Rosie Catalano
Rosie Catalano

Rosie Catalano is a quirky, down-to-earth indie artist with an eclectic view on life, love and her music.

Her new EP “Dreams Are Just Movies” is a must-listen-to album full of enchanting yet contemporary music you can’t help but fall in love with.

I got a chance to chat with Rosie on the eve of the EP launch and leading up to her tour with Unearthed’s Rose Wintergreen starting Friday 4th October.

What is the inspiration behind your EP?

I wrote it over quite a few years so the inspiration varies from song to song. With “Hearts” and “This Town” they were crowdfunded songs, so the topic/theme was picked by a pledger which was a different way to approach the songs. But of course to turn them into something I actually really like I still need to feel inspired about it so they were actually quite a bit of work. “Dreams are Just Movies” was inspired by a series of nightmares that I was having during the time that I wrote it.

The idea struck me that because I wasn’t getting any pleasure out of having all of these horrible dreams that maybe the purpose of these nightmares was actually not for me but for an audience, so I came up with the idea of ghosts sitting at the end of your bed as you sleep and they watch your dreams as though they’re movies. “Ginger” was inspired by the story Hansel and Gretel, so it’s more of a feeling kind of song. “Daemon” and “Stitch You Up” were both stream of consciousness songs, so they’re a bit darker and written around the same time as “Dreams are Just Movies”. “Hope To Never Say Never” was one that I wrote when I was a band called The Rouge Balloon and is probably the oldest one.

It’s about unrequited love for the other person.

You’ve mentioned a little about your background in music, how long have you been performing and when did you go solo?

My background is more in writing but I picked up the guitar at the end of High School and didn’t really start writing songs until the end of Uni and it was only when my workmate Nikola Kovac and I joined forces to create The Rouge Balloon that I started performing. That was a really huge step and I think it was only really possible because I joined that band. I went solo in 2009 after winning the Little Birdy song competition and I guess it reinforced the idea that I wrote strong enough songs that I could perform them by myself and gave me more confidence.

So you’ve got a background in writing, what kind of writing do you do, or have you done?

I’ve written all sorts of things. When I was younger I wrote screenplays just for fun I guess and I’ve written a play that got performed in 1999 I think, it was a long time ago LOL. I’ve written lots of short stories, screenplays, plays, fiction, non-fiction. I’ve written a colouring book that my sister illustrated, so it’s a bit eclectic.

Have you had your writing published or is it more of a hobby?

It definitely started out more of a hobby, I wouldn’t say I would pursue writing as a career but I’ve had a short story published in an anthology called Nine Tenths Below, as well as Mitsu which was a final year project at Uni and was published with illustration done by my sister. I’ve had some of my non-fiction published as well but it’s not something I’m actively pursuing quite as much as music but it’s something that I do enjoy doing.

Has this background in writing influenced your songwriting style, or do you find that it comes from a different place?

In a way I think that it comes from a similar place, although I think in a way I’m more suited to songwriting than writing stories, just because when did I write non-musical pieces I tended to hone in on a character and plot but I’m not very good on the stuff in-between (the filler). In a way songs allow you to connect to different ideas more easily, different characters and different narratives, and also convey through melody something else that’s going on underneath. I think it’s more interesting but songs, as opposed to just staring at a blank piece of paper, you can at least play the guitar, play certain chords and see what that brings up and evokes. It is a bit different but I think I do approach them generally from the same place.

You’re currently an Indie (Independent) artist, are you wanting to stay in this as a hardcore grassroots artist or do you have dreams of going mainstream and conquering the world with your music?

Up to a point. I don’t want to be so independent that I’m forever going to be doing it completely on my own but I think that rather than having a dream of getting a label and conquering the world, I just want to have something that’s sustainable and get people in to help at times when I need it. For example, during the release, it is handy to have someone doing the publicity and ideally I would love to have a booking agent as well, just during those times to book tours but not necessarily part of a big label. As far as world domination goes I love Sydney and Australia and being settled and having friends and family around so I’m not sure that I am a breed of musician that’s happy to up and go and tour for years on end and live 50% of my year in America or Europe, so I think in a way my lifestyle limits how far I can really take it.

So you’re also clearly not an Amanda Palmer, hardcore indie and couch surfing LOL…

I really think she’s incredible and I have huge respect for the dedication that she has to touring and to her fans but I don’t know if I have the energy to do that 24/7 every year.

You sound pretty balanced and sustainable certainly fits with your ethos. Your sound is also unique but it’s also similar to the new sound of music we’re starting to hear. Is there someone in particular that you look up to, influences &/or inspires you?

I guess it’s a mish-mash of all different people but the people I’ve been thinking of more recently that have been an influence are Leonard Cohen, I like the approach that he has where it’s very narrative-driven and I think he also takes quite a long time to write songs which I do as well. During my teenage years, there was definitely an influence from PJ Harvey and also Nick Cave which encouraged the idea that I could do songs that weren’t necessarily diary songs. I guess it that thing with writing where you come up with a character, it doesn’t necessarily have to be you. Regina Spektor was also another influence; her songs are a bit more quirky and have some humour in them, which I tend to like to inject into the songs. I think it’s a bit of all of them. I listened to a lot of Tori Amos when I was younger but I’m not sure that it comes through in the songs so much.

It is certainly an interesting mix and really refreshing… the new old school almost easy listening, old-worldly, Hollywood black & white or technicolour film-reviews feel but with a new & contemporary twist…

I think my songs are the kind you can put on in the background and it wouldn’t be intrusive, I think it’s almost like the sound is relaxing or easy listening but the lyrics are a bit more challenging/darker.

Heading into the business end… for an indie artist, who’s still theoretically only pretty new, you’ve won a couple of awards and have been part of Unearthed, how does that feel for you? Are you stoked that you’ve done so well, so soon?

Yeh! I think the word for it for me is “validating” and the whole reason why that Little Birdy competition was important for me was just that I didn’t have the confidence and I didn’t have that belief that I could do this on my own, that I could write songs that stood up by themselves, so aside from winning the competition and getting to fly to Melbourne to record a song, it just meant that I was able to have that confidence. I’ve often described it as being like those people you see on Australian Idol or American Idol that audition that is really terrible and has probably gone through their lives being told by friends and family that they’re the best and so, you don’t really have that perspective on where you sit in that insanity scale until you actually win awards that are quite big, then it does say that you’re not as terrible as you might think you are sometimes. It keeps you going, the Unearthed and also Radio National picking it up as Album of the Week, and 702 more recently, it makes you realise I can record this album completely independently and it’s good enough to be on those lists with pretty big acts beside you. It’s definitely a big deal for me, I definitely don’t take it for granted and it helps me keep going.

You still sound pretty grounded though which is always a good thing. Talking about recording, you’re producer is Sarah McCallum, has she been a big influence in moving forward for you?

She’s my go-to person for everything. I started out as a fan of her music, she performs under the name Miss Little and she’s really fantastic so she’s been my singing teacher, my arranger and my producer and we also tend to chat and help each other through the times when you need it most. She’s really great to work with, when I have the recordings that I want to do, because we’ve been working together for so long, and she knows my music so well, we can discuss it, she can go away and come up with suggestions. A lot of times it’s not even until I’m in the studio that I really hear what she has come up but there’s this real trust in the relationship. I don’t know what I’d do or who I’d record with if it wasn’t with her, she’s a big part of my music and how it sounds and the direction that goes.

Your tour with Rose Wintergreen starting Friday 4th October, have you met/worked with Rose before?

Rose and I are co-headling but we haven’t met in person yet but Jen Colley who runs Manage My Music Workshops introduced Rose and I online through a little group that she set up after we both attended separate workshops. I think at first I was helping Rose with her crowd-funded campaign, giving her advice on that and we’ve been in touch ever since, sharing information, it’s kind of what you have to do when you’re indie – learn everything you can from others because it saves a lot of trial and error.  She’s singing a single called “Feet in the Sand” and was going to tour around the same time as me, so we thought well how about we just team up and half the load and support each other through it. It’s great because I’ve never played in Brisbane before and she’s from Melbourne, so she’s taken charge of those 2 gigs and I’ve taken charge of Sydney and Canberra. It’s really great because you’ve got a buddy and someone else to help organise everything. I think it’s the way indie artists should be doing things… teaming up, sharing knowledge.

So I guess we have to ask this… are you working on your next big project/album? Will you go along the same theme or change direction?

I’ve not necessarily started. It’s hard to know because I have a lot of little songs I’ve started, even with this EP, a lot of them were written before the songs in my last EP, so who knows I might already have an album together. But I’ve been thinking about the stuff that I really want to work on until the next release and am thinking about doing more with vocal layers and possibly with a stronger beat. I really love Mama Kin and Joan As policewomen and they sound nothing like my music right now but I think if I work on the percussive skills I can start heading further in that direction. At the moment it’s more about learning and experimenting and seeing where that takes me.

Finally, your EP release date is tomorrow (1st October), are you nervous?

I’m not as nervous about the release date as the tour. I’m excited but then I also already feel like it’s been released so at least now it will be officially be released.