At only 14 years old, Rose Elizabeth, a freshman at Villa Joseph Marie High School, is releasing her debut EP. The budding singer-songwriter, who overcame her fear of singing in public by appearing in several musicals in grade school, will deliver her biggest performance yet when she headlines a concert at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts on Feb. 11 to celebrate the release of her new country album.
Here’s our Q&A with the smart and talented artist.
You’ve been writing songs for the last three years. Can you share a little about your approach to writing lyrics?
When I write a song, it almost always starts with a random melody or random line of a lyric that comes to my head and I just continue from there. For example, I was walking my dog and all of a sudden I thought of the lines, “We have years of time, miles and miles of roads,” and I made it into a love song and continued from there. I always have to be sitting in a quiet room with no distractions or outside when it’s quiet and warm and I can focus.
What kind of subject matter are you drawn to as a songwriter?
I love to spread a message of how I feel and try to help with problems I see in society today. All of my songs have a personal meaning to me, even when it is just a story about something. For example, “Life Under Sheets” (one of four songs on the new EP) is about an alcoholic dad and a daughter who is scared to leave her room because she knows he doesn’t want her around. That has no personal experience behind it at all. I love my dad and know he loves me. The song came from something I see in the world today and stories I hear.
Tell us about the other songs on the album.
My first song, “Pray,” tells the story of three different people, who are each going through a very difficult time, but when they pray they feel like even though life is putting them down, they will be OK. “Flying Away” … is about a daughter growing up and her mother realizing how fast it’s all going by. I was going through my songs to figure out which ones I wanted on the album and I saw that one and immediately knew I wanted it to be included. Finally, “Love Without an End” was my most recent song I wrote. I originally wrote it for my aunt who just got engaged, but I loved it so much that I wanted it on the album. It is based around finding the one you love in life and loving them forever. My hope for after people hear the songs is to be known as a storyteller.
Your music has been greatly influenced by country superstar Carrie Underwood. What is it about that genre that appeals to you?
In today’s generation, many teens listen to pop or rap and they don’t take the time to listen to country because they are told that pop and rap are cool to listen to. In my opinion, country uses music and lyrics to get good messages and stories to the listeners instead of constant profanity and fast words that you can’t understand without looking up the lyrics. Storytelling is what country singers and country songs do. It’s what they are good at, which is why I personally prefer it.
You saw Carrie Underwood perform at the Wells Fargo Center last year. Why was that such a defining moment for you?
Whenever I go to a concert or play, I walk out thinking, “That has to be fun,” or “I would love to do that.” Usually, the feeling wears away by the next day. When the concert started, I got that same feeling again; the only difference was that the feeling and the desire to perform grew stronger. As I got in the car and drove home listening to her music again on the radio that night, I remember thinking “I want to do that someday.” Since then, I have watched videos of her performing and practice singing her songs all the time.
For many years, singing was something you did in private. How did you overcome your fear of performing in front of others?
The beginning of my sixth grade year, I told my mom I liked to sing a little bit. At that time, she thought it was just a phase because I was so scared to sing in front of people that she had never heard me. She told me I should try the theater because it would allow me to sing. I was also playing a bunch of sports at that time so I guess she thought I wasn’t a singing type of girl. I auditioned (for the Nativity of Our Lord Performing Arts Program) the first year and remember hiding behind my paper and shaking the entire time. The next year I auditioned and still was a little scared, but right after the audition I was mad at myself for getting scared. My third and final year at my grade school was when I finally decided it was time to not be scared and if this is what I wanted to do then I had to learn. That year in the theater program was the best.
I love the theater and I will forever be grateful for it helping me get over my fear of performing and singing in front of people, but songwriting and singing my originals is so much more personal and exciting.
Rose Elizabeth performs Feb. 11 with Ally McDonald and Abby Zwall at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts, 305 Horsham Road, Horsham, Pa. 19044. Show time is 7 p.m. Admission is free. Information: 215-672-3140; www.scatterjoyarts.org.