Music Interviews
4:00 pm
Sat April 7, 2012

Rosie Thomas: Restarting A Musical Life 'With Love'

Originally published on Sun April 8, 2012 5:32 pm

With Love is singer Rosie Thomas' first full-length album in four years, and she's experienced many ups and downs in that time. One of the downs was an injury: Her thyroid broke, causing her to take a hiatus from music.

"It's very humbling," Thomas tells NPR's Laura Sullivan. "It took about two years to get that in order, but what's amazing about that is that in that timeline, I got engaged. I planned a beautiful wedding on my grandfather's farm with a parade. I took a break for the first time in a while, and I just sat and looked at life for the first time. God gave me pause for the first time, and I took it, because I had to. A lot of joy, a lot of sorrow, a lot of hardship, a lot of wisdom gained in that time."

The music on With Love contains more pop than folk, which was more prominent in her earlier work. Thomas says that's a result of her time off.

"The doctor said, 'One day, Rosie, you're just going to wake up and you'll feel better,'" she says. "And it happened. The birds chirped and the sun came out, and I thought, this is my day. ... I had a lot of joy in my heart, and I wanted to share that, sing from that great big heart of mine. And so it caused me to write tunes in a different meter, more hand claps — there was just more joy to be had."

Working on the album with Sam Beam (of Iron and Wine) and David Bazan helped Thomas push herself out of her comfort zone. She says that, although she was known for being fun and lighthearted in her stage banter, she had yet to put that personality across in her recorded music.

"Dave kept saying, 'You're your best asset. You're the best character to play,'" Thomas says. "Sam kept saying, 'Make a record that makes you uncomfortable.' I thought, 'That's peculiar, Sam — life's uncomfortable enough!'

"For the first time, I have a bit more life experience, and I have something to offer back," Thomas says. "It feels like a greater responsibility. It's a wonderful thing."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LAURA SULLIVAN, HOST:

If you're just joining us, you're listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Laura Sullivan. And it's time now for music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHERE WAS I")

SULLIVAN: Singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas' new album is called "With Love." And the title says it all. It's all about love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHERE WAS I")

ROSIE THOMAS: (Singing) Where, oh, where was I?

SULLIVAN: It's Thomas' first record in four years, and a lot has happened during that time. The singer did fall in love, but she also became seriously ill with a thyroid disorder. And for the first time in her career, she was forced to take a break and stop touring.

THOMAS: And so it took about two years to sort of get that in order. But what's amazing about that is in that timeline, I got engaged; I planned a beautiful wedding on my grandfather's farm, with a parade. You know, that's why I say a lot of joy, a lot of sorrow, a lot of hardship - but a lot of wisdom gained in that time, which is wonderful.

SULLIVAN: Well, you poured all of that into this new album.

THOMAS: Yes, I did. I did.

SULLIVAN: And you chronicle a lot of these experiences in one of the tracks on the new album. It's called "A Really Long Year."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A REALLY LONG YEAR")

THOMAS: (Singing) Yeah, it's been a really long year. Flew to Oklahoma and that's where he got down on one knee. When I told my mom, she was in tears. The day we pulled out her wedding gown, she hadn't looked at it in 40 years. And I, I watch her reminisce for a while, just 19 and walking down the aisle.

SULLIVAN: It's such a beautiful song. I mean, it just really captures - sort of the joy and the wonder of falling in love. And the song ends with the lines: I never thought that I would see the day I danced with Grandpa on my wedding day.

THOMAS: Mm-hmm.

SULLIVAN: I mean, was marriage something that you just never pictured for yourself?

THOMAS: Yeah, kind of. You know, I think that I never really stopped to think I would have, you know, whatever we claim as normalcy. I would see my friends getting married and think, good for them. I've got all these things I got to do, and that's OK if that's not for me. And then it happened. It happened to me, you know.

SULLIVAN: This album is - it's quite different from your previous work. It's more pop than it is folk.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SULLIVAN: Is that something you did on purpose?

THOMAS: Well, it's funny. I don't know if I meant to, you know? I had all this time, you know, after I sort of went through the thyroid breakdown and debacle. And I really enjoyed playing music in such a different way coming out of that season. And so it caused me to write tunes in a different meter. More handclaps - you know, there was just more joy to be had.

SULLIVAN: Well, let's listen to the song "Over the Moon," from the album "With Love." It's - I mean, it's one of my favorites.

THOMAS: Oh, mine, too. Mine, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OVER THE MOON")

THOMAS: (Singing) When I think of your love, it puts a joy in my step. The way you play with my heart makes me your instrument. When I'm walking with you, feels like I'm walking on clouds. I always feel up just by you being around 'cause you fill me with love. Yeah, you fill me with love. You fill me with love...

SULLIVAN: It's such a great pop song.

THOMAS: Yeah, isn't that awesome? I wrote that.

SULLIVAN: I've often heard that it's easier to write about, you know, pain and heartbreak...

THOMAS: Oh, yeah. Yes.

SULLIVAN: ...than it is to write about love and happiness. Is it true?

THOMAS: Yeah. In my opinion, it's true. I mean, listen, I wear my heart on my sleeve. You know, my entire life, I've been trying to build people up, trying to build myself up. It's a lot easier to do that when you're - when you've got the sorrow going. Boy, can you really say some cool things, you know.

This boy said to me after a show, when he found out I was getting married. He said Rosie, can I ask you something? I said, you've got it. He said, are you going to write the same kind of tunes now that you're getting married? I said, don't you worry. I'm still totally depressed.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

THOMAS: And he said, awesome. I said, yeah! And we high-fived, you know. Sam said to me - Sam Beam, when I did the Iron & Wine tour - he said, do you find it harder to write songs now that, you know, you're married, and now that you fell in love? I said yeah, it's different. But, you know, it's cool. It gives me a different repertoire. So if I fall in love, then I know what that feels like now, and I can sing about it because I actually know what it feels like. And I want it for everybody else, too.

SULLIVAN: Rosie, you worked with pretty famous musicians on the album: Sufjan Stevens, who you've worked with before; and Sam Beam, who you mentioned, from Iron & Wine; and David Bazan, from Pedro the Lion. And I've read that both Sam Beam and David Bazan encouraged you to let it out vocally.

THOMAS: Yes.

SULLIVAN: What, exactly, did you let out?

THOMAS: Oh, my personality. I think that's a big one.

SULLIVAN: So it sounds like before, you were a sort of a shy singer.

THOMAS: Yeah. Absolutely. I think I still had yet to figure out what I had to say. And I think for the first time - this time around, I have a bit more life experience, and I have something to offer back.

SULLIVAN: And when you're going from singing shy...

THOMAS: Yes.

SULLIVAN: ...to singing loud...

THOMAS: Yes.

SULLIVAN: ...was there a moment where you said yeah, I can do this; I can totally do this.

THOMAS: We had three hours every night where I would sing for three hours straight. And I loved it. I mean, I felt like J Lo or Beyonce. I mean, I just could not wait. This is my Aretha Franklin moment, I think. And I started pushing out, and Dave would say, do it again. I'd sing it again. Do it again, he'd say. And I'd sing it again. And finally, one moment, he came into the sound room, and his arm hairs are standing up. And he said now, I believe you. And I knew what he meant. I sang from the heart.

SULLIVAN: What song were you singing?

THOMAS: I was singing "Back to Being Friends."

SULLIVAN: Well, why don't we take a listen to that one right now?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BACK TO BEING FRIENDS")

SULLIVAN: (Singing) If we went back to being friends, what would it do, what would it mend when we were meant to be so much more.

Rosie, this album is all about love.

THOMAS: Mm-hm.

SULLIVAN: Where are you going to go from here?

THOMAS: Oh, man. We'll see what happens this next time around. But, you know, life is going to present that to me. And I say, all I'm going to do from here is keep my eyes open, and keep my heart open - always - and I'll sing about that.

SULLIVAN: That's singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas. Her new album, "With Love," is out now, and you can hear a few tracks off the album at our website, nprmusic.org. Rosie, thank you so much for being here.

THOMAS: Thank you. You're wonderful.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BACK TO BEING FRIENDS")

THOMAS: (Singing) How I wish that I had told you more and more how much I loved you so. How could I have known that you'd leave me here alone? I'd never get the chance to really let you know. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.