Innovator and musician Les Paul once said about playing guitar, "It’s not technique — it’s what you have to say".
Judging from her music, guitarist and singer Anna Rose has a lot to say. From everything to music technology, gender gaps in the industry, musical theater and sight reading-she hits the nail on the head.
The daughter of a ballet dancer and composer Alan Menken, Anna Rose grew up in an artistic and musical environment. First introduced to the guitar at age 5, she is now wowing audiences with her solid voice and musical skill. Her upcoming debut, ‘Nomad’, was co-produced with William (Billy) Sullivan, and includes five songs from her current EP.
BLAST: I appreciated that in your bio you mention that your musical process includes “full takes, no Auto-Tune, and maybe one synthesizer”. What do you think of the use of technology in music and recording these days?
Anna Rose: You know, I think the use of technology is wonderful, but personally I don’t think I have the experience to put it to its full use. My experience lies in playing guitar and singing and doing things live. The best way to capture what I do is capturing things in full takesâ€¦I don’t think there is anything wrong with Auto-tune (but) I choose not to use it in my workâ€¦it’s dishonest for me.
BLAST: I also like your quote about wearing dresses. It really struck me because as a drummer…wearing a dress is not much of an option, which people sometimes forget. Do you feel like there is an assumption of how a female musician should look on stage?
AR: Absolutely. I think that there is still that stigma of female musicians kinda just being the figurehead of a great operationâ€¦the puppet. I don’t think that’s the case with every musician…I think every great female artist has fought against itâ€¦I fight against it all the time. Keith Richards can get up in a T-shirt and jeansâ€¦if a girl does that it’s like she didn’t get dressed up for the occasion.
BLAST: That being said, do you feel there is a divide between men and women in the field of rock and music? Or does bringing it up create that divide?
AR: You know, I work really well with male musicians, my band is all guys. Personally, I’ve found I end up working with male musicians. That being said I know of some brilliant female musicians I would love to work with. Good music is good music. The important thing is to let your music be the most important part of it…and that’s what bridges the gap. It’s important for music to just be music, and not just an industry of people trying to be cool.
BLAST: So you started on piano. Do you read music or do you feel you learn and write more by ear?
AR: I don’t read music, I read tablature for guitar, but I really do everything by ear primarily. I don’t want to advocate people not learning music, it’s important for certain pathsâ€¦.my particular path as a writer doesn’t necessarily require that.
BLAST: A lot of guitarists strive on soloing. (The solo on Picture is awesomeâ€”reminds me of Voodoo Child Slight Return there) What do you think about that? Do you think there is too much of a focus on soloing in the guitar world?
AR: Well, first, that solo isn’t me…that solo is my lead guitarist, Adam Stoler, he’s my musical director for my band. My whole band is comprised of some (great) musiciansâ€¦but I’m a rhythm player through and through. I think soloing is important â€¦it’s a different animal than playing rhythm guitar. You’re kind of born to be a solo player or a rhythm playerâ€¦its just never been my thing. But I envision for sure.
BLAST: Ok, random question. Are there any guitar riffs you’d rather not hear again?
AR: I can’t think of any off the top of my head! That’s an awesome question! I hate guitar riffs with a lot of chorus on them or chamberâ€¦anything ‘chorusy’ or ethereal…unless it’s meant for a certain sound effect. Oh! The theme from the original Beverly Hills 90210â€¦but I also obsessively watch it. Maybe that’s my own fault.
BLAST: I noticed in another interview you stated that though you idolize a lot of artists from the â€˜50s, â€˜60s, and ’70s that you listen to, and recording one of their songs would be blasphemous in a way. What do you think of all the remakes of Beatles songs and the all the things like Rockband and even the film Across the Universe, which take from these artists?
AR: Across the Universe was really really well doneâ€¦with unique takes (on those songs). Covering someone else’s song, when it’s your own take on itâ€¦.is an homage to that artist. When you’re redoing a song that was made famous by Johnny Cash or somethingâ€¦you need to have your own unique stance on it. Personally I think I’m too young and early in my career to have the right to do that. I need to explore my own creativity and have a couple of pieces of my own work out there before I can say I am good enough to cover someone’s song. I have too much respect of that work to even go near it, though I do cover things live but I won’t record them
BLAST: Your father has written many pieces for film and musical theater. If you could cover a musical theater piece, which show would you work from?
AR: I grew up with so much musical theater, there’s a song that my dad wrote for the live musical for Beauty and the Beast, called "The Change in Me" that is a really beautiful song. In terms of shows that are really kickass, Little Shop of Horrors. I think musicals come and go in popularity but…I think they are really wonderful expressions of our culture.
BLAST: Another random question for you-do you look at the fretboard in terms of notes or shapes?
AR: I look at it in terms of shapes, absolutely. Despite the fact that I consider myself as a guitarist, I don’t consider myself an incredible guitaristâ€¦I wouldn’t presume myself as an incredible guitarist, and I definitely look more toward shapes.
BLAST: Anything else?
Next thing coming up is my first music video, filming on Nov 14 on Connie Island (look on Youtube or her website and Myspace page: http://www.annarosemusic.com and www.myspace.com/annarosemusic) and I’m really excited! I’m doing a show on December 7 at Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. My EP is five songs that are taken from my full length album that will come out in February called Nomad. And hopefully a tour in the spring!
BLAST: Come to Boston!
Anna Rose’s band is comprised of Adam “The Splendor” Stoler, Tyler McDiarmid, Jamie Bishop and
Jordan Perlson. To check out music and more, go to www.annarosemusic.com.