Real Wild Child
by Jay S. Jacobs
The dream isn’t an uncommon one. A young Connecticut girl gets a job working for her cousin. This cousin just happens to be the right hand-person for the biggest concert promoter in New York. And despite the fact that the job is just a glorified gopher position, she is thrust into a sparkling new world of rock stars, limos, craft services and backstage parties. Pretty heady stuff. The girl suddenly realizes that she wants to be part of this electric lifestyle. She wants to be…
This is where Rosey throws us a change-up. She never fantasized being the adored musician. In a little more unusual urge, Rosey daydreamed of being an A&R exec. The person pulling strings behind-the-scenes. And Rosey was well on her way to realizing this goal before she ever seriously considered being an artist in her own right. “I was fifteen, so… it was very exciting,” Rosey smiles, looking back. “To say the least. So I decided that was definitely the world I wanted to live in, and work in, and make a career in. So from that point on I surrounded myself with bands.”
Rosey threw herself into it in any way she could. She was a photographer, so she started taking pictures of groups. She also had always made clothes, so she became a style consultant for up-and-comers. Soon she was taking management seminars while still in high school, setting up gigs for local bands. After high school graduation Rosey went to a communications college determined to learn all there was to know about the business of music. Just trying to figure out everything. Taking courses in TV production. Working as a college DJ. Booking acts for local clubs, working the doors and doing all the promotions. Taking internships at radio stations and seven or eight record labels.
“Sort of scanning the entertainment sphere… But it was basically the record labels that were in the end the most interesting to me. Out of school I got a gig as an A&R scout. That was really cool, although it didn’t pay really anything… I was coming into work and I was trying to get the label to sign these different groups who were my friends. I created a buzz for a couple bands and got them signed to other labels. But that was cool, record deals all around, you know… I thought it was the first step to the rest of my life.” Rosey laughs, “And it was in a way…”
With her total immersion into the lifestyle, it was probably only natural that Rosey also was experimenting with the creative urges of the music business, too. She had been singing for years, but mostly in choirs and structured group settings, so she never knew if she had the goods to carry the tune alone. Rosey’s first sign that she might be unusually talented came back when she was in college. She would sit in her dorm room, crank up Aretha Franklin and sing along. It wasn’t anything she was doing to show off, she was just lost in the music. But her neighbors kept commenting that she had quite a voice on her.
By the time she was working at the label, Rosey took her first tentative steps into writing songs. “I probably had like four songs tops,” Rosey says. “I came in one day with my guitar to play for this band who had inspired me a lot, Sixteen Horsepower. They were making a record at the studio where the offices were. I had written a song for them and wanted to play it for them. I was kind of practicing it, working on it. My boss heard me and he was just shocked. He couldn’t believe that this whole time that he had known me, the last year and a half or something, that I was a musician. That was never really let on because I wasn’t really trying to make that a career. That was just way too scary and off the deep end for me.”
Her boss convinced Rosey that she was wasting her time trying to break other artists, she should be working on her own career. Finally Rosey took the plunge. She gave up her job and threw herself into writing songs. She marketed herself, setting up gigs and tours for herself. For money, she worked as a waitress at a local restaurant where lots of music execs hung out. As a fringe benefit to the job, she was able to hand out demo tapes with the entrees. There was a lot of positive feedback on her work. Eventually Island Records signed her.
Rosey admits her background on the other side may have been an aid in getting her own career going. “It definitely helps. [But] life is trial and error, so I definitely had to make a lot of mistakes to figure out what I wanted. One thing that I was very careful about was trying to protect myself and my interests. It took me a long time to choose a manager. I finally just chose one January. So I got myself my record deal. And I probably could have gotten myself a much better deal if I had some big-shot manager. But I didn’t… I just hadn’t met the right person. That was one thing that I was sure I would wait until the bitter end until I entrust my life and career to someone else.”
Another thing that had to be a perfect fit was finding a producer. But this process was easier. She had met with quite a few producers, but all were forgotten once she came across Darryl Swann, who also produces Macy Gray. It was even a bit of a fluke that she ever met him. Swann’s manager was actually planning on pitching Rosey to another producer, but Swann was in the office and asked to hear the demo.
“He heard it and said ‘is she Mexican? Is she black?’ A lot of times on that early stuff people would hear it and they had no idea that I’m this blonde chick from Connecticut,” Rosey laughs. Rosey’s A&R rep met with Swann and called her to say that she’d found the guy. She gave Rosey his phone number and they spoke on the phone for three hours. Rosey had been daydreaming about doing the record in Los Angeles. She’d been in the New York area most of her life and needed a change of scenery.
When Swann told that Rosey she would have to come out and record in LA, “I said fantastic, where do I sign up? Because I just loved talking to him and we basically shared a lot of the same vision. So it felt like this is going to work. It ended up taking so long to make the record, because he was making my record and Macy Gray’s new record simultaneously. I ended up moving there and I hope that I can make more and more records with him. He’s the funniest person I’ve ever met in my life.”
The first real buzz that Rosey spurred in the label happened quite by accident. Rosey had just gotten off an all-night mixing session and was dropping off some tapes to the label. She laughingly admits she looked a mess, she just wanted to get home and get some sleep. But it happened that some execs from Miramax Pictures were there, looking for songs to use in their new Renee Zellweger/Hugh Grant comedy Bridget Jones’s Diary. Even though he hadn’t heard the new recording of the song, West Coast A&R head Paul Pontius told the execs that they would love Rosey’s song “Love,” sort of a psychedelic hip-hop song. “Everybody listened to it all together for the first time,” Rosey said. “So it was kind of dangerous, but it turned out that everybody loved the song. It was great because the people from Miramax, their excitement created so much more excitement for me on a label level.” The song not only was used in the movie but became one of the featured tracks on the soundtrack album. Finally Rosey’s name was out there.
Another film soundtrack would come her way before Rosey was completed with her debut album Dirty Child. That was more of a last minute, casual thing. Rosey was told The Farrelly Brothers had heard her dance song “Afterlife” and wanted to use it in their new film Shallow Hal and the soundtrack album. “I saw the movie and it was really neat because it’s right when Jack Black meets Gwenyth Paltrow and he calls her Rosey and she says, ‘Rosey, only my mom calls me Rosey.’ And he goes ‘well, that’s what I want to call you.’ And then my song starts.”
It turns out that just six months later Rosey’s debut album is finally ready and “Afterlife” has been pegged as the first single from it. Rosey says it wasn’t planned that it was going to be the single when the song was released in Shallow Hal, but she’s cool with it. “I didn’t know it would be the first single. I thought that ‘Love’ was going to be. I was almost positive. Then that just kind of happened. Which is fine. I’m fine if they want to push a single. Please, push a single. I’m not going to argue with that.”
These tasty soundtrack morsels kick off the debut, but they are just a small taste of the riches in Dirty Child. Musically the album is all over the map, but in a good way… Rosey confidently straddles styles and genres with a sure-footedness of someone who has been recording for years. There are straight dance songs like the catchy “One.” “Love” is a cool mesh of psychedelic instrumentation and vocals with a hip-hop backbeat. “The Time” is a lovely pop-rock shuffler, there is straight bluesy stuff like “My Baby,” (which picks up even more of an old-fashioned feel from sampled record crackles and pops throughout.) There are also heartfelt ballads like simple devotional “Heaven.”
“That’s very much a part of my musical personality,” Rosey laughs. “I have like probably a hundred songs and they span many different styles. Like, I have a lot of jazzy songs and I don’t know, a lot of folk songs. Just all kinds of shit. Trip-hop and straight rock songs. We actually recorded a couple but they didn’t make the record. As you probably know, this is not a good time for women in rock and roll. But I’m hoping that is slowly starting to change…”
Perhaps the most stunning moment on the album though is “Beautiful,” a heartbreaking ballad of love gone wrong and its effect on the self-esteem. Rosey obviously tapped in on feelings very close to her. Even talking about what inspired the song now, she becomes a little hushed and laughs nervously. “Oh, just terrible loneliness, basically. My heart was shattered. This person I loved was gone from my life. All I wanted to feel was the way I felt when I was in love. The only way I could let that go away and get over it was to write that song. But I still listen to it and so many times feel like I’m just in that same spot. It’s so weird.”
Rosey refers to her sound as urban rock and roll. “It’s rock and roll because it’s mainly live instruments, lots of guitar and it’s based out of the blues, more or less, where rock and roll came from. And it’s urban because it has a definite hip-hop vibe to the grooves. Some of the beats and weaves and some programming and some DJ stuff. I wrote a lot of those songs in New York just walking down the street. You know, just taking in the vibe of the city and just trying to translate it to music.”
Rosey tries to capture many of the styles and artists she has listened to over the years. She loves John Lee Hooker and is constantly playing his stuff in her car, so it only seems natural to record the blues. Aretha instilled a great love of soul. Joni Mitchell taught her the great power a folk narrative can convey. “These old blues guys are my favorites. John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy. I love Ray Charles. Billie Holiday. Memphis Minnie. Nina Simone. It’s funny, I make these lists and I’m like, wait, I have to put some white people on there,” she laughs. “I love Jeff Buckley and P.J. Harvey and Radiohead. But for the most part I’m just so moved by some of those old blues and soul singers.”
Sometimes she even channels some artists she doesn’t know. When I mention that “Cozy” sounds like a great old lost Rickie Lee Jones tune, Rosey admits sheepishly, “Honestly, a lot of people tell me that I sound like her, and I really don’t know her music. I feel kind of lame about that. I’m gonna make some money and I’m gonna buy all her records since I never have, you know? And a nice big room to put them all.”
Rosey describes her writing process with as much self-depreciating good humor as she does the rest of her life. “Oh, I think it’s a very good balance of inspiration and confusion,” Rosey laughs, “and fear and elation. I think that those songs are definitely very therapeutic for me… When I started writing those first songs, the freedom that it gave me… that creative outlet… I needed [it] so badly. Because I just felt that I was in so much turmoil before that. When that channel opened, and that freedom started to come out and I started to feel free inside, finally… I think that inspired me more than anything else. I was determined to take what I had found and try to help other people kind of lose themselves too. I think everybody has a creative outlet. Not everybody is supposed to be a rock and roll singer. But I felt like if more people could find that outlet they’d inspire themselves so much more.”
And so now, Rosey is finally able to live the dream. It may be a little early to call her a rock star, but wouldn’t it be a cool world if she does become one? Either way, she has made it into the big leagues. “A lot of my friends are calling me now and they’re starting to hear me being played on stations,” Rosey says. “It’s so mind-blowing.” Life has become a much a greater fantasy than she had even dared to hope as a little girl. And it’s only beginning.
|#1 Copyright 2002. Island/Def Jam Records. All Rights Reserved.
#2 Copyright 2002. Island/Def Jam Records. All Rights Reserved.
#3 Copyright 2002. Island/Def Jam Records. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright ©2002 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 25, 2002.