When 22-year-old Rosie Carney released her album Bare in January, BBC referred to the singers haunting debut as "quietly powerful," and compared Carney's aching voice to Joni Mitchell. But the Irish singer-songwriter didn't take time off to rest on her laurels and is already back in the studio.
"It's funny cause everyone is saying to me, 'so you released your first album how does it feel?' The truth is I'm already over it," Carney told Popdust. An industry veteran in her own right, Carney was signed to London-based Polydor records when she was just 15-years-old. "When I was signed there was a lot of pressure to come up with commercial music," Carney said, "I was told that I was signed for my voice and not for my lyrics." Polydor dropped her a year later. "I couldn't write anymore. I didn't know who I was writing for or what I was writing for."
Carney became depressed and struggled to rekindle her inspiration. She became ill and was physically unable to attend school. She dropped out when she was 16. As she recovered physically and emotionally, she forced herself to practice writing and loving her art for what it was, and tailored each work to her interests, rather than to the approval of others. "Kids can be so mean," she said. "I lost all my friends when I got signed. You couldn't give me enough money to go back to school and experience that again." By the time Carney was signed again to Color Study, she had learned how to tap into her creativity in a different way. "I tend to not go back and listen to my work and dip into my past, cause I learned you wouldn't wanna do that generally. I'm just trying to move forward." Carney spoke more on her life after Bare, and how she handles the stress of being back in the spotlight.
So what happened after Polydor dropped you? How did you find your way back to yourself?
I already wasn't very well when I got signed, and being dropped was literally my worst fear. So everything I did in the studio was born out of this fear. I was constantly thinking of what everyone else would want to listen to when I should have just been listening to myself. Then when my worst fear was realized I just completely lost sight of who I was writing for, especially since they told me I was signed for my voice and not my lyrics. So I had to learn how to write and create for myself.
In that year before you were signed again, how did you hone in on your sound?
I just really gave myself the creative space to experiment and figure out what was better for me. My early sound was never something I was really happy with, and being dropped I feel gave me the space I needed to figure out what I wanted to say.
I imagine being a 15-year-old signed musician caused a lot of backlash with your friends at the time.
I lost my friends. Being a teenager is such a hard time, and I became incredibly ill so I ended up dropping out of school anyway just because I physically couldn't go. I was also just away all the time writing and working.
Do you feel fans connect more to your lyrics now?
It's still crazy for me to think that I even have fans, but yes. They really do. A lot of them I connected with when I shared my story, and I just got so many messages about connecting and relating to my music. I feel a very nice sense of unity with them.
But you said that you don't go back and listen to Bare, I'm curious why that is?
I'd never be embarrassed by my work, but Bare was written about very specific experiences, and I just feel like I'm so past that now. I'll always be proud of it, but I don't want to necessarily dwell on it or relive it. I've already got five demos for my second album, I'm working on a demo with Thomas Bartlett tomorrow. I'm just really eager to get back in the studio.
When you were signed a second time did you feel like you had a better head on your shoulders?
I did. I produce my own music now, and I know now exactly what I want down to the smallest texture. I was given so much more control than I was the first go round.
When you go back to Ireland what inspires new material?
The moon. I always end up writing something about the moon. Trees. My god – did I really just say trees? *laughs* but the landscape of my hometown is just so beautiful.
Why the moon?
Well, some people feel that when there is a full moon they go crazy, and I've always just felt myself being pulled by the energy of the moon. It's just so lonely up in the sky.
Now that you're older and wiser, how have you changed the way you manage stress and expectations?
I just am honest with myself when I'm having a bad mental health day. Today I was actually feeling quite anxious.
New York will do that to you.
Seriously, it's so loud! I'm constantly on edge. So I pinpointed it in my head, marked it, and recognize that it'll pass and I'm not going to go crazy. Having pets around also helps.
I have four dogs at home, along with a chicken, a pig, and a horse. I can actually feel myself struggling a bit on this tour cause I haven't been around any animals. My beautiful dog Hemingway has pulled me out of so many dark times.
What makes him your dog?
We've always had 3 dogs, but I asked for one for my birthday that was just mine. So I went to the pet rescue center that was actually in the process of shutting down and this litter had just been delivered, and Hemingway has these big golden eyes. There is an old Irish superstition that golden eyes signify when a creature is possessed by the devil, which is ridiculous.
Is he possessed by the devil?
Absolutely not, but my other dog Murphy did kill my pet rat.
You had a pet rat?
We had two. Mine was named Matilda, and Murphy snuck upstairs and bit right into him and presented him to me. He's a Jack Russell Terrier so it's in his nature, but I was pissed. I couldn't exactly be like "fuck you!" though could I?
Be sure to catch Rosie Carney on her European tour. Tickets can be purchased here.
Mackenzie Cummings-Grady is a creative writer who resides in the Brooklyn area. Mackenzie's work has previously appeared in The Boston Globe, Billboard, and Metropolis Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @mjcummingsgrady.