Imagine growing up in a little house in the middle of nowhere – six siblings to entertain you, in lieu of a TV. This would be enough to drive most people insane, but instead it drove Rosie Lowe to music – the craft this Devon-raised songwriter has been honing for the past 15 years.
She released her debut EP, The Right Thing, at the end of last year, and, with its brittle lyrics and ’90s R&B undertones, she’s being compared to other young, female, music wunderkinds FKA twigs, Grimes and Lorde.
Even though she’d rather her music, and not her “long brown hair” was the source for comparison, Rosie Lowe admits there are worse people than incredibly talented, independent young women to be compared to, and also acknowledges that they probably all grew up listening to the Spice Girls anyway.
But her musical influences extend much further than these neat little categorisations – from the multi-instrumentality of Erykah Badu, to the honest storytelling of Joni Mitchell, Carole King and beyond.
It’s with honesty akin to the latter that she approached writing her debut album, which will be released later this year, and here Rosie explains why, as a musician, being genuine is the most important thing you can do.
Hey Rosie! How are you? Do you remember when you first became interested in making music?
Hi! Well, I grew up in very rural Devon. There were six children and we didn’t have TV – we didn’t even have a signal!
We had a very basic upbringing, my Dad was a musician and my Mum was an artist, and so music was a huge part of the house. I started singing and playing very young, and from what I remember that’s all I ever wanted to do.
I became obsessed with jazz music – I used to sit in the car when my Dad was teaching music lessons and put on my Ella Fitzgerald backing track and sing along to her, and I think that’s where I found my voice.
Honestly, I never thought about doing anything else. Obviously I went through school and everything, and I was mildly academic. But I spent all my spare time at school in the music block practicing and playing.
It was totally to do with my surroundings and upbringing and it must be in my blood or something from my Dad – my siblings and I all play, and we all love playing.
When I started using Logic was the first time I gained control of my own music – I could do it on my own without anyone else. I built my own confidence through being able to record myself and come up with my own sounds.
Was it an organic process to get to the sound you have today?
Yeah it was quite organic because in my house there was so much music played, it’s hard to pinpoint what the huge influences were.
As a female, Erykah Badu is a huge influence to me, and as a female musician she taught me you could do it all – it wasn’t just a voice on male music, it was everything, and that was hugely inspirational. Jill Scott and Chaka Khan, and the list goes on – the Spice Girls of course!
– Did you see the Spice Girls have just released four previously unreleased songs?!
No! Are you serious?
– Yeah! There’s for demos from the Forever album sessions that they’ve released today that no-one’s heard before. You’ll have to check them out after this haha…
Seriously?! Why is that not on BBC news?! I can’t work out why that is not breaking news! Haha, those are my plans for the rest of the night, then.
I’ve never thought, “Oh I want my music to be like this”, it’s just been natural, because I write it all and I never allow myself to get into the headset where I’m thinking about how I want it to sound. I just write it how it comes and I put it into boxes after, which is absolutely fine. I think that when I’m writing it I try not to think about any of that.
I had an interesting interview recently where the interviewer noted that there were so many female vocalists at the moment and asked how I separated myself from them. I think the thing with music is that everyone has their own voice and I think that’s really special – everyone has their own tone, which is affected by the experiences they’ve had. It’s so deep, so a lot of it is beyond control.
I was going to ask, since you’ve been getting press you’ve been categorised into this group of female musicians who are “so hot right now”, or whatever. How does it feel to be compared to them?
I think that all of these young women I’m compared to are hugely inspiring in their own way, so that’s exciting – there’s no-one I’m compared to who I’m like “woaaaaah”. I have huge respect for these women, totally, and I totally support what they do.
Sometimes it feels like as a woman you can be quite misunderstood just because you’re female, I guess. I wonder if men are compared in the same way – so particularly. I think it’s kind of part of where we’re at. I’m not going to lie, it can be quite hard these days because you’re always compared to one or two people in particular, in the way of “the next This Person”, which is what I find hard because I always want to say that people don’t become musicians overnight. I didn’t just see someone and go “oh I’m going to be like them” – I’ve been working on this my whole life, I’ve been working on this every day for 15 years.
Obviously the people we’re all compared to are all similar age and similar background of listening to music – the Spice Girls is probably in there for all of us haha – and so obviously there’s going to be a kinship within our music.
When I look at the people I’m compared to I get what they’re saying because we’ve all got this electronic element and we’ve all got this ’90s R&B element, but I definitely think we’re all trying to do something different, so sometimes it’s quite frustrating. But, there are a lot worse people who you can be compared to in the world, so to be compared to young women in the industry who are writing incredible music, I can’t really complain.
Yeah totally. I wonder: how do you feel discussing being a woman in music at all? Because some female musicians I ask want to discuss it, while others don’t want to discuss it and think it’s derogatory – that we should be talking as them as musicians, and not as women. But then there’s still gender inequality in the industry, so shouldn’t we be discussing it?
I think it’s really key to talk about it because it’s important that there’s no difference. There’s so much that has changed for the better, but when I get compared to another male musician, I can kind of relate to that more because they’re usually just talking about the music. But if you’ve got long dark hair you’re compared to another girl who has long dark hair, and that stuff is quite hard.
So you’ve been writing your debut album, which is exciting. What did you want to do on it going in?
On this album I really just wanted to concentrate on writing, because that’s where the real passion lies for me. I wanted it to be as honest as it possibly could, so that’s what it is. It’s definitely pretty soul-baring in places.
I went back home to Devon for quite a lot of the time and set up my studio in my brother’s old room, and wrote and wrote and wrote. It was a bit of counselling for myself and I’m super proud of it. I never thought I’d have the chance to write a debut album – that just wasn’t in my head. It’s a dream come true and to say I’m proud of it is just something else.
You mentioned that it’s super honest and soul-baring. I guess that means the lyrics are about your personal experiences?
Yeah, I’ve always been drawn to that music. As a kid I loved Joni Mitchell, I loved Carole King, I loved songwriters that were honest, and today those are still the songs I’m drawn towards and the ones that really touch me and help me through my life. That’s what music is about – soul-baring, something that you can relate to and something that can help you when you need it.
Are you nevous or excited about putting something so personal out there?
You know what? I get so nervous about writing it and no! I’m not nervous about putting it out at all. I feel like I’ve done all I can do, and it’s just out there. It’s not about getting a song on the radio or getting however many views. That’s stuff’s great, but that’s just take it or leave it. If I get emails saying it’s touched one person I’m like “awesome!” It’ reminds me why I’m doing it. If that song has touched one person out of 20, 000 then that’s fine, I’ve done my job.
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