Singer-songwriter Rozes brings soaring vocals and soul to EDM
Singer-songwriter Rozes, born Elizabeth Mencel, has an approach to electronic music that is bringing a personal and refreshing touch to the genre. Her piercing vocals soar with conviction while her lyrics tell trials of heartbreak or give open apologies to friends she's neglected, like on her song "Under the Grave." Despite being a breakout EDM starlet, much of Rozes' inspiration comes from outside the realm of electronic music. She lists Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles as some of her biggest influences.
Despite her love for acoustic music, Rozes' sound is most best heard at the club or through the force of speakers at a music festival. Her name made waves when she teamed up with EDM giants The Chainsmokers on the song "Roses." Her seductive and smoky voice shines over synths and a knocking bass drum and took the track to the very top of the dance/electronic chart. Not bad for a song written while hanging out and eating Chinese food. Rozes has had a fairytale trajectory, having dropped out of college just a few years ago to pursue music full-time. But it's practice and hustle more than luck that have taken her from SoundCloud uploader to festival showstopper.
AOL.com had the chance to sit down with Rozes and speak with her about teenage heartbreak, her song-writing process and working with The Chainsmokers. Check out the full interview below!
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What was the moment you realized music was what you wanted to pursue full-time?
I think when I started writing music in high school to cure my heartbreak. I realized it was kind of my only escape from the outside world. Then, I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else or being anyone else. I thought maybe I'll do this, and I'll continue to do music on the side. But I had seen so many people do that, and they regret it. For me, it was something that I just had to do and had to try out, and I'm happy I did.
Did you make that leap right when you graduated high school or did it take more time?
I went to college for about four years. I went two years for nursing, two years for journalism. The whole time I was there, I wanted to do my music, and my parents knew too. They were just like, "Why don't you explore these options? You can do music on the side." So, my goal was to make music so busy that school was not an option. Then, I met The Chainsmokers. The world collided in this beautiful storm. It sounds like a fairy tale when you think about it. When I met them, that's when it started getting too busy for school. I started to skip classes to write for Rozes. I just decided to drop out, my senior year.
What's been the most challenging part about working in the music industry for you?
Being an indie artist and still having my voice heard. There are so many great songs that are left unheard because they don't have the financial funding behind them to pay a radio guy or they don't have the fanbase to buy into a tour, things like that. I think that's really been the hardest in the industry that I face. But I think that I'm also a unique case because I've had The Chainsmokers song really push me and be there for me when I was that indie girl.
What was it like collaborating with The Chainsmokers? Did you know at the time that your collaboration "Roses" would be such a hit song?
When I met them, we just hung out in Drew [Taggart]'s apartment. We just talked, and we wrote "Roses" in three, four hours. We just ate Chinese food and joked around. They were just like my brothers, off the bat. I remember when we wrote it, we came up with the drop. It just seemed like a walk in the park. We were never thinking it was a hit, and we didn't try to write one. It just happened in that way. We showed our teams. They were like, "Yeah, it's cool." I would go to labels and say that I'm working on something with The Chainsmokers. They'd be like, "Oh, it's the 'Selfie' guys." Nobody really had faith in the project until the numbers started showing. It was a totally organic process, and I think that's really unique today.
What is your own songwriting process like? What was it like writing "Under the Grave"?
My songwriting process is I grab a glass of wine and I feel like writing in my diary, so I sit at my piano. It's just however you end your day or however you vent, mine's just done on a piano and to my fans. While writing "Under the Grave," I knew people were going to hear it, so it's basically my open apology to my friends for not being there because I've been busy and figuring life out. I knew that they would hear it, and I knew that they would know it was about them. I kind of wanted to throw myself under the bus and humble myself a little bit, and say, "I'm really sorry that I wasn't there for you. I don't know when my heart went numb, but I hope you can forgive me and be there for me when I need you."
When you're working on the piano do words come first or melody?
It depends. Sometimes, I'll be singing in the shower, and I'll say, "Oh, I'm going to record this on my phone." Sometimes, I sit at the piano and just start playing chords. Then, I start singing or mumbling a melody. Usually, the lyrics are the last part. But sometimes, I'll be walking around the city, and a concept will pop into my head. Other times, I'll be singing at the piano, mumbling random words, and I'll find a cool idea in there and just keeping going with that. So it can happen all at once or in pieces.
What was the process for bringing 'Burn Wild [EP]' to life?
It's kind of my story to the world of my love life at the time. I was working closely with my brother, Pat [Mencel], and my other producer, Ian [Walsh]. They would send me tracks when they were on tour, and I would write to them. Or I would send them piano demos, and they would pick them up. I released that because I wanted them to hear the development through time.
What is your favorite thing about collaborating with other artists?
Being put into different genres that I usually wouldn't be put in because a certain artist is in that one. Working with Logic and Big Gigantic puts me in a whole different world than Rozes put me in. It's still pop world, but you've got the hip-hop aspect. It's been awesome because you get to put your hands in all the baskets a little bit. You get to bounce ideas off of other people and see how it's worked in their career, mesh ideas and become the best you can be.
What's inspired you the most to continue working in music?
I've always heard that the people who don't make it in the industry are the ones who gave up too soon. I always believe that because -- have you ever done something and were like, 'Oh, if I had just waited one minute longer'? For me, I always just keep pushing because I couldn't picture myself sitting at a desk or working in a hospital or anything of the sorts because I feel in my head, this is the only possible outcome for me. If I didn't make it, I think I would be very heartbroken.
How has social media formed who you are and put your sound out to the world?
I started on SoundCloud or Myspace. I think I was 14 or 15 when I put my sound up on Myspace, maybe. Then, I did SoundCloud and remember refreshing and seeing a hundred plays and going nuts. Now, that Twitter and Instagram have become a thing, it's become so easy to share and gain fans by sharing my music and showing them what I have. I don't think that Rozes would be what it is if we couldn't share it on a platform like that. Honestly, I don't know how they did it back then. Did they just put on a magazine or on the radio as a test trial? It must've been so much harder. But I think it's help my career exponentially.
What is your relationship with your fans like?
I try to be very personal with my fans. I want them to know that I'm nothing without them, and that we do have a specific bond that I will never take for granted. I also want to be there for my fans. Like Adele, she was there for me, and she didn't even know it. I need to be that for somebody else because I needed that so much when she was there for me. My connection with them, I want it to be personal, emotional, full of growth and I want them to travel through time with me.
What's a piece of advice you wish you would have before entering the music industry?
Definitely, that a plan B is the surest way to failure. If you have a backup plan, why should you go the hardest route? It wouldn't make sense. So going to school for me would be "Ah, I'm feeling lazy today. I'll skip the studio and go to class." I needed to make this my 100 percent option, not that I would ever opt to skip the studio, but it's an example of the fact that it is my only option. And it has to work.
We've talked a lot about your songwriting process, but where does you inspiration from most of the time?
I always do real-life events. I want to be the most honest writer I can be because I don't want to give false advice. I don't want to speak about things I've never been through because I haven't been through them. So I'll pull from my friends' lives or things like that, but I've grown up listening to Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, people that have such an emotional attachment to songs. If I was feeling some way, I could tweet their lyric and people would know how I'm feeling. I draw inspiration from that and have grown from there. When it comes to my sound, I like to think that I invented myself. I'll go in and say, "Can I add in a reggae-sounding guitar?" or anything like that. It just comes from my head. But I'm also a big No Doubt fan, so maybe that's a subconscious thing that's happening in me.
Who are your biggest idols in the music industry?
Definitely, Adele, Sia, Amy Winehouse, Norah Jones. I think I just emotionally connected at that time. Adele seemed to going through heartbreak when I was going through one. They do seem to react differently than other artists to me. I love Mikky Ekko. I think he's a great emotional artist. He's a good inspiration of mine that's a male. I have a huge jazz background so I do have an old soul type of vibe. Adele, she has an old soul, a weathered soul. So does Amy. Sia as well, has been through hell and back. She is telling us about it, it's a gift to us.
What are you most hoping to accomplish in the next year?
I hope in the next year, I have at least two singles on the radio. I'm hoping that I gain fans through that connection, and that they understand what I'm going for. I hope that they can connect to me on a deep emotional level, like fans have connected to Lana Del Rey or something. I hope to have an album out, another music video, on tour. That would be fun. Just to have the word spread.
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