New Orleans-based songwriter, Esther Rose, carries her home city’s storied musical heritage in her bones. On her latest record, How Many Times, she swims in a pool of tic tac rhythms, and lolling pulls of lap steel swirling fiddle lines, as her crushingly comforting voice sweeps away winter’s lingering chill; further establishing her as one of the finest alt-county writers around. Steeped in the past without being defined by it, Rose’s music buds like the first flowers of spring – seeking out the sun’s long-forgotten rays to bask in.
Following the release of her latest album How Many Times, we caught up with Esther to see what occupies her time away from songwriting.
These are her Sound & Vision picks:
Three favourite albums:
Ms. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
This is the first album that I bought. I was fourteen and saved up my wages from my bakery job and went to the Borders bookstore in Flint, MI. Here’s what I remember from that first ear-changing listen; that every single song was a stunner, the joy and significance of school kids in the interludes, the overwhelming delight from the bonus track, and that voice. Most albums I bought since then have been mildly disappointing, until…
Bobby Charles – Bobby Charles
This self-titled record has legendary status in New Orleans. I feel like Bobby Charles is the godfather of our weird little songwriter scene, how he casually combines country, blues, R&B, and folk. His songwriting is cosmic, horny, and timeless; you can feel his empathy and love for all people radiating out. His soulful voice is never in a hurry. It’s a record that could be played at a funeral or a wedding, whatever, it always sounds good.
Joni Mitchell – Blue
It took me so long to come around to this one. It finally clicked on a very long drive into the desert. What can I say, I grew up? Joni’s perspective, melodies, and wit are not for the faint of heart. I still get blindsided by this record, each time I listen I grasp a new gem of wisdom. Her voice has this emotional sensitivity that just knocks me out. I want to have a glass of wine and a cigarette with you, Joni.
One film I love: Time (2020)
Time is a new documentary that offers an intimate view into one woman’s life as she fights for justice for her husband who is incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. You can’t watch this and not fall in love with Fox Rich. Her candid and compelling true- love story simultaneously exposes the horror of the prison-industrial complex and the unbreakable bond of family. The soundtrack features piano ballads by Emahoy Tsegué- Maryam Guèbrou that were recorded in the 1960s and I’ve been listening non-stop since.
One book that I love: Song of the Lark (1915) by Willa Cather
Song of the Lark tells the story of Thea, a young artist from a small town. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a small town in the Midwest but I feel like Willa painted this story with empathy while still being brutally honest about small town America. This book informed me about what it takes to be a creative person; independence, hard work, and isolation. I think about Willa Cather writing in the early 1900’s as a queer woman and all the obstacles she likely faced and I see this incredibly brave person and poignant perspective.
One song that’s important to me: Everything by Kota The Friend
This is a tough question. Songs are meaningful for so many different reasons, so I’m going with the most recent song I heard that made me pull over. This song does the thing that I strive for; it’s sensitive, clever, profound, and makes me want to dance. For me, songwriting is this chance to strip away all the bullshit thoughts that take up space in my mind and get in touch with what really matters, what’s really going on. And if we lose our sense of humour… it might as well be over. ‘I’m alive and I’m funny / that is everything.’
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