Indie Music Interviews: Haroula Rose
Singer-songwriter Haroula Rose grew up listening to music from everywhere but was ultimately most drawn to the traditional folk music and Americana. The recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, Haroula was able to expand her range as a storyteller with educational music exchanges in Madrid, Andalusian pilgrimages on a gypsy caravan where traditional flamenco music could be heard day and night, hitch-hiking across the Syria-Jordan border, and traveling from Austria to Hungary in the same train car with a Romanian circus troupe. Born in Chicago, she grew up singing in choirs, a cappella groups, musical theater, and bands. Haroula Rose recently talked with Gravy and Biscuits writer Jessica P. Wallin about her new album, being a nerd, and her favorite breakfast food.
As an LA-based musician, what made you want to record your album, These Open Roads, in Athens, GA?
Athens is where Andy Lemaster’s studio is, so that was the primary reason. I was excited about the music scene out there too though, and the idea of being in a different physical space to accompany the creative/head space I’d be in while recording.
Really fun and easy, he is the coolest. A most talented and humble, great person to work with. We laughed a lot. He can play anything and he makes everything sound great! I was also very pleased that Orenda Fink could come and sing on it, I have been a fan of her voice and writing, and feel lucky that I can call her a friend now too.
“Haroula Rose” sounds like a character from a book. Is that your real name?
It is my real name. It means “little joy” in Greek. What kind of book, by the way?
If “every Rose has its thorn”, what would you say is yours?
I’m sure I have many, but one off the top of my head is that I have a hard time with letting things go.
Who are your influences?
Cat Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel, Trees, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan….there are so many. Lately I cannot stop listening to Ron Sexsmith and Emmylou Harris .
How long have you been making music? What was the point in your life that made you decide to go in this direction?
I’ve been making music for as long as I can recall, but it took a lot for me to be able to play my own songs in front of people out of fear or shyness or something, it was hard to overcome. The last couple of years I just thought, if I don’t really go all out now, I will have regrets. And I didn’t want that to happen, so here I am.
What is your songwriting process like?
Usually quite unpredictable, inspiration is a mysterious thing. But I’ve been trying to make it more of a discipline lately, and I just got back from a writing retreat in the UK where I wrote a new song or two every day for five days, and that was really cool and intense. Co-writing is new and interesting to me.
What do you like writing about most? What do you find challenging to write about?
It’s usually really personal stuff I feel or think about, maybe thematically about love found and love gone away, the ephemeral nature of life and time passing, or images and stories that evoke those kinds of things. I find it hard to write about historical happenings that I wasn’t around for, but I like songs like that so someday I’d like to write one.
Your video for “Free to be Me” is super-cute. Who came up with the video’s concept, and how was it made?
Thanks! It was made by these two Slovakian girls who were referred to me by a film director friend of mine, and they are based out of Lisbon now. We’ve technically never met but communicated via email when we were coming up with the feel and look of it. It’s paper animation with puppets and cutouts and I’m so excited about the way it has been received.
What can people expect from These Open Roads?
Hopefully a variety of songs that makes for an interesting experience to listen to over and again.
Do you think your next album will sound like this one, or will it be different?
Hard to say, but probably some songs will be similar but I’d like to expand or experiment with different arrangements as well.
You were quoted in University of Chicago Magazine as saying “I’m a big nerd.” How so? Who’s your favorite superhero?
Oh boy, I think Superman is the one. Everyone at the University of Chicago is kind of a nerd. One of our school mottos was “where fun comes to die”, along with the “life of the mind”, of course.
Where do you see yourself and your music in five years?
Hopefully I will have a couple more records done by then and many more tours, and working in a variety of projects. Like I would really like to be part of more of a collective or band as well. I also would like to do a whole album of duets or ask friends to make various appearances, co-writes, etc.
What’s your favorite breakfast food? (We are Gravy and Biscuits dot com, after all)
I love gravy and biscuits of all kinds FYI. Favorite breakfast – my dad’s omelets. Nothing beats homemade with love.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for the interview! And thank you to those who are reading it