With a highly personal sound that's both intimate and alluring, Haroula Rose sits down with PopMatters to talk about her psychic abilities, her terrifying first performance, and all her dinner guests whose name starts with "J".
Folkies and I don't usually get along. If it's a guy, I usually want to shake them, pull on their scraggly beard, and tell them to lighten up. If the artist is female, and cute, I'll generally pay a bit closer attention, focusing more on how great it would be to date a musician and have her mention me in the liner notes ala High Fidelity than the music. I'm just being honest . . . the music generally doesn't do it for me. It takes some hard-bitten honesty of the Ryan Adams, Paul Westerberg, or Jay Farrar songbook to make me buy into it. I saw Haroula Rose a few months ago at a singer/songwriter showcase in L.A., and all my old prejudices and cynicisms were firmly in place. A tiny thing, she demurely approached the microphone and smiled, and as she strummed her way through selections from debut album These Open Roads, I found myself getting lost in her homespun tales of heartache, wanderlust, and rebirth, delivered with delicate, honeyed innocence. I was, and remain, enchanted.
Rose strikes the right balance between sweet and bitter, and by favoring sweet, her sometimes biting lyrics go down a lot easier and never feel melodramatic. Her voice is perfectly suited for Top 40, but her sensibilities and sense of humor (see Question #2) seem better suited to small venues than cavernous halls. With recently lauded performances at SXSW, TV placements (How I Met Your Mother, The Lying Game) and new EP So Easy on the way with full length to follow, Rose seems to be doing everything right, winning over cynics like me one show at a time.
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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
My friend Cathy Chung's book Forgotten Country that came out in March. I cried more than several times reading that book. I also cried during The Descendants.
2. The fictional character most like you?
That's easy. Patrick Bateman.
3. The greatest album, ever?
The Beatles' "White Album".
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
5. Your ideal brain food?
Pleasure and pain, though all matters in between can be acceptable depending on my mood.
6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?
Performing my own songs for the first time because I was beyond terrified.
7. You want to be remembered for . . . ?
Being a good writer. Being kind. Being a good curator of people and events that make us feel more connected. Having a quality life that brought some joy or awareness about how fleeting it all is. Yeah, that would be nice. But people tell me I shouldn't take everything so seriously.
8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?
Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Judee Sill, Sappho, Flannery O'Connor, Sam Phillips, Patti Smith, Georgia O'Keefe, Laskarina Bouboulina, George Eliot, Amelia Earhart, my mother, her mother, mothers, sisters, wives, daughters. I like women.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
The Battle of Algiers.
10. Your hidden talents . . . ?
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
Go after what you fear most. Within reason, that is. I don't recall who said it, but it's helped me a lot in terms of figuring out what I want and having no/few regrets.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
My 1929 Martin Parlor guitar. And it was bought.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . . ?
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
Jesus, Jon Stewart, Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Jay Z, Jesse James, Carl Jung, Mick Jagger, Miranda July, Jose Saramago . . . and that's just for the letter “J”
15. Time travel: where, when ,and why?
Athens, Greece, circa 400 BC. I would've had to have been a man though, in order to be hanging around the agora or partaking in some authentic philosophical discourse and actively honoring my favorite deity.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?
Refer to my answer for question number 2.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . . ?
Coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee coffee.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
That's a tie between the Greek island of Santorini or San Sebastian, Spain.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
Build more parks.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
A five-song EP (for June). A new LP (probably in the fall). I co-wrote a short film for which I am in the early stages of pre-production.