Q&A | Carly Rose

by Shirley Ju

Photographed by: Aamir Khuller

Photographed by: Aamir Khuller

Carly Rose knows exactly what she wants to do as an artist, and that’s remain as real and authentic as possible. The singer-songwriter just recently started to make her own type of music, with no restrictions from any outside parties. Her alt-pop sound is influenced by her own upbringing listening to alternative rock — now finally in a place to apply them to her own sound.

It was her audition on X Factor at age 13 that jumpstarted her career as a recording artist. Coming to Los Angeles two years ago from New York, Carly is now attending USC studying Music Industry. Now older and wiser at age 20, she has finally unleashed her debut single “birds & bees,” under her management The Revels Group (G-Eazy, Drake, Dounia, Gibson Hazard).

Flaunt Mag caught up with Carly to discuss finally unleashing new music, attending USC while being an artist, and why her rock influences play such a big role in her artistry.

Why didn’t you feel you could make the music you wanted to?

I thought “that’s not what I should be doing, I should be making pop music strictly because that’s what I was thrown into after X Factor.” As I got older, The Revels Group helped me figure that out. The time of music right now, everyone’s expecting more out of artists. The idea of pop has expanded. I can do what I want. I can use these influences and make this hybrid thing. Alt-leaning pop with rock influences.

Who are some of the rock influences? 

I love the Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Queen of the Stone Age. I love Alabama Shakes, The Black Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, I could go on. You get it.

Talk about your stint w/ X Factor & placing second.

X Factor was an interesting experience. I was 13, it was a while ago. I auditioned originally in New Jersey, they had these mall kiosk things set up in parts of the world. I somehow found out about it, went to this mall and recorded myself singing. I got a call a month later: “oh come to Providence, Rhode Island tomorrow.” That’s the first big audition you see on TV, the rest was an interesting journey. [laughs]

What happened?

It was like a master class learning about this industry. You’re thrown into it with all these famous people, industry people, it seems at the snap of your fingers. [snaps] It wasn't my first time singing, but it was my first time being involved in this industry in that way.

You were 13?

I was really young. I had a lot of people telling me what I should be doing and giving me advice. Overall it was a great experience. My first time singing on live television, it was huge.

How nervous were you?

It’s like... you could pick up a car because of the adrenaline. I can’t really explain how I did it, especially as a 13-year-old. But when you’re in it, it’s go go go. The momentum and the adrenaline is pushing you through. Looking back, how the hell did I do that with all the pressure on me always? That becomes your world, then it seems normal. I met a lot of great people. It’s given me a foundation and fans. I took a lot of years to figure out what I wanted to do so obviously that engagement and the amount of people I’m relevant to now is less than it was then, but it’s given me that foundation I’m now building off of how I want to.

How would you describe your fanbase? 

They’re really cool, super dedicated. I really appreciate it because I used to watch American Idol. If I didn’t hear about the people I really liked in 7 years, I probably wouldn’t give a shit. So I get it, people don’t. But a good amount of people still really care, root for me, post about me. Before this song, I was pretty silent. That’s so sick. I can tell from interacting with them online they have a mature taste in music and appreciation for quality. They keep me on my toes, it’s awesome.

You say New York and LA are so different. What do you like better? 

Ugh, it’s hard. There are pros and cons of both. Definitely have aspects of both the NY and LA personality in me. I’m driven like a New Yorker. Not that LA people aren’t, but LA people are more laidback. (I have that in me too). I’m not a type A person at all, so I have a balance in NY. There’s a lot of honesty for better or worse, telling it how it is. Here, people are really good at telling you what you want to hear, dancing around the reality. It’s been interesting figuring out how to navigate that. LA's cool. There’s so many people here I love, so it’s great.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist? 

It’s really important. Obviously people are in their bedrooms in some random state, put something on SoundCloud and blow up. They already could have done it before coming here, but those stories are far and few between. Coming here is pretty crucial. It also depends on the music scene you’re in. If you’re in the pop game in any way, LA’s extremely important. Just more producers and writers out here. When I decided to go to USC, it’s like “alright, let’s do it.” My main focus was always to make this my priority.

What was the inspiration behind keeping your real name? 

Well on X Factor, they called me Carly Rose. Wanted to keep something consistent from that time. I don’t want to come off as trying to reject that time of my life or pretend it didn’t happen, it was a great time. If people knew me that way, there’s no reason to try to alienate anyone.

Congrats on your debut single, “birds & bees.” What took you so long to release it?

[laughs] Basically, I decided to stay in school after X Factor. That was really important for my mental state, my creativity as well for writing. In my mind stopping school and fully doing this, what would I write about? I wanted real experiences to ground and inspire me. On the other side of that, my managers and sounds. I was 14, a bunch of different people I worked with saw a really clear path for me. I don’t necessarily blame anyone ‘cause it seems like the easy thing: this 14 year old girl coming off a reality TV show, you can guess the appropriate sound they picked for me. I went along with it for a while, but nothing felt right for me.

Even in that time, I wanted to release music around his age. I wanted to feel confident in the fact I was taken seriously and the music I put out, I wouldn’t look back in 5 years like “why the hell did I put that out?” You never know if that’ll happen but as a 20-year-old, I’d have a better idea of what I wanted to do.

You’re still a baby.

Still super young. But compared to 14, I had a feeling at this age I’d be further along in my development as an artist. That was always my plan. I honed in on songwriting as a really important thing to me. Been in sessions with different producers and writers for 7 years now, that’s really had an impact on me. Now I feel really confident as a songwriter and musician, that’s invaluable.

How’d you connect with The Revels Group? 

Random but actually through USC. A friend of mine who goes to USC who’s now working as my day to day manager, a friend of his started to work at Revels Group. He’s young, he’s our age (Matt Geffen). My friend Sean played my music for him, he knew I was making music and looking for new management. Geffen was really into the music and played it for Jamil and Matt. They were all on board, and it all started to happen last summer. It’s been great, they’re awesome.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?

Trust your intuition and don’t settle. I could have put out music 50x already, but I wouldn’t be a happy person if I did. I wouldn’t be able to feel good about myself — not because this music was so bad, it just wasn’t true to me. That’s the most important thing. If I cant listen to my music, if I don’t want to play my music for someone, something’s wrong. Here I am now, I’m so excited about my music. I’ll play it for everyone who will listen, I want as many people to hear it as possible.

Trust your intuition, trust your instincts. You can have a million people telling you it’s the right thing but at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to go out and sell yourself, sell your music. Take your time, everything happens for a reason.

Photographed by: Camilo Rios

Photographed by: Camilo Rios

Talk about going to USC and studying Music Industry. 

I’m studying Music Industry partially because I want a more holistic view of the industry. Since I was young, always had parents or managers handling the business side for me. I never really got to earn it. It’s important as an artist to be aware of what’s going on. I didn’t want to do the Pop Music program because I wanted time to do stuff outside of school (like this). The strictly performance-based programs are so rigorous at USC, that’d be my life. I thought it’d be a good way to have more time and effort to dedicate to my career.

What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?

I want to start performing soon, that’s something I’ve been working on. I have a band, we’re starting to get a live show together which is exciting. Collaborating with other artists. Having more people listen to my music, opening up people's ears to hopefully a new sound they haven’t heard before.

What can we expect from you music-wise?

My music’s definitely accessible and I want that, but I want to challenge people. I don’t want you to know necessarily what I’m doing comes from this place of rock influences. I do want you to know that but I try to package everything in a way that’s more accessible. I want people to like it. I want as many people to feel it as possible, but subtly slide in the music I like and listen to. Eventually create something new. Maybe introduce people to a sound or style of music they wouldn't normally listen to, ‘cause it’s coming from a pop place.

How important is social media for your career?

Social media is key for any developing artist’s career. Always working on trying to be more active. Everyone’s on social media now, it’s tough to break through. The most important thing is finding a way to be authentic, but also engaging and active. I’m not super quiet. I’m not a super introvert but definitely not someone who’s in your face, super duper outgoing. On social media, I don’t naturally tell everyone what I’m doing at all moments. It’s about finding the balance of what’s authentic to me and also engaging and interacting with people who care.

Favorite person to follow on IG?

That’s a good question. I follow a lot of photography and music accounts. I like following Genius honestly, it keeps me updated on what’s happening in the music world.

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.

Right now it’s being in constant sessions, writing sessions, recording. I’m on my grind right now in terms of making new music, which is great. Session starts at 2pm, constantly having calls, dealing with management before sessions, after sessions. Scheduling, I’m doing a lot of photoshoots and press since the single just dropped and getting ready to release the next one. Keep that momentum going. Approving different things for videos and content I’m releasing, working with management to make sure I’m up on everything. Rehearsing with my band, that’s another one. It’s been a pretty crazy month. [chuckles]

3 things you need in the studio?

These are going to be so lame. Coffee, for sure. Something to write on. Either a collaborator who's ready to create and present in whatever, or quiet for me to do it on my own.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?

Definitely be in school like I am. Probably be doing an internship, that’s what all my friends are doing. Trying to do songwriting as well, I guess that’s still music. I like other things but there isn’t anything I’m passionate about other than music as a career.

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?

Arctic Monkeys.

Dream collab?

This is boring because it’s my answer for everything, but Alex Turner. He’s the lead singer of Arctic Monkeys. He’s my songwriting god and inspiration.

Anything else you want to let us know? 

Stay tuned for more music, it’s coming. Really excited about it. I just approved the final mix for the second single yesterday.