Interview with Queen Rose: Musical Ascension
Interview By Tachelle Shamash Wilkes
Tachelle Wilkes: When did you first lift a violin? How did it feel?
Queen Rose: I am not 100% sure when that was, because my older brother was already playing the violin, but I know I wanted to learn it because I loved my brother’s playing so much -- I started with violin lessons when I was seven years old.
T: Please tell us more about your musical beginnings as a violinist and discovery of your singing and production talents.
QR: There was always music in my house as long as I remember. I have 3 older siblings who already played instruments. We also sang as a family at home, I have 5 siblings. Imagine “The Sound of Music,” I grew up in the middle of the Austrian Alps. I first learned the recorder, then started the violin and later the guitar and then the piano. The violin was my main instrument and I stayed with it all these years, never stopped. When I was 12 years old I knew I wanted to tour the world as a professional musician. I always wanted to sing too, but I was very shy. So I just sang in choirs at first. It wasn’t until much later that I took on my singing. The producing came after I had written Jazz compositions and then went more into popular music styles and into songwriting. It was a natural development. I knew how I wanted my songs to sound like, but I couldn’t find producers to work with who created a sound I liked. So I just started to teach myself how to produce and record in Protools and Reason. I wanted to create my own sound and style, not just for my violin playing and singing, but also my productions. Just like Wyclef, you can identify a Wyclef production, hopefully one day people will say that about my productions too.
T: Where did the name Queen Rose come from?
QR: I used to go by a different artist name when I did mainly Jazz and Classical. And after a transformational vacation on Bermuda I started to recreate myself as an artist. I used “Queen Rose” just for myself in my creation book, like a possibility, something to live into. A queen for me is someone who serves people, and that’s what I want to do with my music, to inspire and empower people. I want to create a shift from negative to empowering messages in the media and entertainment industries, and I want to build bridges to create intercultural communication to foster peace. This is the context for all I do. I am burning for justice just as much as for my music. Then I realized my music changed so much that I needed a new stage name, so I went with it, because I started to identify with the name.
T: Who has impacted you as an artist?
QR: Too many to name, but mainly artists with their own distinct voice: from Bach, John Coltrane, Abbey Lincoln to Donny Hathaway, Rufus (Chaka Khan), Santana, Sting, Wyclef Sean, Mary J Blige, Sade, Jill Scott and many more. Most recently the biggest inspiration for me has been the Australian singer Sia, who had her breakthrough in Great Britain. She is the first female singer I can truly identify with. It is so great when you find someone who touches you on such a deep level and you can compare yourself with. I never could tell people who I sounded like, she is probably the closest I get to. A lot of people would compare me to Erykah Badu, I still don’t know why, but I wouldn’t mind at all to share a stage with her one day. I have listened to so much different music in my life. That’s why I call my own style World Soul music, it best describes me, as a singer I was mainly influenced by soul singers, but I have been playing and listened to so many other styles of music. Not to forget all the artists I got to work with, independent artists and bigger names. I get inspiration and ideas from lots of sources. I know my music and my voice are very distinct. You can’t put me in a box. To become my true authentic self is my ultimate goal as an artist, it’s humbling. Many people try to copy what’s already out there, both singers and producers. That may work for a while and may even give you a hit, but I don’t believe you can build longevity with it. I am in it for the rest of my life, I think long-term.
T: As a producer?
QR: If I had to choose one I would say Wyclef, because he incorporates so many live instruments. His productions are so musical and diverse, and yet recognizable. I also make my own beats, and often I have a live drummer add to it. Same for the other instruments, most of the ideas I lay down myself first, then I hire live musicians to replace it. Most recently I really love the productions of Greg Kurstin and Jimmy Hogarth on Sia’s albums. We will see how I will develop in the future, I never stay the same.
T: Who are artists and producers you have worked with?
QR: I have worked with the producers Seven Aurelius -- on an Ashanti record, Warren “Oak” Felder -- on an Elle Varner record, Commissioner Gordon (of Lauryn Hill fame) -- on Rox’s album, a British singer, and DJ Spooky to name a few. I was the featured violinist on MTV Unplugged with Trey Songz and backed up Santana, Patti Labelle, John Legend and Gloria Estefan with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas. I contributed string arrangements to the rapper Blitz the Ambassador’s “Stereotype” album, Grammy winning songwriter Gordon Chambers, YouTube sensation De’Storm and many more.
T: So far what has been the highlight of your career?
QR: Performing my own music and being on tour with my own band. Every gig where I get to sing and play is a highlight, especially when people come up to me and tell me how much they love it. It gives me the feeling that I contributed and made a difference. Also being in the studio recording, writing, producing and working with other musicians and artists is one of the best things. You can ask anyone who has been in the studio with me. They all say I know what I want, which makes it easy for them. For me it is absolute joy to give directions and work with talented musicians or artists and have my music come to life! And when I get to sing that’s even better. I love it all.
T: Tell us about your new album -- what are the sounds and experiences?
QR: It is a collection of very personal songs, things I believe most people go through in life. I have a lot of songs that express how to overcome obstacles, become free, find the purpose of your life, soul searching songs. And of course some love songs too. Life is a journey, and to live your dreams and follow your heart takes a lot of courage, because you have to break free from a lot of conditioning. I call my album “Purpose of My Life,” also the name of a song. I want to empower people to find the purpose of their life, which is following their heart. I call my sound World Soul music: I have some Hip Hop, R&B, Brazilian, Rock, Afro-Cuban, Jazz and Classical influences, but it is a pop album and I am still developing the productions and it looks like it is going to change quite a bit. Once again I am in a transition period. Through my fundraiser I played out a lot and asked for a lot of feedback, I realized I am still searching for my target audience, and it is most likely very different from what I expected it to be. The biggest compliment I recently received it that I should be opening up for Adele, because when I sing I get so many emotions across.
T: I see you will be contributing one dollar of each album sold to the non-profit Windows of Opportunities for their music program Rock Ur Heart Out. Tell us about the organization and why do kids pull at your heart strings?
QR: I just love children, they are pure, honest and still dream. There is so much to learn from them. I believe we should listen a lot more to the children in the world, and instead of killing their aspirations and dreams, support them to become their greater selves. Most of us got trapped, don’t even realize it, and then put our limited beliefs onto our children. I have my own organization called Building Bridges, to create intercultural communication to foster peace, create a shift from negative to empowering messages and to empower the youth. They are the leaders of our future. I met Hal from the non-profit Windows of Opportunities a few years ago at a United Global Shift workshop. We have so much synergy and our principals are aligned. Since my organization is not yet a non-profit I always knew I wanted to support another organization, which builds bridges. So it was just natural to choose Windows of Opportunity, because we have a long-standing partnership, and Hal is doing exactly that, he is training disadvantaged children, many of them have gone through a lot in their lives, to go beyond their limited beliefs and conditioning and make something of themselves. That work is precious, because our school systems are not set up that way. Kids fall to the sideways if they don’t fit into the system, and their potential never gets unlocked. We need more people doing the work of what Windows of Opportunity is doing.
T: What advice do you have for young girls who are reaching for their dreams?
QR: Don’t let anyone tell you -- you can’t achieve what your heart tells you to do! Sounds like a line from a song. When you go your own way, which doesn’t fit into the norm, you automatically will have people who want to stop you, often people closest to you. It’s because they care for you and have their own fears. You can’t let anyone discourage you, and you have to keep seeking for the people, who believe in you and give you the encouragement you need. It won’t be easy, there will be lots of obstacles. The test will be, how will you deal with them and will you let them stop you or not. Every successful person will tell you, failing is an important part on the journey, and the more often you fail the more likely it becomes that you will succeed in the end. Preparation is key, you have to be ready for the opportunity to arise, at any level of success. I truly believe most people forget to prepare for the success, so when it arrives they can’t deal with it in a healthy way. They didn’t prepare for the emotional part of what comes along with it, the pressure, attention etc -- That’s when their life gets out of balance. The most important thing though I believe is to have a strong spiritual foundation, so that nothing in the world gets you out of balance, success or failure, accolades or criticism. Don’t identify too much with what you are doing, that’s just your professional identity, but not who you are as a human being and spirit. Don’t identify as a person with the success or failure you experience. That was a lot, I could go on.
T: What is your motto for life?
QR: It’s never too late! No matter where you are in life, you can always start unlocking your dreams and work towards realizing them. That’s success for me -- following your heart, and it can be achieved at any stage in your life. Reminding myself of that always frees me up. I am not here to fit into a system, I am here to be me and happy with what I do.
T: How can people find you?
QR: My website is www.queenrosemusic.com. From there you get to my YouTube Channel, Facebook page, MySpace and my Building Bridges organization. Most important though, I succeeded in my crowd fundraising for my album. Now people can pre-order my album and other services, like string recordings or performances, until its digital release currently scheduled for 9/4! So don’t miss out of the opportunity to be part of my journey, get exclusive updates and a free download of my Building Bridges song. You can also watch a live performance of the song at the Blue Note. I have a lot of exciting things to explore on that page www.pledgemusic.com/queenrose