Interview with James Roseman
- by Kristina Tortoriello
"Words & Tricks" is the debut release from young Boston-area songwriter James Roseman. The album signifies a more than good start. Largely an acoustic pop sound, Roseman demonstrates allegiance to his role models (e.g. his Postal Service cover) and an ear for catchy melody, but his musical versatility is clear. "Words & Tricks" is an endearing, homey project with Roseman playing multiple instruments, each track delivered in an exploratory and sometimes rough-cut style. Still, as he'll be the first to tell you, it's all about the process. I'd like to think this means we'll be hearing more from him in the future.
First of all, congratulations on your album "Words & Tricks!" It's a pretty cohesive project for a one-man debut. Had you been stockpiling songs for a while? Or was this a "burst of inspiration" endeavor?
Thank you very much for the congratulations, Kristina!
I had hit a slump of writing for a while and one day I sat down at my computer, set up the microphones and all equipment so that it was easily accessible (saxophones, MIDI keyboards, etc.) and told myself I couldn't get up until I had a song recorded. I started with an idea and a few hours later I'd be lost in what I was making. I started into a routine where I'd do it every day. Not every song idea was great, and some days I'd word for hours with nothing to show for it. But for me, that wasn't the point. The purpose was the process, and the musical process to me then was and always has been about a certain type of release from stress.
As and individual performer (assuming you're performing under your given name), the recording of music can become intensely personal and reflective of self - perhaps more so than with a band. Any particular anxieties/hopes approaching the album? Do you believe being young necessarily makes you more vulnerable?
Writing for a solo project is definitely a more personal experience than working on an album with a band. I've been part of a group throughout and after high school called Sababa and the types of song ideas I'd present to the group would never have been as personal or blunt as most of the tracks on the album. At the time of writing most of these songs I was going through the obligatory teenage break-up and I was angry. With nobody but myself to bounce these song ideas off of, I ended up with a much more honest type of songwriting than I had previously experienced. It's not to say the songs ended up better than with a group, but some songs definitely benefited from the personal perspective. "Things To Understand," to me, is a good example from the album of where this personal perspective goes right and strikes a nice balance, where as a track like "What Are You Waiting For" was more of something I needed to write rather than wanted to hear, if that makes sense.
You are quite the multi-instrumentalist, according to Bandcamp. So which instrument was the first love?
First instrument was cello, followed by bass and swiftly afterwards by true musical love: guitar. Along the way I've learned a few instruments like alto and baritone saxophone, which I learned in high school bands.
Having won Artist of the Month, no doubt your fan base is behind you on this. Generally, who have played the biggest supporting roles in you music career thus far?
My hometown of Swampscott is a small one, yet one of large artistic promise. It seems like most, if not all, of my friends in town are involved in music in some way or another. To break out of the Swampscott mold and do something recognized by something beyond just that small circle feels amazing, and undoubtedly I wouldn't have been able to do it without the help of all my friends and family, especially my mother who, at times, seemed to be more obsessed with the constantly shifting votes than I was!
Name one thing you look forward to doing with your summer now that this album is out, and people consider you awesome.
This summer has been filled up with the 5-Week Performing Artist program at Berklee. I'm going through the Jazz Guitar track and getting my first introduction to some difficult (for me) theory to wrap my head around. It's been heavily influencing the type of music I make and certainly making me think about where my artistic future may lie. To be honest, it makes me want to go out and play shows and write and record more! Speaking of which, I'll be playing in and around Boston this coming school year with a friend of mine I met at the 5-Week program, so (to those reading) check us out some time!