Discovery: Rodes Rollins


If memory lanes were literal, strolling down one would likely feel akin to listening to Rodes Rollins’ debut EP, Young Adult (out today via Allen Road): hazy, pensive, and somewhat emotionally precarious. The singer-songwriter’s wistful venture is steered by the narrative of young love—specifically, of her first love, whose name (Wes) appears in two of the five track titles.

“All of the songs I wrote are about experiences in my young adulthood and coming of age moments,” says Rollins when we meet in Brooklyn. “Most of them are about romantic relationships or hardships that I overcame.”

The EP isn’t, however, simply a tableau of Rollins’ young adulthood. As the tracks progress, the narrative ambles along an arc; it opens with the nostalgic “Young & Thriving” and concludes with “Feedback,” which focuses more on Rollins’ current state of mind. The hook, for example, hints of growth: She sings, “Now I’m a woman / Let me read your fortune / Don’t go, that’s just torture / I need that feedback.” “The last song is about where I’m currently at and the past year. I wanted to show a trajectory of my young adulthood,” says Rollins. “I’m still very young. I’m very much still in the thick of it.”

AGE: 22.

BORN: Boulder, Colorado.

BASED: New York and Los Angeles.

COAST TO COAST: The EP itself was probably about two years in the making, not because I hadn’t had the songs written, but mainly because I was finishing school at NYU, flying back and forth to L.A., and it took a while to find the right producer and team. In a lot of ways, it made it more exciting, but also kind of weird because it felt like I was living a double life: on one coast pursuing my dream and my passion and on the other just feeling stuck as a student with my everyday, normal routine. I went to Gallatin, which is the school of individualized study, where you can you craft your own thing. So I studied cultural iconography—essentially looking at the question, “What makes people and ideas iconic,” and looking at the branding of people.

YOUNG LOVE: I’m a little concerned with sharing only because it’s someone else’s experiences too. It’s about a person I knew very well—my first boyfriend—who went through a lot in his life. He’s a part of my past now, but I do think a lot about if he’s paying attention and if he’s listening to the music. There’s a song on the EP, “Oh Dear Wes,” which is about an experience he had. He was my first boyfriend, we had already broken up, but he was an exchange student and went to college in Kansas to play football. He was living life in Kansas when he found out that he was eligible for a full-ride scholarship for his dream school; he went out partying with his friends celebrating, they were in a car and got pulled over, and he had weed on him. Because he wasn’t a citizen he got totally screwed over, was thrown in jail, and deported. I tell that story on the EP. I’ve always felt Wes’s story really needed to be shared with the world because that happens so many times to people and it just… It was so heartbreaking. Had he been a state over in Colorado, he would’ve maybe gotten off with a fine at the very most. Just because you don’t have a certain passport, you’re treated like a different breed of human. And I think about how he’s a white guy, and if he hadn’t been, what that would’ve looked like.

A EARLY START: My sister decided when she was a kid that she wanted to take guitar lessons, played for maybe a week, and was like, “This is too much, I don’t have patience for this.” The guitar was just sitting in our house and when I was eight, I decided that I wanted to play. I just started writing songs and the next thing I knew I was recording them when I was nine. Yep, I was nine when I started recording. I had a great musical mentor named Liza—she had a home recording studio. It’s so funny listening back. The content was very mature; I was writing about break-ups—obviously I’d never had a boyfriend—and my voice was this squeaky little mouse voice.

SELF-TAUGHT: That’s actually how I learned to play the guitar, by writing my own music. I’ve never really played other people’s songs. It’s always been a writing tool for me. I’d never volunteer to play guitar in someone’s band. You wouldn’t want me; I’ve just used it as a tool of expression for myself, like an aid to writing music.

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: First Aid Kit. I love them so much. I was listening to them all last night. I’m also really into Rodrigo Amarante. He’s a Brazilian artist. He’s done a bunch of little projects, like Little Joy. But I’ve been listening to his work and I think he’s super inspiring. He sings in three or four different languages.

LANA DEL REY COMPARISONS: I think Lana Del Rey is a great reference because she’s the name for this wave of nostalgic, sad songs. I look to a lot of different artists for inspiration but not so many current ones. Nancy Sinatra is one of my biggest inspirations for the production and music—this sad, Western, tremolo guitar. So I would say as far as certain figures go she’d be one of the biggest. Though growing up I listened to a lot of grunge rock, classic rock, Nirvana, and X—punk rock. When I was living in Argentina, grunge rock was huge. There was a huge scene for that and that culture did inspire me to start writing darker tones.