Rachel Rose has been playing music for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that she started to craft her own music. When Rachel admits the 5 tracks off her excellent debut soulful R&B EP 100/10/1 were her first songs written it is hard to believe. With a simple release of carefully produced beats and powerful vocals, the Connecticut born, Austin launched, Brooklyn based soul singer-songwriter sounds as if she’s been a veteran of the industry for years. Rachel tells me, “I never really got into songwriting until I moved to New York and I was like, ‘I wanna release a record, but I’m going to write my own songs to do it.’
That sort of confidence is necessary if you want to stand out in New York City and the young singer-songwriter appears emboldened by her moment. Inspired by the jazz scene of New York, Rachel follows in the footsteps of soulful R&B singers like Banks, James Blake, and her personal hero Amy Winehouse. Over mostly lush and downtempo beats, Rachel leans into her pop sensibilities that give her a Lorde vibe, heavy on the romantic feelings. Whereas Lorde gives emo-goth girl feel, Rose’s stand out “You” reveals a level of talent yet untapped in her songwriting journey, coupled with the energetic happy go-lucky track.
On the EP’s center piece, Rachel deviates from the formula and delivers an infectious ear candy melody that is impossibly catchy. The production of shimmering chimes and a horn section provide a substantial framework to place behind her powerful delivery. In three minutes and thirty-three seconds the promise of talent is revealed, inviting the listener to welcome this rising star to the conversation for best up and coming R&B crooners in the city. On tracks like “About Me”, the drum production comes eerily close to Adele with a hook ready to sample and mix in with the Promethazine Prince himself FUTURE HNDRXX.
Rachel’s honest and relatable lyrics can be traced back to her journaling style of songwriting. She tells me that “Give You Me,” a song that Ally could have performed in A Star is Born was pieced together through multiple journal entries. This jigsaw method of creativity is normal for a new songwriter, looking to find her voice and lyrical style; however, the music gives no hint to any disjointed effort on Rachel’s part. In fact, the 21 minute EP never once feels as if it is unsure of how it wants to sound or what message it wants to deliver. Despite developing over a one and a half years, Rachel’s singular vision is perfectly showcased throughout and excellently summarized in the self-titled EP closer. With her own vocals playing the background role on “100/10/1,” an unknown speaker asks Rachel, “is this your passion?” but we already know the answer.
Check out our socially distant interview with Rachel Rose below where we discuss contemporary influences, the big move to Brooklyn, her creative process, and her excellent EP 100/10/1
GSC: Who are you and how do you identify?
Rachel Rose: I’m Rachel Rose. I am a Connecitcut born, Austin launched, Brooklyn based soul-singer songwriter. And if we’re doing the pronouns I identify as she/her.
GSC: I’ve read your sound described as ‘Jewish soul’. How does your Jewish identity factor into your sound?
Rachel Rose: I think the soul definitely does. I don’t go parading around like, “I’m Jewish”, but I felt like a big part of growing up and finding people who inspired me like Amy Winehouse was something that I identified with more than other artists, but I mean soul artists, contemporary R&B, all those definitely.
GSC: Who are your favorite contemporaries?
Rachel Rose: I have so many. I have lyrical artists who inspire me a lot. I love Joni Mitchell. I love her so much. She’s amazing. I love Patti Smith. I love Hiatus Kaiyote. Choose Your Weapon, that album destroyed me in so many ways. All my conceptions about music, they’ve completely uprooted everything that I knew about music. I love Lianne La Havas. She’s one of my favorites too. I also love Bruce Springsteen which feels a little bit like a wildcard, but I love his lyrics and I read his autobiography which is kind of amazing too. I feel like a lot of my inspirations are all over the place, but I feel like getting a wide range of inspiration allows for you to take a little bit from each to make something that is your own and organic.
GSC: You moved to New York from Austin because of the jazz scene here. Before COVID, what has been your experience been like performing?
Rachel Rose: I went to school in Austin, Texas so I spent four years there. I was doing music in Austin and I had decided at the end of school that at least at the time the R&B scene wasn’t really as developed. Austin is like that psych-rock Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson kinda people there. There definitely was some soul music going on, but I feel like New York, L.A., and Nashville are the three places and I grew up in Connecticut so it just felt natural to come back to the East Coast so I moved back. I started working at TuneCore almost immediately and I think that kinda derailed a little bit, not like derailed because that is an aggressive word, but it was diversifying my time because it was a 9:30AM to 6PM job. I was not going out as much as I wanted to, but that’s when I kinda started songwriting more myself when I got home instead of going out and doing all that stuff. It’s all for a reason, but yeah I wanted to be in New York because the jazz and R&B scene is just fantastic here.
GSC: You’re from Connecticut, a swing state. Are you a Yankees or Red Sox girl?
Rachel Rose: I guess I’m a Yankees fan, but I’m not really a baseball person, unfortunately. I’m really a tennis person. I really enjoy watching tennis. I played tennis when I was younger. I was a doubles gal in high school so I’m like a Maria Sharapova, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic fan. It’s always weird saying I’m from Connecticut. I either run into people who are like, “what’s Connecticut?”
GSC: Who is saying, “what’s Connecituct?”
Rachel Rose: Well in Texas it’s like saying you’re from Delaware. People are like, “oh that’s odd”. At least down south it’s not really a place where people are from. You’ll get like, “wow Connecticut that’s so random. What is it like there?” or I get, “ew Connecticut”.
GSC: I kinda have both those reactions. ‘How Does It Feel’ is an incredible opener. How did it feel to put the final touches on that track?
Rachel Rose: That one was actually the first one I recorded with my producer Will. That was the tester with us so I was actually really nervous going into it. I had written that song actually a little bit removed from the situation because the way that I song write I kinda just work on it in my journal when I am feeling highly upset or something has happened and I need to somehow vent to myself about it. So I ended up taking a lot of journal entries that I had written in the past and I wrote the chorus and I had the lyrics and I showed it to Will and was like, “I want a James Blake x Banks really dramatic obnoxious build up thing,”
GSC: That’s a great comparison. He gave you that.
Rachel Rose: Yeah, I love working with Will cause like I come with the lyrics and the chords and I’m like, “can we have a palette of this person and this person and this person?” and he just matches it really well. I feel like we just have a great communication with each other. He did an amazing job. It was funny because the first time that we did and I remember it kinda veered off into a weird place and I was like how do I tell them that I don’t like it because I never really worked with a producer doing my own songs before. So I talked to him and I was like “I’m not sure if this is the way I want to go,” and he’s like “okay, okay I have another idea”. Then he gave me another draft of the song and it was like that good, it was like that level of dramatic stuff that I wanted so we did a lot with that song too. A lot of the background noises in the breakdown part are like some of my vocals that are super distorted. We ended up doing a lot of vocal takes on that. It was a really fun but also an emotionally exhausting thing because towards the end of the song with that breakdown it’s like, “okay let’s do that 10 times in a row recording over and over again”. So I was having to relive it over and over again at the end, but I love that song. That one was a really fun one to do and also the first one that I did so it was the spark that ignited the whole journey of doing 100/10/1.
GSC: Do you like doing a lot of takes or do you prefer to just knock it out?
Rachel Rose: It usually takes me the fourth or fifth try to get one that I like so I’m like just loop this and loop this again and I’ll re-sing it again and again and again. I like singing as much as I can before cutting because I’m also like you don’t know what the take will be until it leaves your mouth so I feel like it’s kinda a disservice stopping it sooner than you know. Some of the best vocal takes I ever had came in a take or in a period that I did not expect it to be so I kinda like to leave it running for a long time. Like repeat, repeat, repeat until it just sounds good or there is something that I like about it.
GSC: How did you link up with Will Rosati?
Rachel Rose: It’s actually kinda a funny story. When I started working at TuneCore I started dating this guy there and it’s his best friend so he recommended that I go work with this kid and that guy and I are no longer dating, but I’m still working with Will so I’m guessing it was for a reason that I started dating someone that led me to Will.
GSC: It’s funny how that works. Real New York shit.
Rachel Rose: Haha, yeah. Definitely not ideal dating someone in the workplace so I wouldn’t recommend it, but it ended up working out well I guess.
GSC: How long did it take this EP to come together? Like 2 years?
Rachel Rose: Yeah, about a year and a half or two years.
GSC: Did the sound or direction change at all or did you always know what you were going for?
Rachel Rose: I literally had no idea what each song was going to sound like until I had written it. I think this record is a little bit more unique because I was always a cover singer. I love doing covers and I feel like that’s kinda how I got my start too. I probably have about 100 videos on my computer from when I was eight years old singing all these different covers. I never posted it to YouTube because I was terrified. I always started off doing covers and I did a lot of jazz standards in college and I never really tried songwriting. It was weird. I think I had just written off that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t go to school for music so i was like I don’t have the tools to do this. I think it was a little bit of this negative inner monologue. I was seeing other people’s songwriting and I was like, “oh I’m too old now” as each year went by so I never really got into songwriting until I moved to New York and I was like, “I wanna release a record, but I’m going to write my own songs to do it.” So I was basically writing the record as I was making the record. Like I was writing each individual song as I was going along.
There are some songs on the album that are a year difference in songwriting. It was cool. Each song, I was in a different mindset. I had a lot of different feelings going into it. I was at a really different place in my life. I think for the next record I would really like to have a more cohesive palette, but I think that’s what makes 100/10/1 unique. I was in a completely different headspace when each song came out and there feels like a linear growth with my songwriting. The songs are not in chronological order form when I wrote them, but you know what I mean.
GSC: Is the next record coming soon?
Rachel Rose: Yeah, I want it too. I have written a couple more songs actually. In quarantine I wrote a few. Also because I feel like there was nothing else to do. I have been working with Will on one of the ones that I wrote that I really like. It was kinda like a rip cord on a blowup raft. Once you kinda get going, you wanna keep going and I like to be busy and I’m not use to this quiet now because there was so much preparation for this record and now that it’s out everything feels quiet and weird. Like I need to keep doing stuff to feel like I’m busy and to feel successful in that way with myself so I’m hoping relatively soon or as soon as I can get it out at least.
GSC: My favorite track by far is ‘You’. Instant classic. When did you write that ?
Rachel Rose: I actually wrote that in the shower which is kinda a weird thing to say, but I ended up writing a lot of my songs in the shower, but it was funny because I would immediately forget the song as soon as I left the shower. So it’s like you have to obviously go take a shower again to remember what it was. I had this tune stuck in my head for forever and it was like, *hums melody*. I wanted the syncopated beat and I pictured that in my head. I told Will I want this big band feel. Like I would love to perform this song with a shit ton of trumpets and saxophones. When quarantine is over I wanna get a whole group together to perform that, but yeah I ended up writing it in the shower. It was just about the honeymoon phase of being in love with love and loving that feeling and every other idiomatic trope you can think of it. It was just a fun little cliche of being so in love and knowing that you’re stupid in love.
GSC: The trumpets are wild.
Rachel Rose: Yeah, that was actually my friend Jackson who I’ve literally known since 6th grade. We grew up together. We did choir together too which was hysterical because we would both make fun of the whole process. Because I was an alto too like shoved in the back. No one gave a shit about me. He was a baritone so also shoved in the back and we became close doing choir stuff. We performed around a bit, but his main instrument is trumpet and I knew that I wanted a trumpet on his track because I wanted that really fun big band cliche kinda thing so I immediately knew I was going to ask Jackson to play.
GSC: Do you write your songs on guitar or piano?
Rachel Rose: I mostly do it on the guitar but sometimes I’ll have an inclination to do it on the piano, but guitar was my first instrument and I wanna get better and I wanna keep improving so I feel like it challenges me, on the guitar. Also I feel like on the piano everything feels really linear and easy to work out so I feel like with guitar it involves a lot more music theory and conscious decision making instead of stumbling onto something that kinda works on the piano. I feel like there’s something more soulful about guitar. I don’t know what it is. I feel like my guitar has soul in and of itself. And when we pair together to write songs it has a completely different feel than it does on the piano so I do enjoy guitar more, but I’ll switch sometimes. I’ll be like, “I feel like trying this out on the piano,” like what cords I can come up with. It’s a process.
GSC: I love the cover art. Why did you put so many Rachel Roses on the cover? Are you flexing your looks on the competition?
Rachel Rose: That was actually a really difficult image to capture because I knew that I wanted it to be that mirrored effect and it was kinda like that 100/10/1 metaphor which was something that my dad always said to me growing up. He’s a finance guy and it was supposed to represent the 100 clients that you have to find to get 10 meetings to get that 1 signed deal, but for me and my career it meant the 100 emails I had to send to get 10 people to write me back to get 1 to agree to do something. Or 100 songs you have to write to get 10 okay ones to get that 1 that is the hit. So that saying for me just carries a lot of weight because especially right now everyone experiences rejections and lapses of judgement or situations that don’t pan out the way that they want to. I think some people experience this more than others, but I think 100/10/1 should imply to everybody that after the journey you should have or could have more reassurance in your self worth. And reassurance that you can do it. You just have to go sometimes through this bullshit for you to end up on the other side. For me that has carried a lot of weight, especially writing this record because I never thought I was going to write my own song.
So that was all a development of myself as a songwriter, but obviously it did come with a lot of failures and frustrations and sobbing and what not. So with the 100/10/1 thing I kinda wanted there to be an infinity number of myself and it was kinda like staring into yourself. Kinda like you can also be the one that gets into your own way. I wanted there to be some representation of 100 individuals whether it’s yourself or whoever it is you have to get through to come out the other side. The only way I can really think about feasibly doing that was having that mirrored effect. That infinity effect, but it ended up being impossible with that photograph for some reason. We had myself and two friends who are photographers who are working with me on all the covers for the singles. We were working for like two, three hours trying to get a position that was going to work. It was like one person would see the infinity but in the camera it wasn’t that. So we finally got it after two or three hours after positioning and moving it around. And then my friend Laura, she ended up photoshopping it to be this cyclical thing also with the mirrored effect. I’m excited. It came out really good because it took so long. I thought it was cool. It was a fun process.
GSC: How have you been taking care of your mental health during the COVID pandemic?
Rachel Rose: Oh man, sometimes not very good, but I love reading so I’ve been in a book club which has been really fun because it gives me a little bit of accountability. Sometimes I could go off the rails with my organization. I have been reading a ton of books in this book club which has been really fun. I decided to read Dune this quarantine.
GSC: Are you hyped for the movie?
Rachel Rose: Yes, that’s partially why I wanted to read the book because there is so many people hype around it and it felt like the apex of sci-fi at the time so I really wanted to read it and it took me a massive chunk of quarantine to get into it because sometimes I’d be really excited about it and read 200 pages and then I’d be like I really don’t feel like reading this anymore and I’d go a couple weeks without reading it, but I finally finished it and I’m so excited for the movie so that was definitely a good use of my time.
Check out the video for “How Does It Feel” below and follow Rachel on Twitter and IG and listen to 100/10/1 on Spotify, Apple, Bandcamp, and Soundcloud. Cover photo of article was taken by Laura Beckerdite.