Body.
Meanwhile, James was working as an actor playing William the Wizard on Channel Nine children's TV show Magical Tales.
Nova and the Experience moved to Sydney and became moderately successful, despite never attracting mass triple j or commercial radio support. In 2014 they performed at a New York industry showcase, CMJ, and in March 2016 they won $15,000 in a Sydney band competition.
However, just as Nova and the Experience appeared to be finally breaking through, Anna discovered the prizemoney would be used to service an existing debt. Desperately unhappy she quit the band shortly after and Nova and the Experience performed farewell shows at Newcastle's Small Ballroom and in Sydney in June 2016.
The band's collapse led to a bitter falling out between brother and sister.
"James had all the determination, like what I now have for my own brand, but my thoughts were in five different ponds," Anna says. "I was swimming, but not getting closer to any of them.
"The odd thing is it was probably a bit of an ego thing with my brother. If James did what he did best and left me to do what I did best it probably would have worked.
"I wasn't making any money so I wasn't benefiting from it to live more comfortably. I was still scratching for chips and doing a [public relations] degree at uni that I hated and wasn't being fulfilled with.
"I felt like I lost my voice in the creative process of writing."
From there Anna plummeted into depression, fracturing relationships with her brother, bandmates and boyfriend in the same week. She moved back to Newcastle and spent two days crying at the house of Luke Rundle, aka EDM producer James Crooks.
It proved an important step because Anna used her anguish to write Made Me with Crooks, with its barbed chorus of "When I worked all you did was blame me/ You think you f--king made me," aimed at her brother.
"I was so good at pretending I'm OK, but for the first time in my life I was like, 'Wow I don't know what I'm going to do with my life'," Anna says. "I thought I was going to be a singer and now I'm not in the band anymore."
Three years on the relationship between the Buckingham siblings remains strained. James currently lives in London where he works as an actor.
Asked for his thoughts on the emergence of BOI, James told Weekender: "Anna and I are both big personalities and when you are already siblings and forced to work so closely with each other it can become pretty toxic.
"One thing I will say is that no one believed in Anna more than myself and our bandmates and it took Anna pushing everyone who cared about her in her life away for her to suddenly look inwards enough to believe in herself.
"The silver lining is that any pain she felt or caused during that time is now being fed into some awesome songs she is writing."
BOI is only in its infancy, but Anna, and Universal, have high hopes. Imaginary Boys and Sick Of Loving You have been released internationally and she has another 35 tracks waiting to be unleashed.
Anna has also become an in-demand topliner (industry jargon or someone who writes a song over a pre-made beat) and hopes to continue making quirky pop in the vein of her musical hero, Sia.
But most importantly, Anna wants to follow her dreams and creative aspirations as her own person.
And to ensure she maintains that path, she has a mantra of sorts, which she repeats to herself: "Be bold, be BOI."