Discovery: Rosi Golan
Published June 14, 2011
ROSI GOLAN. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERVIN LAINEZ
At 21, Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter Rosi Golan spoke French, Hungarian, German, Hebrew, and English. One language she had yet to learn was music—so she bought a guitar on a whim after she saw a sign for a guitar sale. After her neighbor taught her a chord, she holed up in her room for six weeks while mourning the loss of her grandmother and pounded out her first ballad. “I think you might be kind of good,” a friend told her after hearing it. “Maybe.”
Turns out she was more than kind of good. Songs from Golan’s first soulful album, The Drifter & The Gypsy, made their way to the soundtracks of One Tree Hill, Private Practice, and Dear John. Currently, she’s on tour and gearing up for the August release of her sophomore album, Lead Balloon, out August 30.
We caught up with her in between back-to-back shows in Philadelphia and Boston, just days before her New York show, tomorrow night at Rockwood Music Hall.
HOMETOWN: I was originally born in Israel. I now live in Williamsburg.
STARTING OUT: I moved to NYC when I was 19 because I wanted to be somewhere I hadn’t grown up. I never really connected with Los Angeles. When I was a kid, all my friends were actors. I acted until I was 15 and lost interest and when that happened, I just lost interest in the whole town.
It’s funny, people say if you don’t leave NYC after 10 years, you will never leave. I just hit my 10-year mark ,and I don’t quite know how I feel about it. MUSICAL HISTORY: I wasn’t a singer. I had no idea I could sing when I was growing up. I used to want to be an author—English was my favorite subject at school. You know how everyone goes through those phases?
Anyways, my grandma had just died and I was questioning my life and I just bought a guitar. I picked blue because I liked the color—terrible idea. I locked myself in a bedroom for six weeks and wrote my first song. Then I played my first open mic, but I didn’t know if I sounded good or not. It was the weirdest thing to discover that I could, in fact, sing.
DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND: I think it’s the question we all like the least. We have such a hard time describing ourselves. It’s not like I can say, “I am a rapper.” Some is a little folk-pop, some is more Americana than the last record, for sure. I think all of the traveling and changes of country have affected my sound. There is no one specific mood, though.
ON RECORDING LEAD BALLOON: That process takes a little longer because I am very particular. I took a lot of risks that I had never done before, you will see.
I haven’t told many people this, but my father passed away days before my record, so that was a huge influence on this one. Listening back to it, the references are still kind of general, so I don’t know if people will perceive that. It’s really about finding hope in situations. I finally found hope after a few years of being in a cloud, and I think that is just what happens when you lose people. Oddly, when I was in LA, I finally stepped out of that cloud. When that happened, I started writing, and that’s when hope creeps in. It was cathartic process. I didn’t know if it would be, but I prayed it would.
ON WRITING MUSIC: I don’t write on tour. That wasn’t a challenge I had the first time around, because the last thing you want to do is pick up a guitar. I write in London a lot, I wrote quite a bit in Nashville, and I wrote a large portion of this album in LA. I had never had an easy, inspiring time writing in LA before. This last time, however, I was totally blown away by it and way more inspired. At one point, I had to slow myself down because songs were pouring out of me. A lot of people are about producing content as fast as they can, but I’m not.
SOME MUSICIANS SHE LIKES: I don’t really listen to music when I am writing, so I took a hiatus from music in the last year and a half. The reason is just like any writer—I am afraid of something leaking in. You can do it unconsciously—it’s my biggest fear. However, I am a huge fan of Ray LaMontagne, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, and stuff my parents listened to in Israel, like the Beatles, R.E.M., and funny enough, a lot of Nirvana. A lot of people don’t know this about me, but Sade was my first love when I was like 2. I am going to see her in concert, actually, on June 25. I have floor seats!
THE LAST THING SHE LISTENED TO: It was when we were driving back from Philly last night, I am trying to remember what record we were listening to. Hold on a second, it might have been Rumours. No, it was Through Toledo by Greg Laswell. He is definitely one of my favorite singer and songwriters that I am friends with.
GOLAN’S FAVORITE VENUE: That’s tough. I love Rockwood Music Hall, Stage Two. It’s between that and Bowery Ballroom.
IF YOU COULD PLAY ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD… Growing up in LA, one of my dreams is to play the Hollywood Bowl—I love that venue. My family and I used to see the symphony there on Friday nights. There’s something about being under the stars and in the hills and listening to music that is so cool. Also, I don’t know the name of the amphitheatre, but there’s one in Israel that’s in the same vein as Hollywood Bowl, but it has ancient ruins, it’s so incredibly beautiful.
WHAT GOLAN IS LOOKING FORWARD TO WHILE TOURING: Knowing it is all worth it. Last night, it was sold out in Philly and the night before, I played to just six people in a vineyard. Either way, I realize you have to stick with it. At the vineyard, there was a couple (they were big fans) with the lyrics of my song “Think of Me” tattooed on their bodies. If I got upset that there weren’t that many people there, I would have missed them. It reminds me that what I am doing is not a lost cause.
WHAT SHE’S NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO: I hate spending the night in hotel rooms. I wish I could bring my bed with me everywhere. I hate knowing you won’t be staying in your own room and then you start forgetting where you are. I have like a collection of hotel room keys. That and the 12-hour drives I have to deal with. Those aren’t too fun.
ROSI GOLAN’S LEAD BALLOON IS OUT AUGUST 30. SHE WILL PLAY ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL TOMORROW NIGHT. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT HER MYSPACE.