It almost feels slightly weird to hold Rosie Lowe's debut album in your hands, to click 'play' and let it simmer slowly, its tastes and flavours rolling out at their own pace. The Devon-raised, London-based talent first caught attention with a pair of glorious EPs, spacious pop music that filtered jazz-tinged R&B through a digital haze. Partnering with The Invisible's Dave Okumu on her debut album, the pair took their time, working patiently through each sound, each idea.
And now it's here. 'Control' is out now, and it's a breathy piece of fresh air, a polite yet forceful blast of originality amid a landscape increasingly bound by the beige. Co-writes with Jam City and Machinedrum apply a real sense of rhythmic complexity, while Rosie Lowe's songwriting has rarely been so open, so honest.
“Apparently, I used to always say to my dad that I wanted to be a pop star,” she laughs down the phone to Clash. “But I can't remember that, it was at a very young age. I just always wanted to play music. I wasn't quite sure in what kind of capacity, and then this happened, just really naturally. Doing an album is amazing, I didn't really think that I'd have a chance to do that. But I don't tend to plan any more than a week ahead. I just try to look at where I'm at in the present, otherwise I find it all a bit scary. I've always done that. It's a dream. It's a dream for any musician, really.”
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It certainly feels as though Rosie Lowe has planned every step. After all, I offer, those early EPs are now two years old. “I feel like music, for me, is uncompromising,” she insists. “So whatever goes. I always fight very hard for whatever comes out to be really honest. That's really important to me. Actually, it's only been two years since I started writing it and for me that's quite quick. It's not slow.”
“Definitely, I've been wanting to get it out,” she continues, “but because it's my debut I'm just really not interested in rushing things for the sake of impatience. I just want everything I do put out to be quality, and if that takes five, ten years then so be it. If you're unhappy with it then you're screwed, because I have to be really proud of the work that I'm putting in, and stand by it. I think it's really important that it happens naturally, organically. And you give yourself the time to develop, as well.”
Rosie Lowe's obvious independence is matched to a close relationship to Dave Okumu, a figure whose renowned musicality and heartfelt nature seems to have clicked with the singer's own approach. “I met Dave a good few years ago now. It was probably three or four years ago. The rest is history, really. We became best friends, as well – he's an incredible, incredible musician, and a very sensitive soul. And that's something that really worked for this album, because I knew that I wanted it to be really personal, and I wanted it to be really honest and for everything to support the songwriting.”
“I felt that Dave had the sensitivity to support me. And he really did. I couldn't have made a better decision, there. I couldn't have done it with anyone else, really – he was the one to be on this journey with. It's been a delight. The creative process on this has just been amazing, it's taught me what true collaboration is.”
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I knew that I wanted it to be really personal...
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When the pair hit a vein of creative form, the process can be extraordinarily intense – yet this is also tempered by an eagerness to simply have fun, to make sure that a musical partnership is also an emotional one. “Mine and Dave sessions were a bit like: meeting up for lunch, hanging out for three hours and then going out to the studio. We were smoking, but we've both given up now.”
“We'd smoke and then have coffee, then we'd go out for dinner and a cocktail...and then we've start!” she laughs, clearly relishing those memories. “And do five hours solid, focussed work. But a lot of hanging out. Me and Dave feel like that's really important because then when you do go to work together you feel really connected. You know where each other is at. Instead of getting worked up, that's not the way we did it at all – it was like, let's hang. Then if we felt like it we'd get on it and really work.”
Much of 'Control' feels quite solitary, though; Rosie Lowe is unafraid to tackle subjects like loneliness, break ups, and complex issues surrounding modern femininity. It's a record that owes as much to the Devon countryside, as the glitz of London life. “I went back to Devon, to my home-home, to write most of it. Just because I felt like I needed to be on my own for a bit. And the quiet. And to embark on the creative process on my own, basically. And so that's how I've done 90% of the record – on my own at my dad's house in the middle of nowhere in Devon, and then brought them back to London and worked on them here.”
“Which is why there's a lot of rain on the record.” she adds. “Every time I was recording it would be raining – that's Devon for you. I love it. Dave's got a thing about the rain as well. Basically, that's how important the rain is. Proper British.”
With 'Control' freshly perched on the record racks, Rosie Lowe could be excused for taking a break from songwriting, for removing herself from the continual process of picking apart emotional complexities. Surprisingly, though, she's already moved on, and the process for her second album is already on the horizon. “I can't wait to start writing again, she gleams. “I'd like to do quite a lot of production on the next one, and get back home with my computer and my instruments. I've got quite a few co-writing ideas, for people that I'd love to co-write with.”
“I like to think that this record is the best thing that I could put out right now, and then in two years time, or a year's time, or whatever it is, do another album that is going to be the best thing that I can put out then. So I'm just excited to see what comes, and what I can learn during that process, really,” she explains. “I'm just excited about growing, because it's all growth, right? All experience.”
It's odd, almost, to end this on an upbeat note, especially given the frequently emotive nature of much of the material on 'Control'. But then, that's just sheer Rosie Lowe – finding redemption in the darkness, transgression in music, and laughter in the artistic process. It's all experience, all right – an experience worth savouring.
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'Control' is out now.