Exclusive Interview: Rosy Nolan Talks New EP & More
Thank you for this interview opportunity Rosy, we love your music! Please share with us how you developed your unique banjo sounds and when did you become a full time musician?
Thank you! So glad to be here. I don’t know how much I developed my banjo sound as much as it developed me. I went through a period after I left New York where I was feeling really discouraged by the music business and turned off by the my own songwriting so I just kinda stopped playing. But then I started getting squirrelly and doing weird stuff like reading computer manuals and listening to talk radio. So I decided I needed a new relationship to music. One that wasn’t about me making it or getting discovered. One that was about me tapping into why I do music at all. I was thinking about what kind of instrument I could study just for the sheer joy of learning without a motive or an end result in sight. I had a fantastic banjo player in my band back in New York, Hillary Hawke, and I always thought it was such a feel-good instrument. I just started playing around with the instrument getting lost in the trance of traditional melodies and rhythms. I fell in love with the old time sound you hear in Gillian Welch’s music and thought this instrument could be used to carry my own songs. I have tried to weave traditional sounding melody in my own music ever since whether I’m playing banjo, guitar or autoharp. I’m really a most-of-the-time musician at the moment but, you know, I’m working on it. It’s always a careful balance.
How do you balance the life of a musician with a regular life as an emerging artist?
Lots of coffee, sleep and therapy. HA! I think it’s vitally important to be surrounded by good people who are doing what they love. Then you get to feed off each other, support each other, root for each other. It makes the transition between musical life and regular life so much more manageable. If I can take the focus off myself and it keep it on the music and community then I’m golden.
If you had to describe your sound with only one song of yours, which one would you choose?
“Return to Spawn.” It’s stripped down with nods to traditional songwriting, moody, haunting and raw.
Favorites from your current album?
Right now I would say, “Heaven’s Name.” I finished the song about a week before we went to into the studio. It's about a breakup that happened just a couple weeks before that. I love the way Kenny Feinstein plays that fiddle line. It squeezes and turns my heart just the way heartbreak does.
If you had the opportunity to meet one band or artist who would you choose and why?
I would have loved to meet The Carter Family. Mother Maybelle, especially. She was a fierce guitar player. They did so much to shape country music as we know it. I play a few of their songs in Old Time Machine like "Lonesome Homesick Blues,” “Bury Me Beneath the Willow,” and “Wildwood Flower." I would have loved to sit in with them, play banjo, and sing harmonies.
How do you feel the independent music scene is evolving and do you like where it's headed?
A lot of people are now incredibly self-sufficient these days in terms of recording and distributing their own music. There is a lot of great music that is more accessible to the masses now through social media. It’s a great equalizer in a way. Artists are able to stay true to themselves and find their audiences without dependence on a label or management directing them toward a certain sound and look. This all seems really good to me.
We all have "aha" moments that help us continue on our journey. What have been your "aha" moments in the music industry?
I’m not sure this is an “aha" moment or more of a hard lesson but learning to trust my instincts has definitely been the most important realization of my career. Every time I have ignored them in the past I have suffered tenfold. Maybe I don't get what I want in the short term but I certainly rest a lot easier in the long run.
What does 2020 have in store for you?
I’m planning on doing a northwest tour for “Footprints & Broken Branches” winter/spring 2020. I’d also like to get back into the studio. I have some new songs I’d love to put down.
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