How LA Singer-Songwriter Rosie Tucker Crafted A Wryly Observant, Stunningly Empathetic Label Debut

03.07.19 4 months ago

Shabnam Ferdowsi

 

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Rosie Tucker describes themself as a “non-sequiteur equestrian.” It’s a fun phrase, and a pretty accurate way of describing their loose, playful style of songwriting. On their label debut, Never Not Never Not Never Not, Tucker oscillates between wry humor and stark honesty, often in the same song. They jump in and out their own head and other people’s, dipping into the landscapes around them and giving life to every little moment with their pen and guitar.

You could compare Tucker’s observational style to Courtney Barnett and their frankness to Mitski or any other members of that cohort of young singer-songwriters. But drawing too many comparisons distracts from Tucker’s unique songwriting and vocals. Their guitar can be fuzzy or plaintive, and their voice is a chameleon fitting the emotional shape of every song they sing. Never Not Never Not Never Not isn’t Tucker’s first collection of music — they released an independent album in 2015, and a record with the LA indie band Gypsum, along with several other side projects.

Never Not Never Not Never Not has gotten quite a bit of attention leading up to its March 8 release via New Professor, and deservedly so. The record’s first single, “Gay Bar,” immediately establishes Tucker’s voice as an artist. Heaven is a place on Earth, not just in San Junipero — “Gay Bar” is an ode to a California cowboy dive bar and the wonderful, joyful weirdos who frequent it. It’s the kind of beautifully observed song where every detail has a story behind it — and further listening reveals the whole album has a story behind it. I spoke with Tucker ahead of their album release, discussing this new record and touching on everything from California landscapes to Hollywood’s hidden queer history. Read a condensed and edited version of our conversation below.

Can you talk a little bit about your process for writing and composing the songs on the album?

These songs were written over the course of a couple of years, just kind of collecting. I set out to record a six-song EP with all the pals that I play with. We had this tight little recording crew going on. I put together this six-song EP and I sent it to my friend Greg [Katz of New Professor], and he said, ‘I’d love to put this out, but as a full-length!’ And we went, ‘Oh no! Okay,’ and got back to the drawing board. I wrote a couple new things, dug up a couple old things, and we got something together.

Which were the new ones?

“Real House Music” we were writing the parts that we play as we were recording them, quite literally. “Call It Awful,” the really really short one, was brand new. “Pablo Neruda” was a song that I wrote ages ago, and sort of decided wasn’t a good song, and then I played it for someone, and they said, ‘That’s a pretty good song,’ so we threw that one on, too.

When I first heard “Gay Bar” I was struck by how it, like, immediately sets you apart as an artist and sets this great thematic tone for the rest of the album. I love the Dusty Springfield quote in the outro and how it kind of places your music in this legacy of queer artists throughout music history. Could you talk a little about that?

I think that the Dusty quote just came from me feeling like it’s an injustice that I never learned that she dated ladies! And, in fact, dated a lady named Norma Tanega who is also an amazing songwriter and is definitely overlooked. I think that there’s sometimes a tension between identity as it relates politically to the world and trying to forge an identity as an individual artist — trying to speak truthfully to the ways that the world sets you apart, but not wanting to be pigeonholed. “Gay Bar” is mostly about having a really nice night out, and I just wanted to place it in a context that was, like, ‘Look, we’ve been here for f*cking ever, and it’s a joyful way to be.’

I actually didn’t realize that Dusty Springfield was queer, either, until I listened to the song, and Googled her afterward. How did no one ever tell me this?

There’s an amazing Instagram called LGBT_History, and also the ONE Archives at USC [the University of Southern California] are great resources, where every single week they’re posting something, and I’m like, ‘That writer was queer? That musician was queer?’ It’s constantly forcing me to reexamine the canon of great people who have changed the world. A lot of them were queer, and we really don’t receive that history ever.

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