Influenced by jazz and Joni Mitchell, Beacon singer releases debut EP

At a certain juncture, songwriter and singer Rose Stoller knew she had to confront what was becoming a looming stumbling block: learning to play the guitar. Though she was crafting songs, she lacked the ability to perform them for others.

“Many people took guitar lessons when they were 7 years old, or even 14, while here I was trying to learn guitar, write songs and jump-start performing them,” says the Beacon resident. “I wanted to share the songs but I was still learning how to play the instrument and holding the guitar awkwardly.

“Ambition made it stressful, but I think you have to go through this learning curve, whether you’re an artist, a knitter, anything,” she says. “The only way to get past it is to go through it. I do feel I’m on the other side, but that doesn’t mean the growth is over.”

Rose Stoller: Live at Guava It seems to be working. Stoller recently released her debut EP, Rose Stoller: Live at Guava, a Pawling music studio. It features five acoustic tracks, including those inspired by Brazilian popular music, “Laurel Canyon folk rock,” rhythm and blues and contemporary jazz.

All showcase Stoller’s creative phrasing and inflections — her Instagram handle, chosen a while back, she notes, unsure that it still reflects her music, is @WeirdSoundGirl. The EP is accompanied by videos of live performances of each song.

“I don’t think I sound very conventional and I was playing on that when I chose that name,” she explains. “The sounds I make are super-organic and always changing. I open my mouth and see what happens, and there’s something fun about that.”

Stoller, 26, grew up in New York City, in a household where her father wrote songs as a hobby. “My dad is an undiscovered talent and his songwriting was a big inspiration to me, though I didn’t participate in it growing up — I was shy,” Stoller recalls. “I went to a competitive arts high school, which I found detrimental to the growing brain. Art is supposed to help you express yourself, but for me it was the opposite because I wasn’t expressive in theater spaces.

It was in high school that Stoller first heard the music that captivated her. “In junior year, one of my friends played some music on her phone, and I nearly fell on the floor, hearing those notes. It was ‘Waters of March,’ by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina.

“That song opened my eyes and put jazz on my radar,” she recalls. “It was, ‘So, that’s Brazilian jazz. What’s American jazz?’ Soon, burning through things, I knew all the songs and began recognizing voices. I got into a contemporary singer, Gretchen Parlato, along with Shirley Horn and Billie Holiday. That same energy carried me through college at SUNY New Paltz, experiencing music independently — on my own little jazz journey.

“As I was transitioning out of jazz, a huge bridge for me was and is Joni Mitchell. I can sing every single part of every single record of hers. It’s that kind of coagulation, mixing songwriter and jazz, which has inspired me. My song ‘Frankie’ comes from getting that repertoire under my belt, then being bitten by a Joni bug.”

During her last year of college, in 2019, she picked up a guitar with purpose. “I had only used it for photo shoots,” she says, with chagrin. “I didn’t have a relationship with the instrument. I knew I had to learn how to play if I was to give songwriting a shot.

“This EP is the result of that first exploration. I’m self-taught and have approached songwriting experimentally. This is my first little phase of it. It is something I was thinking about and feeling from an early age. Songwriters were my people. I just was discouraged when I didn’t write something beautiful. I didn’t want to mess up, so I kept the guitar on the wall.

“With ‘Frankie,’ the second full song I wrote, it came so fast. It was you sit down, you have the instrument in your hand and you write the song. That was a beautiful feeling: to be a vessel, the story coming through me. It was amazing to create something and not be banging your head over it. That gave me some faith that maybe this is a muscle I can sit with and keep growing.”

Stoller often opens for friends and contemporaries at venues such as The Sultan Room and The Owl in Brooklyn, the Graveside Variety Art Space in Woodstock and the Avalon Lounge in Catskill. Next up is a Dec. 25 performance at City Winery Hudson Valley in Montgomery for a Songwriters Round with Annalyse & Ryan and Lauren Magarelli, and Feb. 15 at the Root Cellar at Bard College with Glenn Echo and Dirty Bird.

Rose Stoller: Live at Guava is available through Spotify and Apple Music.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rooney has been writing for The Current since its founding in 2010. A playwright, she has lived in Cold Spring since 1999. She is a graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in history. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: Arts

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