Interview with the Rosellys

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Since I started this site I’ve been to a great number of gigs, but perhaps the best of all has to be when I saw The Rosellys appear at the Green Note in Camden last month. Immediately after the gig I knew that I wanted to find out more about the group and I was lucky enough to have the following chat with them.

Hi Guys, We first came across you at Belles and Gals when we featured “Maryland” and then just recently we showed “Not that Old”. Both of these are from your brilliant “Granary Sessions” album. Tell us about both of these songs.

Rebecca: Maryland is one of the first songs I wrote, and it is based on Eva Cassidy who was from Maryland. She has remained my main influence as a singer and guitarist, having learnt to play her cover songs when I first taught myself guitar 11 years ago. ‘Not That Old’ is a later song I wrote after our friends’ wedding, as a joke to Simon (as we are the longest running couple out of all our friends, having been together eleven years, but we’re still not married.) Simon claims he proposed once and I said no, which is a whole other story…

Many of your songs are autobiographical, but a particular favourite song for me on the album is “Ashville 1784”, a song set in North America in the time of the frontiersmen. What was the inspiration behind this song?

Simon: When we were on tour in the States a few years back, we stopped in Asheville, North Carolina and went for a hike through the woodlands there. We found a plaque that told us the true story of Colonel Samuel Davidson who was the first settler in that area back in 1784 along with his wife, child and female slave. Samuel was lured into the woods by the Cherokees and murdered. Rebecca was so moved by this story that she wrote ‘Asheville 1784’.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to see you perform live at the Green Note in Camden – a great night with a brilliant atmosphere. Does anything beat performing live?

Simon: For me, playing on stage is a drug. A very addictive drug. There’s nothing like it, nothing legal anyway! I don’t care if I’m in front of 6 people, or 600 people – I love the feeling I get, it can give you a high for hours and I always want more!
Rebecca: No, I don’t think anything does beat playing live. We get such a buzz from performing our own music in front of a listening audience and really enjoy the interaction between us as a band on stage and with the audience during and after the gig.

We understand you’ve made some sacrifices to concentrate on a full time music career?

Simon: Yeah, well our music was always our second priority to Beccca’s medical career. For ten years (five at med-school, and 5 as a working Doctor) the medicine dominated our lives – where we lived, crazy long hours, night shifts and gruelling exams all came before the music. Now we have decided to prioritise The Rosellys and see how far we can take it. Non-musical careers, children, and a steady safe income have all been sacrificed for our songs.

How would you describe your sound to anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to listen to you?

We always describe our music as ‘British Americana’, but we understand that doesn’t always mean a lot to some people, so we say that our music is inspired by music from the Southern States of America such as country music, Cajun music, Appalachian, Bluegrass and Zydeco, but we’re not really any of these genres – just a British take on them all.

Your love for the US really comes out in your songs, which a lot of UK country music fans can probably really relate to (I know I can). You’ve also made something of a name Stateside – tell us about your US adventures.

Simon: We have a network of friends in America from several different adventures, and we meet more and more new friends every time we go…..
16 years ago, way before I met Becca, I was working for a banking software firm in London and hated the day to day rat race life I found myself in. I split up with my girlfriend at the time, quit my job, sold my VW Beetle and bought a plane ticket to New Orleans. For Three months I travelled around Louisiana, made friends, played fiddle and had a life changing adventure When we tour through America we still visit many of those old friends.
A year after Becca and I met, we took out a bank loan, flew to Los Angeles, bought 2 Martin & Co guitars and our 1971 VW campervan and drove 8000 miles from the West coast to the East coast playing where we could and making friends, it was an adventure of a life time, and we fell in love with the VW so we shipped her back to the UK and she’s outside The Granary right now!
The other USA trip that really made a difference for us was when we spent 2 months living in a trailer in San Antonio, Texas whilst Becca did her medical elective working as a family practitioner. Becca worked each day, then each night we’d head in to San Antonio or Austin, finding places to play, bands to watch and new Texan friends, this incredible time really made us fall in love with Texas, and particularly San Antonio.

Aside from Eva Cassidy what other singers/groups have influenced your career?

Simon: Since I was playing in Cajun and Zydeco bands from the age of twelve, that’s where my fiddle influences lay, but as I grew older I really got into the likes of Gram Parsons, Ry Cooder, Delbert McClinton – and more recently there’s a lot of American musicians which we’ve met or seen such as Chris Stapleton, Monty Montgomery, James Taylor and Marc Broussard.
Rebecca: I’m influenced by Eva Cassidy, Joni Mitchell, Patty Griffin, Chris Stapleton and the Steeldrivers, The Mastersons, The Redlands Palomino Company and many more!!

What music are you listening to at the moment, on your phone or in the car (or in the brilliant ‘Rosellys’ camper van that is seen in the ‘Not that Old’ video!)

Simon: My music tastes are very eclectic – I play James Taylor all the time, old classics and some of his new stuff too – recently I’ve been getting back into The Balham Alligators – a London Cajun band that my folks were really into, and I’m also spinning Leeroy Stagger’s album ‘Dream It All Away’ as we opened for him a few times last week – but I also enjoy some dubstep when I’m in the gym – especially a band called Nero.
Rebecca: I listen to The Mastersons album ‘Good Luck Charm’ a lot whilst in the car. It’s an amazingly produced album with quality songwriting and vocals. We caught them live a few years ago in Bristol and have become huge fans since. We also love J.D Souther and ‘Crazy Heart’ soundtrack for the car.

How do you approach your songwriting? Is it a melody first, a lyric or an idea for a song first?

Rebecca: I approach songwriting differently depending on my mood. I’ve written some songs literally in the middle of the night, where I’ve woke up with a melody in my head, so I then try and fit words to the melody. I also sometimes focus on writing a song in a particular style, and I’ll listen to a great songwriter I’m inspired by for a while and then work on chords, melody and lyrics. I think overall I probably come up with chord patterns and melodies first and lyrics second.

Tell us something random about any member of the group?

Simon: Rebecca is left handed but plays the guitar right handed

What have the coming weeks and the rest of 2016 got in store for the Rosellys?

Simon: We’ve just completed our Spring tour, it’s been incredible. The summer brings us into Festival season and we’re playing quite a few including Truck Fest, Buckles and Boots Fest, North Shropshire ‘Big Weekend’ Festival and also a slot out in Palma at the Summer Pie Festival. We have a short ‘Northern Tour’ where we’ll hit Chester, Inverness and Stornoway, then we head back to America in the fall for the AMA’s in Nashville, Folk Alliance in Texas plus a tour through Louisiana, Tennessee and of course back to San Antonio Texas – we can’t wait!!

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