Erika Rose: Musical Gardner

Arriving at a fork in the road, an artist hears two voices: one desiring to travel a secure road, and the other yearning to express creativity. In some cases, the two voices work together to create monstrous experiences. Singer-songwriter Erika Rose personifies the duality of listening to both and the ability to travel down both […]

Arriving at a fork in the road, an artist hears two voices: one desiring to travel a secure road, and the other yearning to express creativity. In some cases, the two voices work together to create monstrous experiences. Singer-songwriter Erika Rose personifies the duality of listening to both and the ability to travel down both those roads, re-routing the trip by switching lanes. With an ‘80s tinged fashion sense, a feisty yet humble demeanor, and moves that can make any sex swoon, Rose knows nothing about doing things by abandoning style or intellect.These days the New York native is traveling down a steadfast road and living her dream through the release of her debut album Rosegarden (Infinity Le Monde), fusing a myriad of musical styles, including R&B, ‘80s rock, pop, and folk. With a unique commencement in the music industry as the tour manager for her childhood friend, Alicia Keys, and as the co-writer of  “A Woman’s Worth,” Erika Rose distinguishes a thing or two about climbing to the top. As Erika prepared for a friend’s wedding, she took some time to let us know what it takes to be the artist she’s always aspired to Alternatives: Right now, what do you see out the window?Erika Rose: I see trees. I see birds, and I see butterflies. There are always butterflies wherever I am.AHHA: How do you think being a college graduate of the University of Miami helped you become a better artist?Erika Rose: If I didn’t go to study music, I wouldn’t have had that basic theory and understanding. For me, that’s what being a musician is – it’s not just being able to sing, it’s knowing the harmonic structure of music, of chords, tonality, the history of where music came from. So those fundamentals that I was able to receive by studying music for four years [helped] me craft my talent [and] take it beyond just being a vocalist and actually into being a musician.AHHA: What did you experience as Alicia Keys’ road manager that made you a better artist?Erika Rose: I was there from the beginning up until a couple of years ago, and I was really involved. From a business perspective, it put me in a place where I could now open my own label and manage my own career, and know what the hell I’m doing. That’s an incredible asset. Also, to stand witness to one of the greatest artists that we currently have right now, and see what it really takes as an artist to do this. [Alicia] always handled everything with such grace that it just really showed [me] what it was going to take. [Being an artist] is so sensationalized and so glamorized, that people don’t know what it really takes to do and how hard it is. I got to see that firsthand.AHHA: How were you able to keep your composure in such an insane environment?Erika Rose: I had an insane amount of pressure on me. I’d always wanted everything to be just right and just perfect for [Alicia], for it to be seamless for her. I struggled a lot. I didn’t carry it so well. I wasn’t able to wake up with a smile on my face. I was in full-on b#### mode. I was a young woman; everyone who worked for me was nearly twice my age. They didn’t understand my position, yet I was the boss out there. In order to command the respect, I had to put on this front because people didn’t want to hear me. Amazingly enough, still, a lot of people in the industry have said to me, “Well, you’re the nicest person I’ve ever had to work with.”AHHA: I was at your show and you mentioned that the release day of Rosegarden was the happiest of your life. How so?Erika Rose: [It] just seemed like it wasn’t going to happen for so long. I faced so much adversity. It took a lot of courage for me to actually decide that I was going to do it. Then I began writing. I left my college [where] I was studying economics, Boston College, [and] went and started studying music. It just seemed like it was all coming together, and then Alicia and Kerry “Krucial” Brothers started developing me. I graduated college and I moved up to New York thinking, “Okay, boom! This is it. We’re going to work on the album. It’s all going to happen now.” Alicia asked me to go out on the road with her for three weeks, and three weeks turned into four years. I just thought, “Maybe I’m meant to do business after all. Maybe I’m not really supposed to be an artist.” Finally the day to come, the product to be finished, and released – it was my dream come true – one of the happiest days of my life by far.AHHA: You met Om’ Mas Keith, of the production trio Sa-Ra, in late 2005. Did he inspire the making of the album, since you were so stalled, or did you have plans on making one on your own?Erika Rose: I left Alicia around the end of 2005. I realized that no, in fact, I was not supposed to do business. This is just the experience that I needed to help me get to where I really needed to go, and that it was time for me to leave and really full-out pursue my creative endeavors. I was out in L.A. doing whatever I could to just reconnect, because I was so tight and stiff after all of that business stuff. When I was out there I got the call from Laurieann Gibson, who was choreographing for Sa-Ra, to come and sing some background vocals and do some dancing with them. I was just starting to write again and…just focus on my stuff! [Om’Mas] really felt that I had a presence on stage – he really liked my voice. I started telling him my vision and what I wanted to do. He got it right away! He was like, “Let’s do it!” He was in, he was inspired, and together we just synergized. When we got in the studio, it was magic. It was so effortless that from that point on, it was a no-brainer.AHHA: What specifically brought “The Darkness” record to life? It’s the darkest song on the album.Erika Rose: I’ve gone through different moments of depression in my life. But, I was going through an interesting moment from the transition of working with Alicia, to fighting my way out of that, to being able to make the decision that I could [be an artist]. I was filled with so much fear and so much doubt. I [felt I was] surrounded by negative energy that was trying to convince me that I couldn’t do what I wanted. It was me breaking out of that that led me to where I am now. I felt like it was my last test. Once I got through that it was like, “Boom, we know you’re ready.”AHHA: “Spell On You” is such a flirty-cocky song. Where did it come from?Erika Rose: There was a guy in particular who said, “I think you put a spell on me.” I was like, “Oh, s**t!” I just went home and had to write that song. But in that moment, I had this little giggle on the inside. I like many other girls – guys go through this too – [get] into a specific [person that] has this certain arrogance about them, and they think that they can just have anyone they want, and everybody’s sweating them. It’s just nice for somebody [to come] up in the mix and just flip it on them – get them all gassed and geeked – then they can’t have them. That was my little spin on it. Like, “Here you are, you think you’re so dope, and you’re so fly, and you can get all the ladies, right? So watch how I come in and wreck your whole s**t up, confuse you to death, and think you going to get me, and you just really aren’t.”AHHA: You have a great buzz from established artists. How do you feel about the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Common, and Erykah Badu buzzing like bees about you?Erika Rose: It’s such an honor. On one hand it’s so surreal, on the other hand it’s like, “Damn, I really got to come correct now!” [laughs] I love a good challenge. It’s really hard to do this on an independent level. Nobody wants to hear you. Nobody really cares if you’re not coming from one of the major labels. So to have my peers, who I respect and look up to so much, validate what we’ve been doing – it just means the world to me. It just really helps me to remember [that] I’m on the right path. That everything’s going to be alright.