By: Eric Schelkopf
Growing up in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood, it has been the dream of Haroula Rose to perform in the intimate, fan-friendly confines of Schubas Tavern in Chicago. That dream will come true on April 8 when she opens for Chicago/Nashville musician Andrew Belle as part of a sold-out show at Schubas.
Rose, is touring in support of her self-released debut album, “These Open
Roads,” produced by Andy Lemaster, who has worked with the likes of Bright Eyes, R.E.M. and Conor Oberst. I had the chance to talk to Rose about her upcoming hometown show and her latest activities.
ES: So you are going to perform at Schubas. That’s a great place to see a show.
HR: Oh my God, I know. I remember seeing Mason Jennings play there back in 2000 and 2001, and he’s one of my favorite songwriters ever. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to play at Schubas someday.” So this is a weird dream come true kind of situation. This is the first time I have ever played there, and I’m so excited.
ES: And of course, you cover one of his songs on the album, “Duluth.”
HR: Yeah, so it’s just a trip. I remember 10 years ago I requested he play that song, and he played it, and now it’s on my record.
ES: How long have you lived in Los Angeles? Was it just a career move?
HR: I’ve lived there for about three years. I had come to L.A. to work at a film production company to see what it was like to work on a film set. I used to do music for TV and commercials. I met all these filmmakers, and I thought that I might want to try that or see what it was like. I was only there for six months when I got this really cool grant to live in Spain. I stayed there for almost two years. It was really an amazing experience.
ES: How do you like living in L.A.? Has it been good for your career?
HR: I think so. I feel like there are so many creative people around you, so it’s really nice to have that kind of community. I guess since I grew up in Chicago, I always felt I needed to leave, at least for a little while, so I could eventually go back there at some point, or make another album there. My whole family is there, so I miss it.
ES: There’s a lot of heavy hitting musicians on this album. How did you assemble this band?
HR: From being in Los Angeles and just meeting different musicians, you kind of do meet the best of the best. Everyone is so creative and collaborative, so it’s not unheard of just to run into someone whose played with some amazing people. Orenda Fink (from Azure Ray, O+S and Art In Manila) is a friend of mine, so she came down and sang on it. She is actually the one who introduced me to the producer, Andy Lemaster. One of the songs, “Free To Be Me,” we finished up in Chicago, actually. I used to work in a recording studio there, and they were cool enough to let me come in and record vocals and mandolin on that song there.
ES: What goals did you have for the album?
HR: I wanted it to sound like me, and I wanted it to be really organic and not sound overly produced.
ES: You’ve probably heard your music labeled in a variety of ways, such as roots rock, or folk, or alternative country. How do you view your own music?
HR: It is hard to say one label in particular, because a couple of the songs do have a more Americana kind of vibe, or alt-country. I love that music. Other ones seem more folky, maybe a little mellower. Since it was my first full-length record, I wanted to experiment with the different hats I do wear. I didn’t want it to be all one vibe necessarily, because the songs I write don’t fit in one label.
ES: That’s one of the reasons I like the album. There are so many different textures on it. It’s not a one note album by any means.
HR: That was definitely a goal of mine, so thanks, I’m really glad to hear that.
ES: You were talking earlier about your stay in Spain. What do you think living and working in Spain did for your songwriting?
HR: It’s really an amazing experience in life to be able to go someplace where you can totally make it your own. I didn’t know anybody there. I didn’t know the language or anything. And that was really intimidating, but also liberating. There was the most amazing art in Spain. I loved the music there. Just walking and roaming the streets and the plazas, you get to see so much that I don’t think you necessarily see here in the States, especially not in big cities where you are always in a car or a bus or getting from place to place. I thought it was really nice to be able to stop and notice all kinds of little details about people’s lives. That was really helpful to me. And just living in transit, being able to travel to take in all this stuff.
ES: Any new projects on the horizon?
HR: I’m starting a new project where I am actually writing songs in Spanish. So that’s kind of a cool development. It’s really cool, because you can say so many things in Spanish that are very poetic or dramatic that somehow just don’t translate as well in English. I think when you are writing in English, you can’t just necessarily say the way you are feeling. You need to be a little more lyrical. You can’t just say, “I feel sad” or “You make me sad.” In Spanish, it is so direct and it sounds so pretty.
ES: Yeah, you could literally read a phone book in Spanish and it probably would sound pretty.
HR: I love the way Spanish sounds. And I love how there are so many different kinds of Spanish. Like Colombian Spanish sounds so different from Mexican Spanish. We’re taking all that in account in writing these songs. I actually can speak Spanish pretty fluently now, and before I couldn’t.
ES: The title song from your first EP was featured in the television show, “How I Met Your Mother.” Do you think an opportunity like that broadened your audience base?
HR: I definitely noticed people mentioning it or reaching out. That was kind of cool, because I don’t know if anybody in Malaysia or Indonesia would have ever heard my music otherwise.
ES: I’ve heard that TV is the new radio. Do you think that’s true?
HR: The music industry is in such a weird state anyways, where you can’t necessarily just make a living off selling albums anymore. But there also aren’t as many radio stations, and do people listen to the radio as much as they used to?
ES: Probably not. Do you have dream collaborations, people you are dying to work with?
HR: I always thought it would be nice to write a song for someone like Emmylou Harris, who is an idol of mine. It would be cool to write a song for her and hear someone like that sing it. That would be a dream come true for sure, just as a writer.