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Rose Carleo

Armed with a powerful voice and the ear for an infectious riff, Rose Carleo started her musical life as a country singer before making the move to Rock ‘n Roll. Entertainment editor John Turnbull talks to Rose about the Australian live music scene, being yourself and the role of rock historian Glenn A. Baker played in her musical evolution.

CHARMING, self-confident and down to earth, Rose Carleo released her third album Time Is Now in early 2015. We started out talking about her earliest memories of music.

“My mother played a lot of music in the house when I was growing up, and I always loved to sing. Mum supported local bands by starting a couple of country music clubs, and I was allowed to go to one of the clubs one night when I was thirteen and had finished all of my homework. One of the fellas called me up on stage to sing a song with him, and there was no way I was going to do it, but Mum dared me to and that was it! It only took one song and I had the bug, and I was lucky enough to meet a lot of bands through Mum and get on stage with lots of different artists.”

We talk about how Rose made the transition from the small country stages to rocking out.

“Look, I’ve always been a bit of a rock chick, but I grew up on a staple diet of country music from my mum and my siblings. I used to practice country madly as a kid, until someone told me that it’s fine to have your favourite type of music, but it’s good to keep your mind open to other genres. We all develop our own style by listening to our idols and doing cover versions of their songs, so I picked a reggae song, a blues song, a rock song and what have you, and just grew from there. I made a conscious decision that I wanted to make a four-on-the-floor rock album this time, but apart from that we just let the music flow.”

After spending a few years honing her craft, Rose met music guru Glenn A Baker, and he played somewhat of a transformative role in Rose’s career.

“Back in 2012 I entered a competition that Glenn was a judge on. I didn’t get through that one, but he sent a friend to one of my gigs, and then turned up to one of my acoustic gigs himself. He asked if he could put one of my songs on an international Blues compilation he was working on, and he’s become a mate over the years. He’s been a good friend and a mentor, and he’s always seen me as a Blues singer, which is cool because that’s always been part of my sound.”    

Rose’s latest single Ten Years was written with her longtime songwriting partner Drew McAlister, along with her romantic partner Mick Adkins. 

“That was one of the first songs we wrote for the album, and it was sort of inspired by school reunions, social media and everyone catching up from the past. It got me thinking about where I wanted to be in ten years, what I wanted to be doing, and the song came pretty quickly to be honest.”

A longtime supporter of live music, Rose had some strong feelings about the state of live music in Australia in 2015.

“I think it’s a worry (sighs). I think it’s been better, and if we’re not careful then a lot of live venues are going to close down. I’m not 18 anymore, I’m a bit older than some, but when I was growing up it was all about live music. There are so many more options now when young people are looking for entertainment, a lot more people stay at home rather than going out. Regular gigs in regional areas are our bread and butter, so wherever possible I really encourage people to get out and see live music. Go to your local. Go to someone else’s local, it doesn’t matter. Live music is a huge part of our culture and it would be a great shame if we lost it.”  

The album’s first single was the title track, and featured Paul Woseen from The Screaming Jets on Bass.

“The studio band was myself, obviously, my fiancé and guitar player Mick Atkins, Ben Ashwood on drums and Paul Woseen on bass. Paul is a good mate, and we did about eight live dates with him, as well as an acoustic tour to support his solo album. But the Jets are back in the studio and about to hit the road, so for the Ten Years clip we recruited another good mate named Paul McShane to play bass, and he’s done a bunch of live shows with us as well.”

On what advice Rose would offer young musicians: ‘Be yourself. Always be yourself no matter what. We think we need to be like someone else, or someone tells us to change, but you’ll always come back around to being yourself. Nobody else can be you, or do what you do. When you’re young, it’s natural to feel like you’re not good enough, but you are.’

When I raised my standard closing question about music piracy, Rose fired up and didn’t hold back;

“It’s just wrong. There’s no other way to look at it in my eyes. I’m a composer and creator myself, and I’ve found my stuff on illegal sites and reported them. Some people make the argument that so-and-so can afford it, like Pink for instance. Well she might be a superstar, but every cent that the record company spends on her has to be paid back, and she started with nothing just like everyone else. For an independent artist like myself it takes years to write an album and thousands of dollars to record and promote it, in excess of forty grand easily. We invest a lot of money and time, and we have to charge a fair price. A lot of people expect stuff for nothing, but we had to pay to produce it, using the expertise of professional producers and musicians, so if you’re genuine about supporting music, you should pay for it, either on album or live. We really appreciate it when you do.” 

Thanks again to Rose for her time.  For more info about Rose and her upcoming tours check out her website at rosecarleo.com.

Like what you just read? John’s books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

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