Baby Rose was always going to “be somebody”. There was never any doubt in her mind, even when faced with the venom of preteen bullies in the playground. “I felt ostracised in school, especially in middle school,” she says. “But I processed that. It helped me get to where I am today.”
Then known as Jasmine Rose Wilson, the singer naturally found solace in music, pouring her heart out at the piano after school. Having moved from Washington DC to North Carolina at a young age, she might not have fit in with her peers, but it was clear that music was her calling – her great aunt figured that out early on. “She was always humming old hymns around the house, when she was cleaning and I would copy her,” says Rose. So, her great aunt set some homework. “She was like: ‘I want you to learn Sam Cooke, A Change Is Gonna Come.’ She just had me singing that all the time.”
It’s not hard to see why Rose’s rendition of Cooke’s rousing protest song was in such high demand. The 28-year-old’s voice is one of a kind, a smokey, androgynous vehicle for sonic catharsis that’s often compared to the likes of Nina Simone. Zooming in from her aunt’s living room back in DC, Rose flashes a sheepish smile when the Simone comparisons are brought up.
“I mean, that is a beautiful comparison to make. It makes me feel a little awkward, because she is such a giant to me, she is incredibly intentional and strong minded. She is the one, a legend.” But Rose understands where people are coming from. “Our textures and tones are very unique to ourselves, but I think when people compare, they are looking at the feeling that you get.”
Because, of course, singularity is easy to spot, but often hard to describe. Growing up, Rose saw herself in Janis Joplin, for instance, even though their voices are worlds apart. “I remember watching her documentary really early on and seeing how she was teased in school and was misunderstood,” Rose explains. “She has this crazy voice – one of the craziest voices ever. I was like: ‘There’s something for me.’”
Fast forward two decades and Rose’s determination has paid off. She’s just released her second album, Through and Through, a soul-searching record that rumbles through themes of heartbreak, loneliness and, on psychedelic blues track Paranoid, the panic of being too high on edibles.
“[When writing this album], I’ve delved into really pouring and purging, and got really specific,” says Rose of her music-making process. “So I wrote Paranoid about taking an edible to remind myself that everything lies in your perception, and your perception is warped right now, but it’s not real.
“It makes me laugh when I listen to it, honestly, because when I make a song about things that really stress me out, I’m countering that fear as an artist,” she continues. “It’s like I’m counteracting the fear by singing about it and making a really fire-ass song.”
Now, after a three-day party to celebrate Through and Through’s release, Rose is spending some downtime with family before she embarks on a US tour at the end of the month.
“We are going to drive to North Carolina to go to my sister’s graduation tonight. Being around family is recharging. It helps me to ground myself and to remember where I come from,” says Rose lovingly. “These were my first stages, at my family’s cribs. My aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters – they give me strength, whether I’m Baby Rose or just chilling as Jasmine.”
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born in DC, my childhood was spent there, and then I moved to North Carolina. That’s where I really started to go through puberty and, you know, become a woman. I’m now based in LA and Atlanta – I’ve also a crib in both, so I just be back and forth.
20% What’s a bad habit that you wish you could kick?
Damn, I really wish that I could kick my anxiety. I wish that I was just chill, mellow and optimistic everyday, but then I wouldn’t really have much to write about. Sometimes I get really indecisive, so maybe that’s a better one. It’s bad – choosing juice at the damn grocery store and I don’t know which one I want! If I could kick that, the world for me would be a lot brighter.
30% If you were going to cook food to impress someone, what would you make?
Pancakes and eggs, baby, with some oatmeal and avocado toast too. That’s my fave. Breakfast is important. I rarely have breakfast, but when I do it’s a vibe.
40% You rule the world for a day. What’s going down?
I would find out what the fuck is going on! I need to know what is what. I would take all of the nuclear weapons and I would put them where no one could find them. I would make everyone who is influential meet together and be like: “Listen, we are going to fix the economy for everybody, today. Y’all aren’t leaving until we do this right once and for all.”
50% If you could travel back in time to see an iconic music act perform, who would it be and in what era of their career?
Damn. I would see Donny Hathaway live at The Bitter End in New York. I listen to that live album so much that I would have to go.
60% What’s a piece of advice that has changed your life?
Make everything new. Don’t get jaded. Yes, I may have toured a couple of times, but this tour is about to be different to any other tour that I have ever done. It’s going to be incredible. Every interview poses a new question, every day poses new opportunities to grow, every phone call, everything – let it be new and live with a sense of awe, instead of a sense of loathing. I got that from Matt Martians from The Internet. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by a task, because sometimes it does get really crazy, I just remember to look at this with new eyes and it gets cool.
70% What’s your ideal day off?
I would go to a Korean spa. I live in Koreatown in LA and there’s this one spot called Wi Spa. Eastern spas in general hit different – they’re usually 24 hours. I go in there with my book or my journal or a little skincare thing, and just chill the fuck out for eight hours or however long I wanna be there. I went to a spa in Sweden one time and that was fucking magical. One of the two: Swedish or Korean, just find a spa and lay out.
80% How did you celebrate your last birthday?
My last birthday was pretty lonely, I’m not going to lie. I had just moved to LA, so I didn’t really have a tribe yet. The actual day of my birthday, my roommate took me to a bar and we got lit. The next day happened to be my dad’s birthday and I was performing with [producer] D. Phelps. He had a showcase and he brought out all of the people that he worked with. It was nice to be around all my friends and perform. I’ve spent a lot of birthdays performing.
90% Love, like, hate?
I like free samples. I love acts of service, when people do nice things without me asking or give me a little gift or something to show that they’re thinking of me. One thing that I hate is passive aggression. Just tell me what’s up! I’m an empath so I can feel when something’s wrong even before it’s wrong. I’m always like: “What’s good? Let’s talk about it.”
100% How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
I want them to feel very radical in their self-love. I want them to feel like it’s OK to be extreme and not to hold back, not dim their light – especially women. I want them to feel like it’s not just OK, but imperative to take up space in whatever you are doing, even if you are first or the only one that has something to say. It is imperative that you say your piece and stand fully in who you are.