Forgottenbee chats with JJ Rosa about her Northern roots, her love of London, fashion and her admiration for Prince.
Welcome to ForgottenBeeBlog… 1/ You are originally from the town of Stockport in Manchester but now reside in London, do you get chance to visit regularly and what does it mean to you?
Yes I do actually. I am very close to a lot of my family and friends that live there so will always try and visit regularly. I adore living in London but always love heading back home for a bit. You can’t forget or neglect your routes! Manchester is a great city to be from and a legendary place musically too.
FB 2/ Whereabouts in London are you based and what do you most enjoy about living in the big smoke?
I live in South East London in an area called New Cross, not far from that beast of a venue that is the 02 arena. I have other family that live in that neck of the woods so when I took the big leap of moving down it wasn’t a complete jump in to the unknown.
London is fab! Arguably one of the most amazing and exciting cities in the world. There’s just an insane amount constantly happening, every night and every day you’ll never get bored or be at a loss. The contrasts of cultures, foods, music etc are so inspiring especially for me as a songwriter (as cheese on toast as that sounds!).
FB 3/ You have a very striking and distinct look. Have you always experimented with fashion and style or has it developed through your performances?
I was brought up by a fashion obsessed mum and my mum had a similar upbringing because of my grandma who is probably one of the most immaculately dressed ladies you’re ever likely to meet. Well apart from maybe the Queen but i’d say she’s definitely on a par! Being aware of my appearance and fashion was fed into my subconscious from a very young age.
FB 4/ I can tell you have a rebellious side to you. What would you say are some of the biggest obstacles for females musicians today?
It is definitely the age thing! A woman’s window in the music industry definitely closes considerably quicker than a guy’s does.
FB 5/ You are definitely causing a stir and getting recognition from some high profile musicians and producers from Christine McVie, Fleetwood Mac, Clint Boon, Inspiral Carpets, to Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran/Christina Perri)? How does this make you feel and does it help to open any doors?
It definitely gives me a bit of a confidence boost for sure! It eventually helps open doors but it’s mainly a great reassurance that you’re actually on the right track and not completely wasting your time doing what you’re doing, ha!
FB 6/ How do you see the huge impact of social media on everyday life directly affecting the musician of today?
It’s difficult because social media seems to be absolutely everything nowadays and there’s no way you can avoid it and if you don’t fully embrace and accept its’ importance then you’re guaranteed to be left behind.
You can make a lot happen for yourself via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… the world’s your oyster! The only problem is to be a part of the (let’s face it, pretty manipulated!) ‘cream that rises to the top’ and to make a real impact you still (much like back in the day) need that financial backing i.e. a major label or at least an incredibly dedicated independent label to help build those social media numbers up quickly. It’s impossible to get in to the hundred thousands or even millions on your lonesome! So effectively there’s a lot of us that are getting lost at sea….
FB 7/ When I was introduced to your music I was totally blown away by your incredibly powerful vocals and emotive song writing style. Tell me more about your song writing process?
Thank you so much, that’s amazing of you to say! I am a melody girl first and foremost and will almost always write my lyrics once the melody has been nailed. A lot of the time the melody will dictate how I’m feeling.
I like to note down good lyrical ideas as well as potential story lines and song meanings. When the time comes to writing the lyrics to a melody i’ll have these ideas to turn to. Sometimes a song can really make me feel a certain way though so lyrics will naturally come to me. I record tons of melodies every week in to my audio memos app on my i.Phone, it’s my saving grace because there’s no way in a million years i’d remember all of them! It’s just a matter of prioritising the strongest ideas.
FB 8/ Do you have a favourite venue that you have played? How did the audience react to your performance in New York?
New Yorkers are great fun! Always up for a live show and they gave us amazing support and feedback when we performed over there.
One of my favourite venues is possibly Carnegie Hall in Harlem over in NYC, that’s probably also to do with it’s legendary status! I also adore Bush Hall here in London town, it’s a beautiful big ballroom with chandeliers, it makes me feel very posh!
FB 9/ What makes you happy?
Music (obvs), the company of my amazing family and friends, cooking, food and wine!
FB 10/ Who would you most like to perform with and why?
If we’re going with legends still living then I’d say Prince but I would probably freeze up and be so scared that I wouldn’t physically be able to play one single note! At least I could say I’d done it! If coming back to life is an option then I’d also quite like to play lead guitar for MJ, James Brown or even Whitney!
FB 11/ On ForgottenBeeBlog I like to set a poetry challenge, in no more than 20 words write a poem to include the words ‘soulful groove’
A soulful groove, means a soulful move.
Soulful food, means a soulful mood.
A soulful tune, means a soulful you.
FB 12/ You play a mean guitar and I know you love your sleazy riffs, do you have a favourite guitar you play, and what advice would you give to any budding new musicians?
I play a Fender Statocaster, they are incredibly versatile and I find they work so perfectly when crossing from Funk to those more heavier Rock vibes.
FB 13/ Can you remember the first record, cd and download you bought. Do you have any embarrassing music in your collection?
The first 2 CDs I ever bought myself were Lauryn Hill’s Ex-Factor and The Offspring’s Smash. This seriously shows that even at a young age (I reckon I was about 10) my music tastes were extremely diverse!
I’m not embarrassed about anything in my collection, if it’s there then it’s there for a reason! (She says frantically having a scan through her i.Phone music library to double check that claim can be said with complete confidence…)
FB 14/ What New Music should we be listening to today?
I absolutely adore the artist Tyson and in particular his most recent album ‘Die on the Dancefloor’ (produced by the brilliant Martin Dubka). These guys seriously brought back that insanely catchy electronic 80s vibes full swing!
FB 15/ With the exciting release in December 2015 of the incredible track “Where is the Mercy”, tell us more about this track, and what’s on the horizon for 2016 for JJ Rosa?
‘Where is the Mercy’ was actually chosen as a last minute decision for our Dec release as it was actually set to be put out this year but with the awful Paris incidents we felt it a more appropriate choice of song to spearhead our release, as the meaning is strongly reflective of tragedy and more specifically people dying before their time.
Next for us is the studio world to get all our most recent tunes finished and sounding how we want them to. Followed by a Spring release, some regional tour dates and then summer festivals.
FB 16/ If there was anything you could change in your life what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t want to change anything right now to be honest because in some weird twisted way everything seems to have happened for a reason and sometimes some of the best things have come off the back of something really quite shit!
FB 17/ Do you have time for any hobbies in your busy schedule, or is music all consuming?
Not so much hobbies really but I enjoy keeping fit, I love cooking and dedicating time where I can to seeing friends and family but also i’m a huge film and series watching fan! I like to keep well up to date with as many, old and new, as possible!
FB 18/ How do you keep yourself grounded?
My family and friends are amazing, there’s no way in a million years they’d let me lose myself or become a complete diva, my mum would bloody kill me!
FB 19/ Tell me a secret that nobody knows?
I’m a pescatarian (a veggie that eats fish) but secretly sometimes have the urge to try roast chicken, it’s something about the smell (I haven’t given in… yet!).
FB 20/ Forgottenbeeblog would like to thank you JJ for this interview…. lastly in no more than 6 words what could be your daily mantra?
You have one life – live it!
Photography Courtesy of JJ Rosa
“Manchester needs a big soulful voice and presence like JJ’s to put it back on the music map!” Rowetta, Happy Mondays.
“I think ten years from now she will be the biggest artist out of Manchester ever, bigger than Oasis or New Order in terms of what she does. She’s so talented and possesses world class potential…” Clint Boon, Radio X & Inspiral Carpets.
“… an incredible guitarist and musician!” Labrinth.