Living the Teen Dream Within 'Reasons', Jena Rose Grateful to Join Echosmith on Tour
Pop music fans across America are witnessing a beauty-of-youth movement with the arrival of emerging singer-songwriters Jena Rose, 17, and Echosmith's Sydney Sierota, 21, both of whom share a vision, caress a common bond.
Jena Rose isn't the typical American teenager. After all, how many 17-year-olds with another year of high school left get to travel across the U.S. on their first major tour as the supporting act for Echosmith, one of the most promising young indie pop-rock bands in the country?
Rose, raised in Plano, Texas, joined Los Angeles-based Echosmith's "Inside a Dream Tour" in San Francisco on April 4, less than a week after the release of Reasons, her seven-track EP filled with soulful takes and pop delights enhanced by hypnotic traces of EDM.
One of the first of their 25 tour stops was on April 11 at the Gothic Theatre south of Denver. That's where Rose proved to be one of the "cool kids" Echosmith lead singer Sydney Sierota sang about to end a night of embraceable, feel-good, uplifting — and, yes — family-friendly numbers.
Jena Rose performs with guitarist Sean Trauth and drummer Hunter Knoche.Photo by Michael Bialas
Luckily, Rose, in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt and orange plaid pants, met the age requirement to get into the 16-and-over show, while performing with the calm, collected demeanor of a seasoned pro. There was little time for chatter because the singer-songwriter-pianist only had 20 minutes to get the audience warmed up for the hard-rocking act the Score before Echosmith made a fun run for the ages.
Their 70-minute set was filled with power-tinged tunes (including six of seven from their 2017 Inside a Dream EP), sweet vocals, selfies, parasols, confetti cannon shots and giant inflated balls with even more colorful shreds of paper that blasted out when anyone burst those bubbles.
Echosmith lead singer Sydney Sierota (left) brought her proud mom Linda onstage at the Gothic Theatre.Photo by Michael Bialas
On top of the entertaining visuals, it was so refreshing to hear a night of music in which the artists didn't have to rely on sexual innuendo, potty-mouth pronouncements or suggestive lyrics to win over a crowd that skewed millennial but still had a fair share of old-school graduates.
That a mature Rose, whose full name is Jena Rose Raphael, could fit in and set the stage for such an evening — with only five songs — was even more impressive. As the closing weeks of the tour wind down to the May 12 finale at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, it's time for the rest of the world to get to know the rising star, who agreed to answer a few questions via email for this article that concludes with a PopMatters "Pop Quiz".
Curious to know how a young artist handles the stress of that condensed first slot in the lineup, I asked: How much pressure do you feel as an opening act to have only 20 minutes onstage to make an impression?
"I do feel some sort of pressure, but It's my responsibility as a performer and an artist to give the best show I possibly can no matter if I'm the opener or headliner or the length of my set," said Rose, who performs with a guitarist [Sean Trauth] who "is also my tour manager" and a drummer [Hunter Knoche] who "happens to be" her boyfriend. "My team and I worked so hard to put together a memorable show in the time that we have."
Jena Rose seemed at ease during a 20-minute performance.Photo by Michael Bialas
Rose started learning about self-assurance at an early age, writing, singing and performing songs when she was nine. "I instantly knew I wanted to be involved in music in some way," she said. "When I was 10, my dream was to open a music school for underprivileged kids, and I still hope to do so! I really started focusing on my career as an artist when I was 12."
Her "huge writing inspiration" was — and still is — Sara Bareilles. "I wanted to be like her in ways, but I've always known that being my own person is the most important thing I can do," Rose added.
While college remains a possibility ("I still have some time to figure it out!," she said), Rose will continue to focus on her music career for now, acknowledging, "I feel so lucky and grateful to have had these opportunities."
Her first major tour and debut EP, which was released on March 30, certainly qualifies. Reasons includes "Sweet Love", a breezy, finger-snapping track that peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Club Songs Chart on February 10, and opened her brief Denver set, which also included two more songs from the EP — "Selfish" and "Boy With the Balloon", Rose's tender ballad that will touch anyone who has been affected by the death of a childhood friend.
Asked to answer, in 10 words or less, why Reasons belongs on everyone's playlist, Rose barely exceeded the count, saying: "It is honest and has a variety of songs for everyone!"
While Rose and Echosmith ride in separate vehicles trekking from the West Coast to the East Coast and back, she hopes to share more girl time with Sydney, the lovely, talented and polished performer who also played acoustic guitar and some of the other instruments usually reserved for her brothers Noah Sierota (keyboards, bass) and Graham Sierota (drums).
Rose, who turned 17 in January, recently took to Twitter to wish a happy 21st birthday to Sydney, who was 16 when Echosmith released their debut album Talking Dreams, which included their signature hit "Cool Kids".
Jena Rose (left) and Sydney Sierota are bonding on the road. Photo courtesy of Jena Rose/Twitter
"We're all so busy, and it's really hard to find time to hang out outside of the venues, but Sydney and I are talking about working out together on one of the off days!" Rose offered in April. "We all love Chipotle, so we're going to plan a dinner there! They have been so welcoming and are all so nice!"
Rose also has received a bit of great advice from her touring companions: "To not be so hard on myself because the audience might not notice some of the things I mess up on."
For a blooming Rose still eager to grow, that should never be a thorny issue.
JENA ROSE TAKES A POPMATTERS POP QUIZ
There's no extra credit, but Jena Rose also agreed to fill in the blanks on a couple of questions:
1. What's been the highlight of the tour so far?
Jena Rose: "I'd say going to Seattle! We got to stay at my aunt's house and explore the city, which was such a treat. The show also went great!"
2. What's the craziest thing that's happened to you as a touring performer?
Jena Rose: "My halter top untied during my performance in Chicago, so I nearly flashed the audience and had to retie it onstage!"
3. What do you do to stay calm backstage before a performance?
Jena Rose: "I sit by myself and go over the set to make sure I'm prepared and feel good. Then I take deep breaths and shake my body out to stay relaxed before I step onstage."
Echosmith's Sydney Sierota takes comfort amid a rain of confetti. Photo by Michael Bialas
4. Has Echosmith invited you to perform onstage yet? If so, for which song, and how did it go?
Jena Rose: "Sydney invited me up onstage during 'Goodbye' to throw out confetti balls and pop one! So fun!!"
5. What's your favorite Echosmith song (and why?)
Jena Rose: " 'Dear World' because I love the words and meaning behind it."
6. Which of your songs will you always keep on your set list (and why)?
Jena Rose: " 'Paper Walls' [her debut single closed the Denver set] because it is one of the first songs I put out and is such a fun, sing-along song where I can get the audience involved."
7. Who's your closest traveling companion on the road?
Jena Rose: "I'd say my mom [Linda Raphael] and my boyfriend, but I'm close with everyone!"
8. What's your go-to snack on a long road trip?
Jena Rose: "Peanut butter pretzels! Best thing ever!!"
9. While you're traveling, what do you do to keep busy or entertain yourself, or do you just prefer to relax?
Jena Rose: "I definitely try to sleep as much as possible, but I love watching my favorite reality shows in my free time when we're driving!"
10. When you have a day off on the road, what's the No. 1 activity on your to-do list?
Jena Rose: "Explore the city I'm in! I never want to miss out on life experiences."
11. Echosmith is calling this their Inside a Dream Tour. What's inside your dream these days?
Jena Rose: "I'd have to say headlining my own tour!"
12. What will you reveal about yourself that most people don't know?
Jena Rose: "I'm terrified of all fish and things in the ocean!"
Concert photos by Michael Bialas. See more of Jena Rose and Echosmith performing on April 11, 2018, at the Gothic Theatre in Englewood, Colorado.
Michael Bialas is a journalist and photographer who enjoys writing about entertainment and sports for a number of online publications, including PopMatters and No Depression. Follow him on Twitter: @mjbialas
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