“The next day, I couldn’t wear shoes all day. It was my album listening party, so I put backless American Apparel shoes on - best shoes I’ve ever worn. They literally saved me. But my fucking right foot, my heel was completely infected. It was swollen so badly I was talking to the head of Polydor with my foot up because I needed to get the blood away it was throbbing so badly.”
For the last fifteen minutes Rosie Lowe has been describing the time she wore poorly fitting shoes for a long day of press. This is the start of our interview. The opening gambit. It’s a story that loops in disaster, pain, humiliation, and many guttural laughs. It’s also one of the reasons that talking to Rosie is such a pleasure.
“So I spent the whole night at my listening party with my fucking foot up behind me. I stood one legged at my listening party. As soon as I left I went straight to hospital and I was put on antibiotics.”
Releasing debut album Control this year, it’s a sumptuous collection of sparse, delicate, and intimate RnB dipped electronic pop that slips between stories of heartache, troubled relationships, and personal reflections with such brutal honesty listening can feel like eavesdropping.
But for all the stark seriousness found on her record, there’s a real personable humour and charm to Rosie Lowe. Over the course of our hour long chat she throws out some great lines, “I’ve got a drawer of supplements”; “I’d love an almond”; and my personal favourite; “I got on stage and I felt like I had a bogey”.
Yet for all the press she’s done (ill-fitting shoes or not), most of it seems to sternly centre around her feminism. “If you release a song called Woman, what do you expect? I’m relieved that I’m being asked about something that’s important and not my ‘fashion faux pas’ for once,” she laughs. “At least I’m talking about something I really care about, but it would be nice if it came back to my music. OK fine, I am a feminist, I’m totally a feminist and I’m proud of that and I’m going to fly the flag for equality, but how ironic that you didn’t ask me one question about my album.”
Releasing her Right Thing EP in 2013, Rosie began working with the likes of Dave Okumu and Kwes, although the brunt of her music was written and recorded in the secluded Devonshire cottage where her dad lives. With a near three year gap between EP and album, I politely ask what she got up to. “It feels like a real schlep to get here,” she laughs, “But I kept on changing it and thinking, no I can do better.”
Standing at eleven elegant tracks, I ask if she had trouble choosing her final tracklist? “The business side I find really tough, but the creative side was amazing. Every song on the album had to have been my favourite song at some point. I didn’t want it to feel like three singles and loads of album fillers. My thing was, I have to be able to stand by every song, and not just be like, ‘Ah this one’s alright, shove it on’. I needed to feel connected to the song in some way.
“Usually when I write, I don’t remember writing it the next day. Because I write at night and I have a few glasses of wine…” I interrupt her to ask if she just got pissed alone in Devon and wrote an album?
“Yeah. Close to it!” she jokes. “Nah, sometimes I was pissed - by the end of songs. Usually I wouldn’t get started till like 1am, so then until 6 or 7 in the morning is the timeline for when this happens. I always remember feeling really excited or feeling like it's just right. So always it’s terrifying, because I listen back like - what was I fucking thinking?”
I love the image of a hungover Rosie waking up at 3pm, slowly overcome with panic, checking her Pro Tools in the way I would probably check my text messages.
“OH GOD, WHO DID I TEXT?” she exclaims. “Yeah, it’s like that relief, and feeling like I wasn’t imagining it. That it still means something. I write so much but the ones on the album, each of them have been my favourite at some point. They felt like something I could connect to, over and over and over again. I don’t want to get up on stage and sing songs about stuff that I haven’t felt, that I can’t connect to. I wanted the album to be super close to me, very vulnerable, and I just wanted it to embody where I’ve been at.”
Some tracks on the album, such as the moving prayer of Nicole or the confidently confessional Woman, feel so intensely intimate it’s close to unnerving. I ask if Rosie sometimes worries after writing that she might have shared too much, opened up too far?
“I don’t, but that’s probably because there’s such a long time between me writing them and completing them where it feels so raw, to releasing them. I mean, if it’s about anyone else, I’d never just release something without checking. So that one, me and Nicole talked in depth about that. But about my stuff, my personal stuff, I don’t really care.”
Last time I spoke to Rosie we talked at length about our love of lyrics, and how we both pay so much attention to them. I ask if she approaches her own music with the same intentions?
“The music that’s always rung true with me is really, really brutally honest music. The stuff that you can even get straight away, and be like, fuck. I’ve felt that. I can relate to that. I get my enjoyment from feeling stuff emotionally. Feeling connected with something, feeling understood, or just being able to relate with music.
“For me, that’s kind of what saved me when I was younger. I remember feeling really understood through music. And feeling less alone. I think it really helped me understand a lot of things and get to know myself in my own way. So that’s something that’s really important for me, music that is really honest. I’m a pretty honest person anyway. It’s fine. We all go through the same shit.”
The same shit, different shoes.