These days, Rose has gone a more singer-songwriter route compared to his Spitalfield tenure. With that being said, heís an advocate for creating new outlets for struggling musicians. Enter Downwrite.com, where you can request a custom song from Rose and Bob Nanna (of Braid and Hey Mercedes fame) for the time being, but with more musicians and plans on the horizon. Punknews staff writer Laila Hanson had the chance to sit down and discuss his recent ventures.
Your EP is called The Sound of a Turnaround and you have the title track on there, but you also mention that word a few times in ďDecade of a Girl.Ē What is the significance for the word ďTurnaroundĒ for you?
Itís a double meaning to me. The transition that Iíve gone through in the last five years after Spitalfield broke up has been an interesting one for me. Itís always been natural to me that I would be writing songs and playing music. Here I am, years later, from when Spitalfield first released Remember Right Now and I shifted into a world of music and music business as my full time job in life, really. And so often you find yourself doubting that youíre ever gonna really sustain making music as a full time gig. Especially now, Iím 29 years old and having done it for 10 years, itís a lot to take in. I often find myself thinking, ďAlright, well what happens if this doesnít work out?Ē And you start thinking about maybe turning it around and packing it in. For me, Iíve had such a fortunate support system in place, with family and friends, and people who really do put their faith in me, believe in me and keep me focused and driven. This was a pretty personal EP for me, and putting the audio to what Iím going through was my goal, so The Sound of a Turnaround was what I came up with.
Speaking of Spitalfield, I think I was a senior in high school and I saw them and Hawthorne Heights back in 2004. And now, you just finished a tour with JT [Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights] and you also share the connection with [producer] Sean OíKeefe. I was just wondering about the relationship between you guys and how that has influenced your work and your touring at all.
Itís kind of funny, because [JT and I] often talk about how we are such different songwriters and we have almost this like, sweet and salty or sweet and sour or ying and yang kind of thing going because JT writes much darker stuff than I do. And we first met, of course, when he was first touring with Hawthorne Heights. We toured together, Spitalfield and Hawthorne, multiple times in the US and in Europe as well. We got to know each other just from being around each other so much, but again, from having such different styles and what not. Both kind of [as] frontmen and singer-songwriters on the side and everything else, weíve always had a good connection. Weíve shared a lot of opinions on things, and in 2010, we went out together and just did a short two week tour. He was playing all original stuff and wasnít playing any Hawthorne material, while I kind of just play anything but focus on my new stuff. The two of us on tour together and teaming up just made sense. Sharing expenses and just kind of having our camaraderie, a minivan versus the world out there, to whoever will listen, itís something we both get into. This last tour, we managed to pump out 32 or 33 shows in 26 days. It was fun, though. It was a little bit exhausting, but finding ways to play more shows and to play in front of more people in a different setting, to me itís nuts that...I told JT that Iím [playing] with someone who sold a couple million albums, but yet heís still willing to play a private show in somebodyís living room, or to triple up in one day and play an early show, an afternoon show and a club show. Itís inspiring, I think we kind of feed off of each other.
Youíre connected with a website called Downwrite.com, where youíre writing custom songs. Can you talk a bit about that?
Downwrite is something that Iíve been working on with my friend Bob Nanna. Bob is one of my favorite songwriters from [the] Chicagoland area, and featured with Braid and Hey Mercedes and various other projects. What started as a little thing that Bob and I were thinking, like, ďYou know, we could team up and write some songs,Ē we eventually flushed out the idea to being, ďWhy donít we create a network for songwriters to get on profiles and let their friends and fans know that theyíre available to do one-of-a-kind, custom art for hire.Ē And the idea is really to enable songwriters to make a living writing music separate from what they do with their own stuff. Iím finding more and more in the digital era, where someoneís willing to pay $9.99 to have a Spotify premium account, and then not really buy music, itís almost like songwriters are having a harder time actually paying the bills. It goes both ways. There are definitely pros and cons, but weíre trying to bring a little bit of value back to the actual songwriting process and level the playing field a bit for those who can write great music that arenít involved in the world of co-writing, and writing for other people and stuff. I think for fans and for music lovers, that is so cool. Itís almost like having one of your favorite artists commission a painting just for you, where you provide the direction of the painting.
Bob and I are the first artists, but weíre going to roll out [other] artists in a week or so, and a couple weeks after that, some more. Weíre kind of going through that beta launch period where weíre trying out a few things and seeing what works, making sure we have artists on our side, because thatís who weíre doing this for, and then [open] it to songwriters all over the world. It seems like a lot of people are interested in doing this, and we [would love] to be that gateway for them, that middleman.
Going back to your LP and EP[s], I can tell itís not just you and a guitar; thereís a lot of great effects and mixing. Can you talk about what happened in the studio for The Sound of a Turnaround?
One of my favorite things thus far about doing solo singer-songwriter stuff is the collaboration process with all sorts of different musicians. The first thing I did when the band broke up was write songs on my own and put together a couple of EPs and do some touring. The reason I wanted to do that was because I knew that it wasnít just going to happen; it was going to be something I had to dive into and feel my way out a little bit. From the final Spitalfield release in Ď06 to [my] first full-length in 2011, thatís quite a bit of time. I knew it was a reinvention process, and that the first thing I was gonna do wasnít gonna sound like what Iím doing right now. It took a little time and effort, and part of that process was going out with a full band, or with a trio, or just me and a guitar and feeling out all the different versions of myself I could feasibly do and perform. And going into [my first solo LP] Wonderful Trouble, bringing [producer] Sean OíKeefe on board, and bringing in soul sections and horn sections, organ players...it really opened my eyes and it forced me to up my game as a player and as a writer, and thatís something I really enjoyed doing.
The transition from Wonderful Trouble to this EP helped me open my mind a little bit further, and this time around we did a little bit more tracking in a home setting. We did the drums for The Sound of a Turnaround in my buddy Jon Walkerís house. I tracked out the vocals in a hallway, or a bathroom, or my own kitchen. Then we took all that stuff we had worked on for a number of weeks and gave it to Sean, and then Sean dialed it in with his ears on the mixing board. It was definitely different but it was really cool for me, and I really do feed off of other peopleís idea[s] and energy, but Iíve also found that sitting in my apartment at 2 a.m. and getting in the zone and working for hours...I like that too.
It gives you a lot of flexibility, it sounds like.
Yeah. And The Sound of a Turnaround is...thereís four tracks on it. And one of them has no percussion, and one of them just has shakers and hammering, which is quite different from Wonderful Trouble. I like the flexibility in general of being a singer-songwriter. You can always go a different path for a release, you can always reinvent yourself. Listening to the catalogues of some incredible lifetime songwriters, like Paul Simon or Billy Joel, you hear all these different eras and sounds. I obviously canít compare myself to [either] of them, but I can say that I now understand how you can go through those phases.
Going back to when you mentioned your hometown of Chicago and Bob Nanna, how do you feel about now versus 10 years ago with how the Chicago music scene has evolved?
For starters, I see it differently now at 29 then I did at 19. Even five years before that, when I first started to go to shows, when I was 14, 15 years old. Thereís so much great music in Chicago and so many great talents, itís a big city. Itís always kind of feeding itself and spitting something else out. Whatís so beautiful about Chicago is that every genre is represented and always present, itís just a matter of whoís covering it. Growing up and listening to the punk rock scene of Chicago, I didnít even realize half the stuff [that] was out there at that time. When I started touring full-time, I started to see all the different music scenes across the country and the world, and began to realize how special Chicago was.
And now, itís tough. Itís almost like thereís more competition [than] ever because of the availability of such great home theater recording stuff and all the different types of venues. Thereís never any shortage of anything. There are some great bands in Chicago, some of which are gaining recognition, some of which arenít, or thereís some in the middle, but thatís kind of the music industry in general. You can never really gauge why something is taking off or why itís not, so you just kind of got to keep at it. Iíve seen some of the people that I grew up playing music with, bands like Fall Out Boy or the Plain White Ts, bands that have these monster singles that are playing arenas. Then you see other artists that have just been plugging along, playing anywhere and everywhere all along, and sometimes they get a good moment, sometimes they donít. I donít know, Chicagoís awesome. [Laughs.]
When youíve been on the road, have you encountered any Spitalfield fans? What have their reactions been to your new stuff?
There are a handful of Spitalfield fans that naturally grew up with me, with the new music and made the transition with me, and have been [there] ever since. Of those people, thereís two sides of the coin. Thereís those that secretly are excited when I play the old stuff, [hoping] that the band [gets back together], then thereís the other side, that are really into what Iím doing now. And thatís to be expected. Iím not upset with anybody who doesnít really dig what I do now, because I know itís a different kind of thing. But I am excited when the people do like what I do now, or just naturally gravitate towards my voice and my songwriting. I think thatís cool. And every once in a while, Iíll do something that fills in a certain way, kind of reaches those older fans who otherwise donít know Iím doing solo material, and thatís okay too. I donít expect anything anymore, I just kind of deal with it as it hits me. Iím not one of those guys who gets mad when people are calling out old songs, because that was such a huge chapter of my life. The band didnít break up so I could go solo; I went solo because the band broke up. So I appreciate it when people like anything I play.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?
The immediate future has me still playing more shows. Iíve got this EP under my belt, so Iím going to tour it as much as I can. Iíll be down at South by Southwest, which will be fun. I havenít been down there as a performer since 2006 with Spitalfield, so itíll be cool to get back on that horse for a little bit. Itís obviously a crazy week, but itís a lot of fun. And past that, spring and summer, I just expect to be out on the road a whole bunch and now with Downwrite starting to move forward, Iíll be working on that too, helping develop that. Iím just going to keep at it with touring this record and hopefully catching a few baseball games.