Main Stage: SATURDAY 10
Summing up Rosie’s sound isn’t easy. The Guardian called her “a more machinistic Laura Mvula or an xx-rated Sade”. She’s been compared to everyone from Solange, Jesse Ware and The Weeknd to Drake, James Blake and Air. You might describe her music as electronic R&B, yet it’s built mostly from vocals. You could call it soul, but it’s also jazz, hip hop and glitchy, pitch-shifting pop.
Control, Rosie’s debut album, is a synth-soul masterpiece. It’s instrumentally sparse yet atmospherically dense, at once warm and spine-chilling, both subtle and bold. It is music of such spectral beauty it haunts you long after it’s gone.
While Control depicts specific events that occurred as the album was being written, Rosie’s sound stems from a lifetime spent making music. She can’t recall ever not singing, while her much of her childhood was spent learning instruments. The youngest of six kids, she was brought up in a remote part of south Devon – her nearest neighbours were a 45 minute walk away – by an artist mother and a multi-instrumentalist father who played saxophone in local bands.
The kids all played music together. Thanks to her dad, Rosie was as obsessed with Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan as she was with the Spice Girls. And when her dad taught music lessons, he left Rosie in the car, singing along to the Ella and Billie backing tracks he’d bought her.
As a kid, Rosie played six instruments, including piano, violin and sax, at which she excelled and still plays today. But it was singing that came most naturally to her. By the age of 12, Rosie had been in a big band, an orchestra and various girl groups who performed songs she had written. By the time she was 14, she had already spent three years fronting a jazz band that performed around Devon every weekend.
In her teens, Rosie became obsessed with strong female singer/songwriters – Carole King, Erykah Badu, Joni Mitchell among them. She learnt their songs then broke them apart. She analysed their lyrics. She fell in love with the art of songwriting. Aged 19, she got in to the prestigious Goldsmiths at University of London to study popular music. It was there that she found her sound, but not until her final year. For one course, Rosie ditched her instruments, got a computer and Logic software and started learning to produce and to record herself singing.
After university, Rosie nannied by day and wrote all night, posting the results on Soundcloud for her friends to hear. She signed to Domino Publishing, releasing her adored, four-track debut EP, Right Thing, co-produced with friends Kwes (Damon Albarn, Solange, Bobby Womack) and The Invisible’s Dave Okumu (Jessie Ware, Paloma Faith, Kwabs, The Invisible), who would go on to work on Control.