Interview with Rosy Nolan
Thank you for your time today Rosy. Please tell us about next week’s show at The Hotel Cafe!
So glad to be here! The show is coming up fast. This Saturday at the Hotel Cafe 9pm sharp. I’ll be debuting my EP, “Footprints & Broken Branches,” which I produced alongside Tim Timebomb from Rancid and Kenny Feinstein from Water Tower. I’m particularly thrilled because it’s the first time I put out vinyl. It’s always been a dream of mine. I’m playing with some fantastic players at the show: Gina Romantini on fiddle, Amelia Card on guitar, Jake Howard on mandolin and Kevin McClellan on upright bass.
What is the name of the new EP and where was it written?
The EP is titled, “Footprints & Broken Branches.” I wrote most of it when I was living in the woods of Mendocino. I was living in a cabin under the canopy of the redwoods for about a year. The only heating source was a wood stove and I got pretty good with an axe and a hatchet. The title is pulled from my song, “Old Ravine” which is about living in that place. At one point there was a manhunt for a guy who had killed a couple forest rangers. They had everybody searching for him, local, state, and federal officers on the hunt for several months. He knew the woods so well that the only thing they found of him were footprints and broken branches.
Do you typically write from a musician standpoint first or as a lyricist and the music comes later?
Usually, I come up with an instrument part, then the vocal melody and finally the words. Although, I have written lyrics first and placed them to music before. That was an exercise I did with a song called “Rising Up.” I wrote all the words in a cafe without any music and then came home and placed it to music. It was a cool exercise.
The last album you bought?
Courtney Hartman’s “Ready Reckoner.” She’s a fantastic songwriter and a fierce guitarist. I just saw her at a house concert in LA a couple weeks ago. It was a spellbinding performance.
The first album you ever bought?
It was The Pixies, “Doolittle.” There was a record store near my house in Rockridge in Oakland and my stepsister told me I needed to get into the Pixies. So I bought all their cassettes. “Doolittle” was the first one. I think I could still sing that whole album acapella and by heart.
When did you learn to play the banjo? Would you say it’s a difficult instrument to master?
I picked up the banjo in 2014 after years of playing guitar. I wanted to play an uplifting instrument and get a break from my melancholic songwriting. I started with the bluegrass Scruggs style over at McCabe’s Guitar Shop, taking lessons from the incomparable John Rosen. Then I got really turned on to Old Time music which incorporates, what they call, clawhammer or frailing. It lends itself more easily to singing along. I think if you’re coming from the guitar, it’s a little easier to get your head around the banjo. Clawhammer did take some time getting used to.
Vocalists who inspire you?
I’ve always loved Stevie Nicks, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, and Nina Simone. With Nina Simone, I know I sound nothing like her and I am not even gonna try but if I could ever make people feel the way she makes me feel ,well, that would be a huge accomplishment.
What do you do in your spare time when you are not playing or in the studio?
I have really been enjoying doing these paint-by-number kits. It’s super relaxing and meditative. And if I can jump in the ocean a few times every summer that makes me feel pretty good.
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End of Interview