A new album, a new musical direction and a head and heart full of fun and positivity … that’s what Rose Carleo has in store for 2015, as she tells AM’s Greg Phillips.
While her previous two albums were embedded with her heart and soul and contained an honest bunch of life stories, you get the feeling that album number three, ‘Time is Now’, due for release in April, is the real Rose Carleo. She has lived a life, learned much and isn’t settling for anything less than what she truly desires musically. Rose Carleo’s time really is now! For a start, Carleo has put aside the blues tinged country tunes which have permeated her world for years and instead rediscovered her inner rock chick, the artist she always knew resided inside her. At the recommendation of her life partner and musical collaborator Mick Adkins, she then called up iconic Australian rock ‘n’ roll producer Mark Opitz and asked if he’d be interested in working on her new batch of rock flavoured songs … which he was.
“I am so lucky,” Rose tells me. “I was looking for a different type of producer. I co-produced my last one and I love my first two albums but I wanted a real rock feel and some totally fresh ears to Rose Carleo. One day I gathered enough courage and rang Mark Opitz. We had a bit of a chat and he asked me to send some stuff through and he said yes, so I am really blessed that it happened and now proud of the professional relationship we have and proud to call him a mate. Mark is about the whole sound. Everything has equal importance. Some producers lean one way or the other. He made sure that it sounded like I owned it. For instance, I have never played guitar on any of my recordings. I said to him that I would really love to play some acoustic but if it doesn’t work, that’s OK. And I am playing on almost every song! He said that even though I may not be as technical as another player, ‘it’s your feel, you have written the song so you own it’. I learned a lot from Mark. He and Colin Wynne from Thirty Mill studios also, have taken me to a new level in belief at what I can do.”
The title track, ‘Time is Now’ and the overall theme of the album is about “seizing the day and anything you can do today, don’t put off until tomorrow”, says Rose. “When I sat down to write it with Drew (McAlister) and Mick I said, I don’t want to die with too many regrets or wish I’d done that or tried that.” There are a couple of tracks on the album which fall closer to Carleo’s heart than others … a song called Pieces, which she wrote for Mick Adkins and also a track named ‘Anchor’. “The hook line is, I am not an anchor, I am a sail,” she says. “That’s been forged from different relationships with people that hold you down.”
The seeds of Carleo’s new, rockier musical direction were planted long ago. She grew up on an eclectic diet of music with country and western at the forefront. Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and bluegrass always blared out of her mum’s stereo system but then again, so too did AC/DC. “So one minute mum would be playing Patsy Cline and the next her favourite AC/DC song, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’,” she recalls of her mum who passed away 25 years ago. “She’d crank up the stereo to the point where the neighbours would say, gee Mary, the kids had the stereo up a bit loud last night!”
Rose’s mum was a huge music fan and a massive musical influence on her daughter. She ran country music clubs in Perth in order to give a gig to her favourite local country artists and one day dared a young Rose to take to the stage and sing. Rose accepted the challenge and has sought the buzz of performing live music ever since. Soon after that debut vocal performance, rose acquired her first guitar. “I was about 15,” she says. “I can’t remember the brand but it looked like a Gibson with a hummingbird scratch-plat, just like Emmy Lou Harris had.”
Fast forward to 2015 and Rose Carleo is not only an established artist on the verge of releasing her third album but she also has a guitar endorsement with the Takamine brand. “I got endorsed by Pro Music, the local Takamine distributor in 2007 I think it was,” she recalls. “I was at a songwriter’s gig and they had a display of Takamine guitars there. I’d already played a few in music stores. I was given the number of someone at Pro Music and I emailed him. As it happened, I had just done a song live to air on 98.9 in Brisbane the day prior and he had heard me. We had a meeting and they said they’d love to endorse me. I still get people come up to me at almost every gig and ask about the guitar.”
Carleo plays Sante Fe TTSF48C model Takamine acoustic electric guitars, which feature an unusual cutaway body. “I love the shape of the body but I also really love the pre amp,” she says. “It’s a Cool Tube pre amp, so there’s a little valve in there and it just gives it a really warm sound. I also love the rosewood back and sides because there’s a natural bottom end and warmth. It’s hard to recreate that any other way, through mixing or whatever. If a guitar already sounds good, the way you want it to, it can only get better as time goes on. But that pre amp is to do die for. It’s like you’re paying for a valve amp, it’s beautiful.” Rose also owns a couple of electric guitars, a Squier Telecaster that Mick bought her and a new Gibson Melody Maker she has just acquired (because Joan Jett played one!). While Rose is currently on the hunt for a new valve amp, her Vox AC30 and Fender Twin are more than enough to power her sounds.
Rose is the first to admit that she is no lead guitar player but is comfortable enough to strum a mean rhythm. As a result, she favours a heavier gauge string to deliver a little more grunt. “I’m a rhythm player so I use a heavier gauge … 13s. When Mick (her partner) picks up the guitar, he says he can’t bend them. You’re not supposed to I say, I don’t play lead. The heavier gauge gives me that little bit of extra bottom end too. I mostly use Elixirs, they last a bit longer and I like a brighter sound.”
Rose has just wrapped up a tour supporting Screaming Jets’ member and respected solo artist in his own right Paul Woseen. Paul has been touring his solo acoustic album ‘Bombido’ since its release last year. The two first met around 20 years ago and reconnected in 2012. Woseen ended up playing on Time is Now and can be seen in the video for the title track too. Carleo had hoped to use some of her road time with Woseen to pen a song or two. “I have admired his work for many years,” says Carleo of her friend Paul. “I believe he is one of Australia’s best songwriters and performers.”
Next on the agenda for Rose is the completion and release of her album. It’s been recorded and only mixing and mastering stands in the way of it’s release, which is targeted for April. From there, she hopes to hit the road again promoting her new recording and with a bit of luck, play some dates overseas as well where she’s been finding a bit of an internet radio following.
See below for six more quick questions we fire at Rose!