Exclusive: Rosalie Cunningham Interview

Former Purson frontwoman Rosalie Cunningham is back with her solo debut and a hotly anticipated run of UK shows. Rushonrock Editor Simon Rushworth found out more.

Rushonrock: Did you have a vision for how you wanted the new album to come across and do you feel you achieved that vision?

Rosalie Cunningham: I had a clear vision about what I wanted to record but at the point that I was writing the new songs I wasn’t sure whether the album would be released under my name or under a band’s name. I’d been writing songs for myself – just for pleasure. There wasn’t any long-term plan. In the end the songs were recorded all in one go but the writing was spread over a quite a long period of time. At that stage there was no pressure to do anything other than write music for my own enjoyment. A song like Nobody Hears was written while I still in Purson and the others came together slowly but surely. 

ROR: How did you approach the recording process?

RC: Well I’d never played the songs with a band before we went into the studio. Even Purson was essentially a solo project with a backing band. Different musicians would come and go and add bits and bobs if that’s what I needed. But with Purson I’d get Raphael [Mura] to lay down the drum tracks and I’d put everything else on top. Although the new album is released under my name it was actually more of a collaborative thing this time – we recorded as a live band which I didn’t do before. It helped because I hadn’t played the songs live and it gave me an idea of what worked and what didn’t. The guys were fantastic musicians and they gave me the confidence to press on. It’s a bit daunting to jump straight back into making music when you’ve been away for a while. I think it’s fair to say I’d lost my confidence after leaving behind Purson and it was nice to get together with a group of guys who helped me regain that confidence.

ROR: Did you feel any added pressure recording a solo album?

RC: At first I didn’t. If I’m creating something – writing or recording it – then I’m just incredibly self-absorbed and focused on the task in hand. But once the music was done I suddenly felt this enormous weight on my shoulders. I didn’t know what people would think as it’s been a couple of years since I released any new music. I was really terrified of what people might say about the new songs and it’s fair to say I’d lost a bit of perspective. 2017 was a really bad year for me for various reasons and I came out of it lacking confidence.

Cunning Plan

ROR: What drove you to record the album in the first place?

RC: There would have come a time when I had to record new music but the whole process was fast forwarded as a result of meeting my current partner Ross. I had some high quality demos but I hadn’t shown them to anyone because I was quite insecure at the time. Ross heard them and his response was instant. He said he was going to give up what he was doing there and then in order to help me realise my vision. 

ROR: Why is music such an important part of your life?

RC: It always has been for as long as I can remember. I’ve never said I wanted to be anything other than a musician. Growing up I imagined be an all-singing, all-dancing Spice Girl. But as I became older and I became exposed to more music I realised I wanted to be a rock musician and a songwriter. I’m not really sure why it’s still so important to me but I feel as if it always will be – I have a natural inclination towards making and performing music. And it’s such a positive thing. You can be going through a whole load of shit and then you pick up a guitar and it’s like all your troubles just disappear. My guitar is like an old friend who I turn to every now and again.

ROR: What do you find most challenging about being a musician in 2019?

RC: It’s a strange career choice and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone! It can be incredibly frustrating and can be very depressing. It’s a job that a lot of people don’t really understand and it’s difficult to go into a job centre and for people to laugh in your face when you explain you’re a musician. There’s a stigma attached to the profession – unless you’re operating at a high level then most people don’t see it as a proper job. And in many ways they’re right. Most of us who are part of the ‘music business’ are only really operating at the lowest level. A lot of the time we’re not making any money and it can be hard to keep your head above water. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve always just about managed to get by without getting another job but I have various jobs within music. It’s the only way that you can survive. But it can be a very depressing situation and I can fully understand how it affects people’s mental health.

Same Purson, different band

ROR: What was the story behind Purson’s split?

RC: The story is that I just let it fizzle out. I didn’t want to make any grand statement because there wasn’t really the need for a grand statement. I knew it was going to happen at some point in the future. It felt inevitable to me. But from the outside I guess it didn’t look like the right time to call it a day. Purson appeared to be on an upward curve just as we called it a day. There weren’t really any personal problems at the heart of the split. We were just in a bad management deal and we felt that the only way that we could get out of it was to disband Purson. There was no other way to move forward from a business perspective. The fact that I knew it was going to end tipped the balance. I didn’t feel as if there was any reason to prolong the situation.

ROR: How excited are you to get back on the road this summer?

RC: I’ve done a couple of low key shows as I’ve been away for so long. It’s important that I get it right as it’s the first time I’ll be taking my music on the road under my name. But I’m very, very excited. The band is sounding brilliant right now – the guys are the most fantastic group of musicians and we’ve worked so hard. And I still have Raphael on drums. I must have tried around 10 different drummers before I realised that I didn’t get on with any of them in the same way as I get on with Raphael. We sound so good. I haven’t played a run of live shows for so long so I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a tour.

Tour Dates:
23.07 Railway Hotel, Southend
24.07 Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes
25.07 The Musician, Leicester
26.07 The Fulford Arms, York
27.07 Night People, Manchester
30.07 Eleven, Stoke-On-Trent
01.08 The Fleece, Bristol
02.08 The Railway Inn, Winchester
03.08 The Lexington, London

Rosalie Cunningham’s self-titled debut is released on Friday via Cherry Red Records