When I call up New York-based rocker Anna Rose, she’s sitting around her apartment with her pet dog, Joplin. We trade our best animal voices and laugh at the thought of addressing an audience in that high-pitched, indiscernibly cute way.
There’s a playful ease with Rose; the open, spitfire spirit that makes her music irresistible is instantly recognizable as we quickly get into talking about her classic rock roots, strong female influences, and the excitement surrounding the release of her forthcoming EP.
Oh, and she’s also the daughter of the legendary Alan Menken.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): Why don’t we start with your musical background?
Anna Rose (AR): As far as my musical background, I’m not formally educated. I have taken guitar lessons and voice lessons and some music theory back in college, but I’m not a music school graduate. I can’t really read music, but I apparently I can write it. I’ve been playing guitar since I was five, singing as soon as I could open my damn mouth, and I got on stage as soon as I could.
BTR: So you just sing and play guitar?
AR: I play a bit of piano and I’m working on some stuff here and there. I’m trying to learn some other instruments. I’d really like to learn how to play the mandolin and banjo. The stringed instruments seem to be what I go after.
BTR: Are you self-taught?
AR: I had a guitar teacher growing up who is an incredible guitar player. When I was younger, he taught me about blues music and rock music and he really taught me to love playing the guitar.
BTR: Great! So word on the street is that you’re working on a new EP.
AR: Yes! It’s done and ready to go!
BTR: What was the writing process like for that?
AR: I was coming out of touring behind my second full length “Behold A Pale Horse.” I had been on the road so much and I hadn’t been writing much. I went down to Nashville to work with some amazing cowriters. It took about eight months or so, but I got about 25 songs out of that and paired it down to a six song EP. I got rid of most of the other songs. I eliminated a lot of songs that either didn’t feel right for me as an artist or didn’t feel complete in a way or didn’t represent me well. cut those completely. Then, over a matter of two days, we got eights songs—six for the EP and an extra two cover tracks.
BTR: I would imagine cutting all of those songs was a difficult process?
AR: Yeah. I mean, it was difficult, but it was also refreshing. I think the standard for what constitutes an album has changed traditionally. I wanted to do something that felt concise and pointed—a lot like a short film in a way. And I wanted to get to the point, cut out the fat, and pick the best of the best songs. I can say that I am proud of every song on this EP and that’s awesome for me.
BTR: Would you say there are certain themes that come through in your writing?
AR: I hate to say that I’m morbid or focused on death. I think I’m more so focused on valuing what’s around you and constantly evaluating your surroundings. Whether it be your current relationships, or the death of a relationship, or contemplating your own legacy as a person, those themes show themselves on the EP.
I kind of think when you do this for a long time on your own and you get a lot of rejection thrown at you, it can be hard to remember that you love it this much and why you keep doing it. Making this EP was reminding myself why I love what I do. You know, making music that felt challenging to me as a writer and as a performer. I really stepped out of my comfort zone and realized that I’m capable of all that and a lot more. What I’m putting our into the world is worth being shared. I keep reminding myself of that.
BTR: Has the sound on this EP evolved from “Behold A Pale Horse?”
AR: I think it has gone past “Pale Horse.” There are still the straight ahead rock songs. That’s what I’m most comfortable with and it’s where I come from. It’s at the basis of everything I do as a songwriter. But being a songwriter can lead you in a lot of different directions, but as a performer I’m most comfortable with rock. So that’s kind of the extension from “Pale Horse.”
There are three other tracks on the EP which are very reserved songs. I think they hold a lot of emotion, but it was hard to express myself in that quiet of a manner. A couple of the other tracks really push boundaries for me as an artist. Overall, the EP has some things from what I was doing before and continues forward into some new territory.
BTR: Do you draw influence from any singer songwriters or musicians?
AR: Oh yeah! Specifically, I’m a classic rock chick. If I have to go back to anything, it’s going to be Led Zeppelin and Hendrix, The Doors and The Stones and The Beatles. That’s in terms of rock music. There there is Joni Mitchell as a songwriter, and Carol King as a songwriter, and John Lennon again.
In terms of more current music, I’ve been pulling from Portishead and Placebo and those alternative musicians that push boundaries of what rock and roll is. Radiohead, too. I think the EP is in between those two things. For each song, I try and find an inspiration and pull forward from that.
BTR: Is there a projected release date for the EP?
AR: Either the end of January or early February. But depending on all the excitement, we will see what happens. I’m really excited about it and it’s difficult for me to wait.
BTR: We look forward to hearing it! What are your plans following the release?
AR: I’m going to be touring all over the country with my band and doing some acoustic shows as well. We have a really big show on January 27 at Brooklyn Bowl. That’s going to be really exciting for us because that’s where we are kicking things off. Then we’ll just be moving forward from there!