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I had the honour of speaking to one of my favourite artists, Rosie Lowe, who released (in my opinion) the best album of 2016 – ‘Control’. Her music is a soulful mélange of R&B, soul and electronic music, and if you haven’t heard of her already, you are *seriously* missing out…
I first discovered your music back in 2015 when your song ‘Who’s That Girl’ appeared on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist. I love the video for that song, it’s very atmospheric… what was the inspiration behind it?
I had wanted to work with Dave from a company called Bison for ages and I knew that I really wanted it to be a ‘one-shot’ video. He’s a very technical director, which I really love, it suits my style. I thought about what colours I wanted and the kind of lighting. When I’m writing music, I usually have ideas for videos flowing through my mind, if not I associated certain colours with some songs, because they relate to how I felt when I was writing it. A lot of the veil imagery in the video and the cover art was to do with the idea of feeling insecure or hiding myself.
You seem to use your Tumblr page (inspiration.rosielowe.com) as a mood board, which sums up your style and aesthetic. Someone who features a lot on that page is Kate Moss, how much of an inspiration is she to you?
R: She’s incredible, I love the way she comes across in her pictures. I feel like you can feel her personality in them. And that’s the goal for me with my music, to be authentic in the same way, for the true essence of me and my emotions to come through in the music. I love how understated she is. I also love how she’s not too sucked into the fashion world, she’s not interested in press and she never does any bad interviews, that’s why she’s so timeless and her brand is so strong. I think she’s the last proper supermodel we’ll ever witness.
How does it feel now that your debut album ‘Control’ has been out for over a year?
R: It feels really good, I’m still as proud of it as when I first released it and I think it was the right record for me to put out at that time in my life. The last year has been a real journey, my expectations are pretty low when I put out a record because I just make music for myself really, but there are some days when external factors, like all of the numbers and figures, try to influence the process, but I try really hard to ignore it.
You worked with Dave Okumu (from The Invisible) on the record, what’s he like to work with?
R: An absolute dream. It’s such a personal thing to give your songs to someone else to work on, I don’t think I could’ve let anyone else work on them. He was very sensitive to the narrative and the emotions behind it, he facilitated and supported the process. There was an unspoken understanding between us and he really gets my ‘sound’. I write all the demos and give Dave some space to develop them a bit, because I know that having space is really important for me. But he never came back with something I didn’t like. I’m working with him on my next album, which is rare because labels often try to set you up with the ‘next big producer’. Whilst I am open to working with other people, I want the core of it to be me and Dave, because I think we have something really special and a lot of the best albums are made in this way. It brings consistency to an artist’s work. A lot of other artists I know are being put through what I call the ‘speed dating’ of the industry. They’re being made to work with different producers every week until they find the ‘right’ one for them.
You’ve been a very vocal fan of Erykah Badu and have cited her as one of your biggest influences, what has always attracted you to her music?
R: Her playfulness… I aspire to be more playful in my music. Her lyrics are hilarious! She’s got a really special soul and that comes across in her music. I remember the first time I heard her, my mum and my sister are big fans of her as well. Erykah’s music was quite central to my relationship with them. For me, she embodies a very strong woman, she’s very feminine but she has so much strength.
Your most famous fan is Sir Elton John and you performed with him at Apple Music Festival last year, what’s your relationship with him now?
R: Well, I don’t go to Sunday tea with him if that’s what you mean! [laughs] We hung out quite a bit at The Roundhouse for that festival and he’d been in touch before that, which was just an incredible honour. He’s a real legend. I saw him at a party at Christmas, he’s very lovely and kind. I recently signed to his management company as well, so hopefully our relationship will continue!
You reworked your single ‘So Human’ and added Little Simz to the track, how did that collaboration come about?
R: We’re mutual fans of each other’s work, I love her. She got in touch about collaborating for her album but I wasn’t free at the time. She’s so humble, polite and sweet. She deserves all of her success.
You did an amazing cover of ‘Twice’ by Little Dragon for BBC Radio 1’s Piano Sessions and it genuinely gave me chills, what made you choose that song in particular?
R: I just love Little Dragon really… Yukimi [Nagano] is such a phenomenal, captivating performer. I’m a huge fan of them!
What can we expect from your next record?
R: It’s still in its quite early stages… I’d like it to be more ‘live’, with more musicians onstage rather than through doing everything through computers and synths. I’m trying to be more playful like Erykah, because I’m in a much better place mentally at the moment. It might be a bit more ‘jazzy’, but it’s not going to be a jazz record. I wrote the last record on my own in my dad’s house in Devon and it was more insular. I’m writing with more people and trying to be more collaborative for this next record. I’m trying things out in a live capacity before I try to record stuff, I want to make sure that it sounds great live as well as on record. I’m hoping to put some singles out or maybe an EP in the meantime. I’m really blessed to have Wolf Tone as my label, they’re really supportive.
I love that ‘Control’ is just a one-word album title, because it’s a very strong word with lots of connotations. Do you think that’s something you’d continue with in the future?
R: I’d like to, I’m a fan of albums with one-word titles, they can be very powerful when it’s the right word. I found the title ‘Control’ towards the end of the process of making my debut album, so I don’t think I’ll have a title in mind for this next one until I’ve almost finished it.
‘Control’ was released via Wolf Tone last year. Rosie is currently in the process of writing her sophomore album.