Rosie Frater-Taylor New album 'Bloom' Interview
Interview & Photos by Patricia Pascal
First published at Sussex Jazz magazine
Rosie Frater-Taylor is a multi-talented artist that goes from strength to strength with every new release.
She seems to craft every song showcasing just the perfectly balanced amount of skill in each one of her talents. Her unique signature sound tying her luxurious sweet vocals with her virtuoso guitar playing displays artistry reminiscent of artists like Becca Stevens, Lianne La Havas. or even Joni Michel.
At 19, 'On my mind', her debut album, explored a more folksy approach.
At 21, her second album - 'Bloom' - reflects her growth and sounds like a more mature version of Rosie's gorgeous musical storytelling seamlessly blending folk, Pop and Jazz.
>Rosie, for those who haven't been introduced to your music can you tell us a bit about your background and relation with your instrument? >Was Guitar your first choice?
was raised in a very musical household - both my parents are professional musicians – we’d have super eclectic music about the house : Al Jarreau, Lewis Taylor, Tania Maria, George Duke which opened my young ear to jazz music & beyond.
My dad started teaching me drums first at about the age of 8 which I’d say created some strong rhythmic foundations for my future writing and guitar playing. Soon after this, I picked up one of my mum’s guitars. I was very into acoustic guitar (Ben Howard, Tom Odell) initially, in fact, I first found my roots in jazz studying at Tomorrow’s Warriors, NYJO & the Royal Academy of Music. At this time, I was also avidly checking out some awesomely unique songwriters : Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato & Emily King.
I was 16 when I started laying out multi-layered guitar-based demos on Cubase, ultimately combining all of these influences into my own songwriting – that eventually became my debut self-produced album ‘On My Mind’, which I released in 2018.
>One of the unique characteristics of your sound is the way you wrap your vocals around your Guitar especially when you improvise. What inspiration do you draw for that approach?
I draw a lot of inspiration from George Benson in regard to the ‘scatting’ my solos of course. That connection to the human voice is a beautiful, seriously cool sound and you’re right it draws people in for sure ! But, I do try to work it into my style of writing and playing in a personal way. I draw a lot on rhythmic ideas and a ‘poppier’ / ‘singer-songwriter’ style of guitar playing as much as jazz.
>I presume you compose all your songs on the Guitar? What is your songwriting process?
For ‘On My Mind’ & ‘Bloom’ all the tracks were written at the guitar. In terms of blurring genre lines (jazz / folk / pop / soul) & layering up stringed parts / harmonies, guitar consistently gives me the most inspiration & scope.
My process normally begins at the guitar with chords, riffs, parts or lines followed by or in conjunction with melodies and lyrics. I love to layer my tracks with ukuleles, vocals or different guitar textures; I actively search for unusual or moving harmonies and qualities but really yes, guitar is the foundation of it all.
>Why the name Bloom for the album?
You said to me yourself the other day how the new tracks sound ‘polished’ in comparison to ‘On My Mind’ which has a younger, self-made quality to it, which I like too, as a totally viable snapshot of my sound at the time. This album was really a journey to solidifying 'my sound', realising what that is, why I write the way I do & am drawn to certain sounds and genres and then doing it with as much intention as I can.
In a similar vein, I'm also relinquishing a little bit of control this time in terms of the mixing and marketing of the album, working with a manager and a gradually expanding team to try and get it into as many ears as possible.
I also think it’s a cool word, a big part of my writing is in it’s development or ‘growth’ how it ebbs, flows & grows, if that makes sense.
>If you could choose one song from 'Bloom' that best defines the sound you were going for in this second album which one would it be?
That’s a difficult question. I tap into lots of different styles and influences on the record, some go off on a ‘folk’ tangent or a ‘pop’ tangent more so than others - depends on the track.
The intention for ‘Bloom’ was to blur those lines whilst maintaining the consistency of my style and process. In terms of combining groove, my harmonic taste, layering, lyrical content & improvising, the first single ‘Better Days’ gives a good snapshot of all of those.
>Can you introduce the musicians you have chosen to record in the album?
Of course ! Mostly I worked solely with my band and friends / colleagues from the Royal Academy. Matt Carter (piano), Seth Tackaberry, Hugo Piper (bass) & my dad Steve Taylor (drums, percussion) – I play all of the guitars, ukuleles & vocals on the album.
I was also fortunate enough to collaborate with Snowpoet’s Chris Hyson on two of the tracks, he brings some very beautiful piano & sonic vibes to the record.
>You were 19 when you released your debut album - On my mind - to great feedback.
What advice would you give to other young musicians dreading that first release?
Even if you’re not completely happy with it, your music is going to be a much greater asset to you out in the world where people can connect with it, review it, become fans of it, come to gigs based on it etc. etc.
Growth is the most normal thing, accept that you can release something and learn / grow from it and accept that growth is impossible if you do not start somewhere. Artists that take their earliest projects down are just playing into this toxic, social-media led culture of ‘how it seems’ matters most (here’s the best 15 seconds of my 5 minute take…), in reality EVERYONE dislikes things about their earliest releases & EVERYONE grows and improves.
It is a very real possibility that you will never be 100% happy with the music you release but my advice would be to make peace with that because creativity works in damn mysterious ways.
It’s natural that by the time it comes to releasing something you’ve been sitting on for months you’re already onto the next sound, you’re already a better player but that does not invalidate it; in my experience, that’s just your brain messing with you ! I suppose I’d ask you to consider what the reasons are for holding back & suggest that you get some objective opinions of people you respect in regard to your release and genuinely listen to them.
I am consistently unsure about releasing my music babies into this harsh industry – my manager even has a lovely spreadsheet of all the rejection comments ! I often hate aspects of the music but with time I learn to listen to it innocently & love it again. Playing your music live is also a great way to carry those tracks / songs forward with you as you grow as a musician. I mean, you can also re-record, re-release, re-mix, re-master. It’s just part of the process.
>What are you listening to at the moment? Any new artist you recommend to our readers?
Right now I’m listening to Snowpoet’s latest album a bunch as well as Brotherly’s ‘One Sweet Life’ and Rickie Lee Jones’ & Little Dragon’s self-titled projects.
In terms of a new artist I’ve been checking out, there’s this awesome crossover, hard-rock duo called Nova Twins. If you want to learn a bit about them, they recorded a ‘Tape Notes’ podcast which is a conversation about the production and writing process.