It had been over a month since Baby Rose and I were initially supposed to chat. Due to unforeseen circumstances and busy schedules, we kept pushing our interview, but we finally got to talk over the phone on Aug. 26. Settled in at my kitchen table with my second cup of coffee — you know how those midday lulls hit — I hopped on the line for my scheduled meeting with the 26-year-old singer.
Rose, born Jasmine Rose Wilson, champions the notion that most things happen exactly when they should. The month-long process of setting up our interview seems to validate that idea. When we speak, it's only three days after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, WI, and the Black community is experiencing yet another wave of heightened pain and exhaustion. In our unity as two Black women, matters surrounding the country's social consciousness are bound to seep their way into our conversation, and they do. But it feels like a necessary venting for both of us and eventually turns into an expression of admiration for Black people's long-standing resilience. "That's the power of our people," she noted. "We're joyful. Even in the worst situations, we're able to keep our spirits high."
The Atlanta-based songstress embodies that power, using her music and extraordinary vocals to help others heal from pain, heartache, and general difficulties that life tends to throw our way. In her 2019 debut album, To Myself, she struggles with nuanced emotional processing after a breakup — the complicated recollection of good and bad memories that make her question every aspect of the relationship and its subsequent ruin. In her latest EP, Golden Hour, which dropped July 8, she explores similar themes of love within the parameters of being in a new romance.
Rose has come a long way in her career, especially after almost giving up on music altogether. Thankfully, her resignation is a lapse that exists only in the realm of "what ifs." Although quitting was tempting, she kept going, feeling spurred by her mother's cancer diagnosis and near-death experience. Now, Rose is doing what she loves without fear and hesitation. She's gearing up for the Sept. 18 release of To Myself's deluxe edition, which will coincide with her Golden Hour concert. The performance will invite a limited audience to a still-undisclosed outdoor Atlanta venue and will be live streamed for those unable to physically attend. "It's going to be 25 people in person — all on blankets, picnic style," Rose confirmed. "I'm very excited for it." Speaking with POPSUGAR, Rose delved further into her latest projects, upcoming music, and faith-based mindset, as well as her personal and artistic responses to recent social unrest.
PS: I have to tell you how much I love your "Chamber of Reflection" cover that you did in partnership with Amazon Music. What made you want to cover that song?
Baby Rose: That song is one that I wish I would have written, honestly. I really relate to the words and the meaning behind it — just feeling like you're setting yourself up. At least, that's my interpretation of the song. You love someone, but you're setting yourself up knowing that they're going to be with somebody else. That kind of clarity and realisation, I relate to. I performed that song a lot on tour, so it was really natural for me to get my band together and re-create it.
PS: You also made your late-night performance debut on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. What was that experience like, especially doing it virtually?
BR: Doing it virtually, you can look at it as one of two ways: the glass is half empty or the glass is half full. I really enjoyed having free rein to do anything. Having [director] Lacey Duke be a part of my team with her creative vision and also having my homies in Atlanta come together to create the vision, it was just really heartwarming. That was a big milestone. It's a point in time that I can look back at and be proud of and use as a standard to think outside the box and never be limited. That's the type of sh*t that forces innovation. I'm just blessed that I have resources and that I'm able to involve my friends in monumental moments. And I'm blessed to have had that opportunity and experience. Hearing Colbert lead me into the performance was surreal. It's the beginning of something even bigger.
PS: Your latest original song, "Marmot," is inspired by being in a new relationship. How did that subject matter impact the song's production, especially compared to your previously released music?
BR: Whatever phase I'm in, I'm always evolving. Even if that means degrading the sound, it's always intentional. With "Marmot," it's a new space that I'm in within my life. But I often revisit the same lessons that I've learned and reimagine them in new ways as I grow as a person and as an artist. I feel like "Marmot" is a separate world.
PS: What inspired the song's title?
BR: The day we were naming the demo, I was wearing a really comfy Marmot coat that my friend Nicole got for me. Being me, I was like, "This reminds me of the comfort of love." Also, "moment" comes to mind when I think of "Marmot" — like a lazy, drunk way of saying "moment." It has a dual meaning, but it's also up to the listener. The last thing that I do is name the song or the record, so I don't really focus too much on the name in the beginning.
PS: Do you think that your newly released music signifies a new chapter in your career or is it more of a continuation?
BR: I think it's both. Everything that's happened in recent times has brought me to a place where I'm reflecting more. I have time to understand where I am now, especially compared to where I was. Everything was happening so fast. I was on tour, and things were happening at an incredible pace in 2019 and at the beginning of this year. These next records that I'm releasing with the deluxe edition reflect how I've had time to think and grow. It's a continuation of the same theme, but also a sonic growth.
PS: In what ways has being in quarantine and social distancing helped your creativity evolve?
BR: The first few months of quarantine, when everything was locked down, were really refreshing for me in a lot of ways. I say that lightly because I know that had I been in a situation where my circumstances were different — I was coming off tour and things were looking up — I would have a whole other perspective. Be that as it may, it really helped me look within and see what's important to me and what my values are. I had a moment to sit still for a while, read, write, listen to a lot of music, and take things day by day.
But as refreshing as it was, not knowing what's next also took a toll on my mental health. All of the uncertainty bred a lot of anxiety. One of the first things that I did after abruptly coming back home from tour was go to Guitar Centre and get new speakers and new studio equipment. Even now, as I'm starting to work again, doing more performances here and there, and going back into the studio, sparingly, I still check in with myself to make sure I'm OK.
Capitalism, all of that sh*t, can really take a toll. It's infused in our minds. You realise that when everything is shut down, you've been going and going. And even if it's not about money, it's about passion. I keep going because I don't know how to chill and slow down and understand that there are times when being still is just as important as moving because you don't want to lose yourself along the way. It's been really eye-opening for me.
PS: How has Atlanta influenced you as a person and as an artist?
BR: When I moved to Atlanta, I was 18, and I was coming to go to school. I was set to go to Spelman [College] for something completely different from music. But the way God works, you're always put where you need to be. I had been making music since I was 11 or 12, but Atlanta is where I really discovered my voice, what I wanted to say, and who I am as an adult. I didn't have anyone telling me, "No, do it this way." I had friends and a community that encouraged me and helped me grow. It was a big step for me. Also, Atlanta is the Black Mecca, so everything here, historically, has so much soul. So many things rooted in Atlanta influences everything around the world. It's the perfect myriad of things. I always thank God for aligning me to live here. It means a lot to me.
PS: With everything going on in the world regarding race and social justice, I've found myself as a Black woman oscillating between exhaustion and feeling fired up and ready to take action. What has been your response and activity of emotions throughout all of this?
"Going to a protest ignited a certain energy in me. Being faced with all of the opposition and military was crazy. This is a revolution."
BR: I feel those same sentiments. What I've done is stay vigilant about everything and be at the forefront when I'm called to be there. Going to a protest ignited a certain energy in me. Being faced with all of the opposition and military was crazy. This is a revolution. This is all because people are in opposition of Black lives mattering. I think that we have to settle this now so that we're not revisiting the same thing with the next generations. But, at the same time, we're combating 400 years of slavery.
We've done a good job with that, but we have to understand that this is embedded in the fabric of the world, especially America. I definitely feel exhausted at times. But I realise that taking moments for self-care, turning off the TV and focusing on myself, praying, meditating, whatever, those are all acts of rebellion, too, because you have to keep your spirit high. It's important to have a balance, but never ignore the issues and continue like business as usual. The worst thing that you can do is act like you don't know what's going on. When we saw all of the things that were happening at the protest, it was a lot. Seeing how far society's institutions will go to keep things the way they are is really disturbing. It gave rise to me and other people I know. We want to see things change.
PS: How do you think this moment in time will affect your music and expression going forward?
BR: I feel as though being me is already an act of rebellion in the music industry. I have my own company, write my songs, own my masters, and I make music that speaks to me. Being an entrepreneur in that fashion and having control of my destiny is an act of rebellion. I'm free in my craft, which is what everyone before me — like Sam Cooke, James Brown, and Nina Simone — aimed for. They would go through so much resistance when they were just trying to get what was rightfully theirs.
"I didn't want to go through life shrinking myself, playing small, dimming my light, and hiding in the shadows."
I've seen how the music industry has reacted to the Black Lives Matter movement. I've seen how the Recording Academy and certain labels have responded, but I'm waiting to see how their pledges to change are going to play out. Are Black artists still going to just be hip-hop and R&B? Or are they going to be more recognised on a pop scale? Are the same things that perpetuate under-the-table racism and this glass ceiling going to be shattered? Are we going to be seen in the light that we deserve to be seen in?
Black people created a lot of the sound that we hear today. Historically, we created a lot of the country sound, the rock sound, all of that. So, I don't want empty performative activism just to save face. I don't want, "I'm going to donate to this and we're done." No, let's actually do something that matters. Let's do something that changes things.
PS: What you just said about trailblazing singers and their experiences reminds me of Jimi Hendrix, who's one of my all-time favourite musicians. He was performing at sold-out crowds, but after the show, he couldn't go directly into some restaurants to get food because they weren't serving Black people. That dichotomy is so interesting, and it's still prevalent today. Black people have played such an important role in music and yet we're still fighting for equality.
BR: Absolutely. If we're going to talk about revolution, then we have to be revolutionary. And all we're saying is Black lives matter — the culture, the entertainment, the politics, everything. Black people, as a whole, matter. It's the most basic thing. You know what I'm saying?
PS: It's so simple.
BR: It's so simple and yet there's so much resistance. The worst kind is the stuff that you don't even hear about, the things that happen under the table like what [Colin] Kaepernick went through, being whole-ass blacklisted. And now you look at the NBA today, and "Black Lives Matter" is printed on the court. It's like, wow, this man had his whole career disintegrated because of what is happening right now. I'm happy, but I feel slighted at the same time because so much feels performative. I need to see real change.
PS: Early on in your career, you almost gave up on music before continuing to pursue it. What pushed you to keep going?
BR: I just knew that life can be taken away from you in an instant. I didn't want to go through life shrinking myself, playing small, dimming my light, and hiding in the shadows. Even if that meant disturbing the peace and not sounding like whatever people tried to label me as, I didn't want to die insignificant. I want to die knowing that I've emptied out my arsenal — everything that I wanted to say in the way that I wanted to say it with the art form that I chose. That became my mission.
My mom almost dying triggered it for me because she had been there since I was 11 at studio sessions and stuff like that. She believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. So that was also an element. I knew that I was running away from what I really wanted, and it was just like, f*ck it, I could die tomorrow. And it would just be me and God looking at each other like, wow, I really didn't do anything.
PS: God's like, "I gave you everything you needed, and you didn't use it."
BR: Literally. I could fail at what I don't want to do, so I might as well do everything that I want in this lifetime. And f*ck it, if I fail, it's a lesson learned. But at least I'm in the trajectory of where I want to be, not where someone else wants me.
PS: What inspired you to host your upcoming Golden Hour concert?
BR: When I did the first Golden Hour show on Aug. 5, I wanted to start a tradition of doing a performance around my birthday. It rained on Aug. 18, so we couldn't do it then, but we pushed it to another significant date, which is Sept. 18, when I'm dropping the new record. It's the deluxe, and it's going to be a vibe.
"I could fail at what I don't want to do, so I might as well do everything that I want in this lifetime. And f*ck it, if I fail, it's a lesson learned."
I just wanted to give my fans the opportunity to take their minds off things, have a picnic, wear a mask, chill out, have a drink, and experience my show in a very intimate fashion at golden hour when the sun is just starting to set. For everyone else who's live streaming [the concert] around the world, it'll be like I'm right there with them.
Self-care, relaxing, and enjoying music are imperative, so I wanted to create that moment because my music is very introspective. I've heard it's helped a lot of people, so I wanted to be there for them. I just miss performing so much. Since being on the road the first time with Ari [Lennox], and even before I started touring, performing was a regular thing for me. Going around to different bars and playing, it was such a freeing experience.
PS: What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned thus far in your 20s, and what do you hope to get out of your 20s?
BR: Wow, the first half of my 20s was a whirlwind. I learned a lot of lessons. The main lessons that I learned were, trust God, don't depend on another person for your happiness, and seek happiness inside of yourself. And if you're having trouble, go back to step one, which is trust God and pray. Another thing is, really be present. Everything should be new, even though in life and in love, when you've been heartbroken, when you've been in your career and you've failed a couple of times, you can start to get jaded, but you shouldn't. Not saying that you shouldn't use the wisdom that you've acquired, but don't have a closed-minded attitude. Just be present, listen more than you talk, take in everything, and listen to yourself. Listen to your gut and your intuition because that's what's going to lead you in the right direction.
The lesson that I hope to learn is to be more decisive. When I'm tasked with even the simplest thing, like which juice I'm going to buy from the supermarket, it becomes a whole thing. I want to be more firm in what I want. I have the freedom to create because this is my career, and this is what I love to do, but it's up to me to apply discipline and not be too sporadic and not spread myself too thin. I need to apply some type of structure. I think it can be good for me.