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INTERVIEW – Rose Carleo – March, 2015

| 19 April 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Rose Carleo – March, 2015

By Shane Pinnegar

Ex-Perth girl Rose Carleo has delivered a rock n’ roll tour de force with third album Time Is Now. SHANE PINNEGAR discovers a talented singer who is ready to rock after a couple of heavily country music-leaning records.

Rose Carleo 01

Boasting a classic Aussie rock sound courtesy of producer Mark Opitz – a man whose CV boasts names like Divinyls, The Angels, Cold Chisel, INXS, AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and many more – Time Is Now doesn’t hold back on the rocking riffs, nor on the powerhouse vocals of Carleo herself.

“I’ve always been a rock chick,” exclaims Carleo. “I suppose the brief for this album [was], I said to Mick [Adkins – Carleo’s partner and leader of the band Rogue Sharks] and Drew [McAlister – country musician whose Best Of album for his duo McAlister Kemp is due out soon] and the other people I write with, ‘look, I want to write some more four-on-the-floor stuff. I want to write rocking stuff with a good beat.’

“I grew up listening to a lot of country music but also a lot of rock stuff,” she explains, “Aussie rock stuff: there’s nothing better than when you see someone tapping their foot to your song or even yourself when you’re at a concert or something just being able to feel the groove. I wanted to write four-on-the-floor stuff but I still wanted songs with substance, with good stories or messages in them.

“There’s one or two party songs on the record for sure, but I guess I wanted to make a bit of a difference with stories or messages. I suppose the way I think is, we’re all human no matter how old we are and at some point in our lives we’ll go through a lot of the same things just at different times in our lives. The whole trick, I suppose, is to make the songs as universal as you can. For instance: I lost my Mum. She was really young when she passed – I was nineteen. But some people might not lose a parent until they’re forty or fifty. You know what I mean? So, at some point we’ll go through a lot of similar things so making it universal you almost guarantee for people to relate no matter at what age.

“Connecting,” she says adamantly, “you’ve got to connect with people.”

Rose Carleo 02

Carleo says getting Opitz to assume control of the record was remarkably easy.

“It was actually, Mick, my partner, that said to me, ‘just ring Mark Opitz’,” she explains. “Simple as that. He’d spoken to Mark earlier for a project that he was doing. ‘Just ring him?’ I said, ‘No!!’

“I said, ‘oh you know, our resume with genres [we’ve worked in] is a bit different – he’s not going to want to work with what I’m doing,’ and Mick said, ‘just bloody ring him!’ So I said, ‘all right,’ and thought, ‘well I’ll just ring him and see what he says’

“And he was absolutely lovely,” she explains with a sigh of relief, “and we had a big chat and I sent him some stuff through. He replied and said, ‘yeah, we’d love to work with you.’ [Opitz] and Colin Wynne [co-producer and engineer] did such a fantastic job. I said, ‘can we co-produce?’ He said, ‘yeah, it’s a team effort – absolutely. We’d love to work on it with you.’ It was our project – when I say ‘our’ I mean Mick and I, because Mick co-wrote a lot of the songs with me and he produced it with me as well. [So] there’s four producers on there. We’re all mates and we’d already had such a big respect for him and for Colin, but it’s even bigger now they’ve added this element that’s really cool.”

Stating that she wanted a rockier album is one thing, but did Carleo cite any musical touchstones she was aiming for during the making of Time Is Now?

“Ummmmmm… well initially, no,” says the girl with the AC/DC mobile phone ringtone. “It was all four-on-the-floor stuff. I wanted rocking stuff, and I’ve always been called ‘the rock chick’ and all that. Growing up [I had] influences as far fetched as Emmylou Harris to AC/DC – and there’s a lot in between. I suppose Buckcherry is another favourite of mine and of Mick’s so that was probably that kind of vibe I had in mind to a degree. Also, a little bit of that bluesier influence such as the Black Crowes, another favourite [who] have had a big influence on me. The rest fell into place, I suppose. It just sorta came naturally.”

Many of those diverse influences came from Carleo’s Mum, a country music fan who promoted gigs and fomented a scene in Perth as Carleo was a pre-teen.

“She was into music – just a huge music lover and appreciator,” recalls Carleo fondly. “Mum started a couple of clubs just to help people along. She enjoyed going to the gigs and didn’t want to see them end so she said, ‘oh, I’m just going to start a club so there’s a gig every week.’

“She was a big music appreciator and it was because of her that I first got up on stage – I got dared to get up on stage one night at the club when I was thirteen. I’d done my homework [so I] was allowed to go – it was actually at the old Dianella Hotel, in Perth. They called me up [on stage] – I looked across the table [at Mum] and said, ‘I’m not getting up there, you’re crazy.’ She said, ‘I dare you,’ and that was it, I was up like a shot. It was all good, so up there, it all began!”

Just because the young teen Carleo saw the dare as a red rag to a bull doesn’t mean she didn’t feel the clammy clutch of stagefright.

“Oh yeah, my knees were like jelly,” she laughs. “I couldn’t believe I was doing it. I was like, ‘what are you doing?’ But the challenge was set. [She said] ‘I dare you.’ That was it. I’d sung in a couple of school productions along the way in front of people, so, yeah, why not? Someone’s daring me. I’m going to do it. I was a bit of a go-getter, I suppose.”

That go-getter nature was amplified as Carleo saw her Mother soldier on through her illness, she says. “My Mum was quite ill for about thirteen years, actually, and she was lucky enough that she lasted. I think watching her making an oath and saying, ‘why not? Let’s give it a go. Let’s do stuff,’ I learnt a lot without realising it, when I was a kid. That sort of carried through into my adulthood. The same with the album and the title track, The Time Is Now: make the most of it, live in the moment. Why not? I moved from Perth to the East Coast. I thought, ‘what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll go back home, [so] just get up and do it.’”

Rose Carleo - Time Is Now cover

Carleo had begun to get noticed around the country before she made the big move East, having scored some work with jimmy Barnes and Becky Cole, but does she think she would be where she is now with this album if she’d stayed put in Western Australia?

“That’s an interesting question,” Carleo says, pausing to collect her thoughts. “I’ve been on the East Coast for about nine years now. The Barnesy thing happened when I was in Perth, which was great. I did support for Becky [Cole] and a few others. [But] you know what? Maybe not. I had friends from Perth in Sydney way back, twenty or so years ago saying, ‘come over, come over.’ I guess I was a bit scared and when I look back now you think, ‘oh, I wish I had’ve done it.’ [But] it probably wasn’t the right time, it wasn’t meant to be.

“It was the right time for me to move [when I did]. I think I had to be over here, not only for some of the music stuff but also to have that life experience to bring me to this point now, if that makes sense? In saying that, in the last five years particularly, technology and all that kind of stuff [now means] it doesn’t really matter where you live anymore. Being on the East Cost is handy because you’re a little bit more in the thick of it, though.”

Despite technology making it easier to email tracks-in-progress to collaborators around the world, making it possible to make music without ever having to be in a studio at the same time, Carleo agrees that there is no faking the energy that comes from a hot band jamming in a room together.

Shane: I know people are recording a little more like that aren’t they? Where they do their bits and they e-mail the files to someone else and then they do their bits. To my mind, you can’t beat that feel of a band in a room jamming something out, though.
“That’s exactly what we did!” she all but shouts down the line excitedly. “Myself, Mick, Paul Woseen, and Ben Ashwood. We went down to Melbourne to record with Mark Opitz and Colin Wynne and we’d all band-tracked a whole lot together. I was in the vocal booth but we could all see each other. Just that energy – you’ll [hear] that when you listen to the album.

“Some of it, actually a lot of the vocals that you’ll hear are from the band-tracking tracks. The energy was just… you can’t buy it. You’re vibing with the band. We call them guide vocals to guide the band where the song is, but some of them ended up on the album which I thought was really cool. When we came back home to Sydney, we did add a couple of things: a couple more backing vocals, some piano, a bit of percussion, but ninety percent of the album we did all together in Melbourne.”

Carleo was determined to assemble a backing band made up of people she knew and trusted, so boyfriend Adkins was the obvious choice as band leader. He then called in a few mates to play on The Time Is Now: drummer Ben Ashwood and backing vocalist Steve Adkins from his own band the Rogue Sharks, Screaming Jets & Rose Tattoo bassist Paul Woseen, and Paul Fitton on guitar.

“It’s really cool. I met Pauly many moons ago, in Perth, actually,” the singer explains. “Mick had – more recently, in the past four or five years – played some shows with Pauly and invited the other guys. I hadn’t seen Paul for ages. The rhythm section is really important to me. Drums and bass, if you haven’t the right combination, forget it. A lot of people don’t look into it as much as some others do, [but] I’m really pedantic with that stuff. I said to Mick, ‘we just need a realy tight rhythm section, then we’ll be right. I wonder if Pauly would be interested?’ Mick said, ‘oh, I’ll flick him a text or give him a ring.’ [Then Paul] said, ‘yeah, no worries, send some stuff through.’ Pauly and Ben had never played together, [but] from the start we just knew that they would gel.

“It proves on the album that they did: they gelled really well. It was awesome to be in that position to hand pick and to go, ‘I’m going to ring or email so and so and ask them.’ Thankfully they [all] said yes too. It’s a fantastic feeling, and also just to know… I suppose the older you get, and this is album number three for me, you’re more knowledgeable too. You’re a bit wiser and you know what will work and what won’t work.”

Rose Carleo 03

Carleo is especially looking forward to taking the studio band out around the country to play the new album live.

“Yeah, we did two shows in Melbourne last week,” Carleo explains. “Pauly and Ben fly in tonight at ten o’clock. I’ve got to go to the airport and pick them up. They’re coming in from Melbourne tonight, they’ll come back up and stay with us. Then we’re in Queensland in May. We’re actually in Perth in June, I’m just locking in a few more dates, then we’ll be announcing those soon.

“I’ll be adding dates,” she continues. “Our aim is to tour throughout most of the year, even if it’s one weekend a month. Everyone’s got different schedules. Pauly said, ‘look, I want to tour with you guys, [but] we have to work in between the Screaming Jets and Rose Tattoo schedules.’ I said, ‘no, that’s fine. No worries.’ If we can make it work, we will.”

The Time Is Now is extremely honest and brave lyrically, tackling such thorny subjects as betrayals in relationships and the music business, and on more than one song, standing up for yourself and seizing the day. Carleo says she’s a pretty open & honest person at the best of times.

“On my two previous albums I did a little bit of that. With this third album, the older you get you just kind of… it’s not that you don’t care, but you just go, ‘whatever.’ We’re all the same, we really are. We go through different things. I think if someone can learn from me documenting my experience or talking about something, I think that’s a really cool thing to be able to do for someone. I thought, ‘I’m just going to be myself and say what I want to say and be honest and open about it.’ I think people pick up on that and they appreciate it.”

The Time Is Now is out now, with national tour dates to follow soon.

Category: Interviews

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