BWW Interviews: Isabel Rose Talks New Album and Upcoming Concerts
Noted cabaret singer Isabel Rose is ready to begin the process of delivering her new album, TROUBLE IN PARADISE, to the world. The album features her take on classic songs such as "Got a Lot of Livin' To Do," "Trouble In Paradise," and "Love Will Keep Us Together." For the album she worked with acclaimed music producer Bob Rock, who is best known for producing such acts as Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Bryan Adams, and Michael Bublé. To promote the new album, Isabel Rose will be performing in Los Angeles at The Mint on September 26, 2013 and in New York City at The Cutting Room on October 16, 2013. Before she kicks off this venture, she took a few moments out of her busy schedule to chat with me about her career, the new album, and the upcoming concerts.
BWW: How did you get started performing?
Isabel Rose: I was one of those kids who really loved to sing and dance. I watched a lot of movies as a child. We watched one of those MGM style movie musicals every Friday night of my childhood. It was before DVDs and everything, and it was before even Betamax. My dad was a college professor, so we had a movie camera and a movie screen. Not a movie camera like we think of today, like an iPhone that records, but a projector. So, my father would come home on Fridays with these big canisters, and they would contain movies like That's Entertainment, Gigi, Singin' in the Rain, Guys and Dolls, or Can Can. You name it, I saw it. During the reel changes, I would then entertain our guests. We had guests every Friday, and I would reenact the musical numbers. That's how it all started for me.
BWW: Musically, who would you say was/is your biggest inspiration?
Isabel Rose: I mean have a handful of women who I adore, and many of them personality singers. (Pauses) Well, Ella Fitzgerald just has a glorious voice. She's untouchable. Then, Judy Garland was a very big influence for me. No, I'm not a gay man. (Laughs) Certainly watching her young had a big impact on me. Eartha Kitt introduced me to the idea of naughty subtext, and outrageous performers, like Charo, introduced me to fun. Kay Thompson - she wrote the book Eloise - was a big role in the movie Funny Face. She played a role that was fictionalized version of Diana Vreeland. She was very charismatic. It's not that her voice was so beautiful, but you couldn't stop watching her. I researched her, and she was the highest paid cabaret performer of the 60s. She was the first woman to earn a million dollars, and so I began to become really inspired by fun, personality-driven female performers. They're the people who continue to inspire me. (Pauses) You can cut that down to thirty seconds. You can just say Ella, Bette, Babs, Charo!
BWW: Earlier this year you performed at 54 BELOW, a cabaret venue typically used by Broadway stars and those hoping to make a break on Broadway. What was it like performing in that acclaimed venue?
Isabel Rose: It wasn't different from performing in many of the venues I perform in. I've played the Blue Note, Catalina's in LA, Joe's Pub, and a lot of different venues. I think it's exciting to perform at exciting venues. The people are thrilled to be in thrilling spaces, so, more than anything, it's how that audience feels being there. I'm doing my show. Even if I'm doing my show in a dungeon, I'm going to try to do the same thing that I would at 54 BELOW. (Laughs) My goal is the same no matter the venue, and that is to have a really fun time.
BWW: As 54 BELOW is so Broadway centric, can we expect to see you on Broadway in the future?
Isabel Rose: No. I mean, possibly. I never would say "no" to anything, and I would not be telling the truth if I said it didn't cross my mind. All of these women with these incredible Broadway voices perform there again and again, but I really do something, while related, that is slightly different.
I would love to go back to acting, and I would like to be on Broadway. But, to do what I'm doing at the level I'm aiming to do it, it is quite full time. So, until my new album is safely out into the world, I'm going to focus all my energy on this project because I really strive toward excellence. When you spread yourself to thin, you often fall short of your mark because your mark is too broad. My mark, right now, is to become a kind of modern day incarnation of Ann-Margaret. Ann-Margaret, who is a huge inspiration and I can't believe I didn't mention that, all of the songs she did were from theatre. What excites me is taking a theatre song and re-contextualizing it, so that you experience it differently. That's a lot of what I do.
BWW: Like Michael Bublé and others, you enjoy exploring the classic songbooks. What draws you to reinterpret or, as you said, re-contextualize, these standards?
Isabel Rose: You have to bring yourself and your own unique sensibility to these songs because they've all been sung 1,000 times. I don't know who said it, but I know it's been said, "There are no new stories. There are just new ways to tell them." This repertoire has been well covered, so it's really about a unique spin. That's what excites me.
Why do I want to sing a certain song? Whether it's the lyrics or a tempo in it, something has to speak to me and something then has to become very personal and send me in some, I don't know, (Laughs) flight of fancy. Three notes in a song may remind me of another song, and then off I am. It's creative. I'm becoming creative with something that was created by someone else. That's why I'm driven to reinterpret; it's exciting on a creative level. The audience always knows when you have made a song your own.
The whole point of performing is to impart something to your audience. That's the difference between club singing and, I think, when you go to a rock concert. Often, [at a rock concert] the lyrics are hard to hear, but you're there for a sort of journey and the music. What I do is much more closely related to pure cabaret because the actual words are crucial to me. The meaning of what I'm singing is very important.
BWW: Speaking of Michael Bublé, now that you've worked with Bob Rock on your upcoming album TROUBLE IN PARADISE, is there a possibility that you two will be collaborating in the studio together in the future?
Isabel Rose: Well, we can just put that out to the universe and pray. (Laughs) I'd love to work with Michael [Bublé]. I think that would be equivalent to winning an Oscar for me. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met, and it would be a blast to work with him. We'll see. I'm chipping away at it.
Isabel Rose: Drama. Sass. Some old school fun with some Bob Rock edge just to keep people on their toes.
BWW: What is your favorite aspect of performing concerts such as these?
Isabel Rose: That they break all cabaret molds. (Laughs)
BWW: What advice would you offer to others hoping to make a name for themselves as a performer?
Isabel Rose: I hate to resort to clichés, but it is for long distance runners and not for sprinters. There's such an emphasis in this culture on making it young, and I find that increasingly because of the way social media works that you can perform whenever. Whenever success arrives it arrives. You keep refining your art and you just keep going. You don't worry about the same part, you really, really focus on your unique vision and refining your skills. So, if you're a singer you take voice lessons. If you want to dance, you take dance classes, you hang out with other dancers, and you watch other dancers. You immerse yourself in it, and you become your expert.
Isabel Rose's TROUBLE IN PARADISE is due out in April. In the meantime, check out her first album SWINGIN' FROM THE HIP. It is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon. Additionally, Isabel Rose has a hearty and very active Facebook fan community, so be sure to check that site out by clicking here. Lastly, don't pass on opportunities to see her upcoming concerts. For tickets and more information about her September 26, 2013 performance at The Mint in Los Angeles, please visit http://themintla.com/show.cfm?id=107532&cart or call (323) 954-9400. For tickets and more information about her October 16, 2013 performance at The Cutting Room in New York City, please visit http://tickets.thecuttingroomnyc.com/event/343869-isabel-rose-new-york or call (212) 691-1900.
Photos courtesy of Isabel Rose.