Eileen Rose recently released her second solo album, the rich tapestry that is Long Shot Novena. The Italian-American singer-songwriter has collaborated with members of Alabama 3 and The Sex Pistols‘ bassist Glen Matlock.
musicOMH caught up with her during her album-supporting tour to indulge in a wide-ranging Q&A sesh taking in ducks, Essex, band retainers and her German appreciation society…
musicOMH: When did you write your first song, what was it and what made you write it?
Eileen: I think I wrote my first song when I was about 14 and, predictably, it was about a boy I was missing. It was very melodramatic and I think it had something to do with ducks. I’ve gotten a bit more sophisticated since then – I think.
musicOMH: How did you get signed?
Eileen: I split up my long term band, went off to a cottage in the middle of Essex and wrote for about a year. Then I started playing solo gigs – anywhere, everywhere they’d have me. I opened up for The Larry Love Show Band at a place (gone now, sadly) called the Weaver’s Arms. Larry really liked my set. I gave him a tape, he called me from Italy and said he loved it. Some of the guys in his band offered to play a few gigs with me, and at our second gig, at the Monarch in Camden, Geoff Travis (from Rough Trade) showed up, liked it and said “let’s make a record”. I said “okay”.
musicOMH: How much of the material on Shine Like It Does and Long Shot Novena is biographical?
Eileen: All of it – I don’t know how to write any other way.
musicOMH: Why did you chop off your surname, Giadone, from your recording artist title?
Eileen: Well, I guess because Rose is easier to spell (and pronounce), and it saves the worry of bringing shame to my family.
musicOMH: The musicians have changed on the new album – Kris and Iain from Del Amitri, for instance, taking over from Alabama 3 members. Do you have a permanent band or people you work with once and then move on from?
Eileen: Some of the folks from Alabama 3 are on this record – Orlando Harrison, Seggs. Usually the musicians I work with are in other bands. Alabama 3 were recording and releasing their album around the same time that I was so we couldn’t get it together. I loved working with Iain and Kris though – nothing was planned, we just sort of fell into it. I haven’t really sold enough records to have my own permanent band though I would love to. When you keep a permanent group of musicians, you have to put them on a monthly retainer and it’s very expensive.
musicOMH: How did you get Glen Matlock on board and are you a fan of The Sex Pistols?
Eileen: I seem to draw out all the old punks – don’t ask me why. Seggs was in The Ruts, Kris was in The Godfathers, Barry Payne (bass) was in Wreckless Eric. They all know each other, so they asked Glen to play on the record, he really liked the song so agreed to do it. How can you not be a fan of The Sex Pistols? (Particularly a fan of Glen as he wrote all the best songs.)
musicOMH: What made you move from Boston to London and what will take you back (Re: “I was sure enough to come. I was dumb enough to stay.” and “Don’t get me wrong, you folks are alright / And it’s been international / but I’m going home.”)?
Eileen: I was chasing Kate Bush and I still haven’t caught her. I found a lotEnglish music particularly innovative and strange (The Cocteau Twins, The Smiths) as well as inspiring. I loved The Godfathers and The Kinks. But I guess I had a taste for adventure and the idea of living in England (everything was sold!) was romantic and exciting to me. I never meant to stay so long – as usual there was no plan, it just happened. Missing my family could take me back as well as abject poverty. And possibly a call from Tom Waits.
musicOMH: Just *WHAT* is that instrument that sounds like a didgeridoo on Big Dog?
Eileen: That’s a Jew’s Harp and it’s played by Dom. You should have been there watching him record – funny as a bastard.
musicOMH: What is a “novena” in the context of Long Shot Novena?
Eileen: A novena is a nine day prayer for help in a situation where the outcome looks shaky. It’s a Catholic thing. I’m lucky enough to have people in my life saying them for me – a pure act of love.
musicOMH: You’re on the label that launched The Smiths and is enjoying a resurgence with The Strokes. Have you noticed any change to Rough Trade since you signed to them?
Eileen: Rough Trade, since I signed, have done a distribution deal with Sanctuary Records. This means that their records get released all over the world in a coordinated way. So that’s been great and so far I really like all the Sanctuary people I’ve met. But Geoff Travis is a rare guy – music fan first and foremost, and seems the same to me no matter what’s going on or who’s in the room. It’s his label – he works with what moves him and hopes for the best. So no change there, as far as I can see.
musicOMH: Namecheck: who would you name as your major musical influences and why?
Eileen: I’m sure you know I bang on about Tom Waits and Kate Bush – but my musical taste runs from The Band, Creedence and Chet Baker to The B52’s, Aerosmith and Neil Diamond. I’m really inspired by the way Tom Waits and Kate Bush run their lives and careers, though. They do what they like creatively, make a decent living yet manage to maintain their “real” lives – family, homes, pets- with dignity. I don’t know them personally, but I just don’t get the sense of fame-seeking neediness from them that I do from others. Above anything else, they mean it.
musicOMH: Who are you listening to these days and who do you tip for success in2002?
Eileen: I’m on the road now, so don’t get much time to listen to anything but the band I’m opening for (currently Tanya Donelly, then Frank Black). But here’s a few newish things I’ve played a lot recently: Nick Cave (No More Shall We Part), Gillian Welch (Revelator), The Strokes (yes I know you might think this is a political mention, but I genuinely like them) – and loads of Bob Dylan.
musicOMH: Are there any songs to which you can’t listen without crying?
Eileen: Gonna Take it With Me When I Go from Mule Variations absolutely breaks my heart. As does Under the Ivy by Kate Bush because I sang it once for my friend, Sue, before she died.
musicOMH: Which country appreciates your music most thus far?
Eileen: It’s got to be England because I just wouldn’t leave you alone until you admitted that you liked me. But Germany seems to be about to overtake you.You’re not going to let that happen, are you?
musicOMH: When and how did you decide to be a musician for a living?
Eileen: Probably at that first song when I was 14 (you know, the duck thing -what was I thinking?). Took me another six years to have the courage to tell my folks, though. They thought I was going to be a lawyer. Well, I led them to believe I was going to be a lawyer. I still get the “you wasted your education” speech every Christmas.
musicOMH: Which music websites do you regularly look at?
Eileen: I just check my own to make sure I’m not looking too stupid.
musicOMH: What do you think of Pop Idol?
Eileen: Do you really need to ask?
musicOMH: Have you met any of your musical heroes or heroines? If not, what would you say to them if you did / if so, what did you say when you met them?
Eileen: I met Paul Simon once. He asked me what I thought of his record and before I thought about what I was doing, I started complaining about the mix. (I was young and fairly impolitic – I’m sure he didn’t really want to know what I really thought). Anyway, he was unimpressed and I still cringe at the memory. I met Steve Tyler and he said he would like to “have me as a sandwich” – that was different. Still haven’t met the ones that would actually make me nervous, though.
musicOMH: How many languages do you speak and what are they?
Eileen: I studied Italian and Spanish each for nine years. Haven’t used either in 10so I’m sure I sound like Latka from Taxi now. The Italian seemed to comeback a bit when I was there but you gotta use it or lose it, as they say.
musicOMH: What’s your favourite food and drink?
Eileen: I love my own cooking – call me vain but there it is. I eat broccoli every single day – is that obsessive? And call me Kate Moss, but my favourite drink is champagne, dahling.
musicOMH: Where do you like to a) eat out b) go on holiday c) relax in London d)play live?
Eileen: If I’m eating out, my favourite is Japanese (Jenkichi in Hampstead though it’s crazy money). Apart from spending a week in Maine with my family every year since I can ‘effin remember (and I flat out refuse to do it this year), I’ve never really booked a holiday. My family has come over and we’ve gone on spontaneous road trips to Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. Always a laugh. I don’t think it is possible to relax in London, but you can get real drunk very easily. And by far and away my favourite gig to play in London is The Borderline. I love the venue and I love Barry who runs it – in fact I’m there on May 13th if you’re around.