Betty Roze: Knowing When To Take Front Stage
Singers and songwriters start out composing songs that communicate their thoughts, emotions, observations, and circumstances to the public, but how do they know when they want to be a lead singer or simply an acclaimed songwriter for other recording artists? Mobile, Alabama’s, songbird Betty Roze spent years wondering which one she wanted, until she started believing that no other singer in the world could give her songs the justice they deserve like she was capable of doing.
Now, Betty Roze, who calls Los Angeles, California, home, is proudly releasing her debut effort, Betty Roze, There She Goes, a collection of songs milled from elements of soul, R&B, and pop/rock amalgams that bring out a feminine richness in the sensual way her vocals move and the way her singing kicks with gusto. The heat in her vocals measure in warmth and curvature to the ladies of En Vogue, Tina Turner, Amel Larrieux, and the late Aaliyah.
Betty Roze professes, “Believe it or not, Amel’s voice and mine are very similar in tone. I think the mellowness of her music gives the listener a sense that her voice is very soft. However, it’s quite powerful and bold. My production is more edgy and full and it gives the listener that feel. But for the most part, my vocal tone is very soft and I have to work for that ‘edge.’ I wish that I had Amel’s jazz riffs,” Betty discerns, “She’s got quite an ear.”
Betty Roze’s musical influences are vast as she points out, “I myself am a fan of legends like James Brown, Billie Holiday, Tina Turner, The Beatles, and also modern day greats like Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, and John Mayer. I like a lot of artists. I love all down South music. I’m a fan of Chris Brown. I mean, it’s kinda hard for me to narrow it down. I can appreciate every texture of music for its different feel. We need it all.”
Betty Roze discovered her need for all kinds of music while growing up in the South. She tells, “I grew up in Mobile, Alabama, in a traditional Southern Christian home where my father was a minister. Growing up in the church, singing in the choir and playing the piano in the children’s choir really was the catalyst that sparked my interest in music.”
She shares, “Also, my mother and her entire family are all singers and are still breeding singers and musicians ‘til this day. I often participated in pageants where singing was always my winning talent. As I made my way through middle and high school I often tried to create pop groups made of my close friends who could sing or dance or was just cool. That’s when I discovered I was a songwriter. I wrote all the songs for our group who only performed for our families and friends. Boy, I wish I had a Matthew Knowles (Beyonce’s father) behind me back then.”
Looking back, she remembers, “I started playing and singing as early as seven. I was first introduced to the study of music with piano lessons. I dreamed to be on ‘Star Search’ as I watched every Sunday at 4 p.m., though it was just that, a dream to my family. It was cute, according to my family. Something I was natural at, but that I would never take seriously. I was encouraged to sing because it allowed me to be a leader, be creative and intelligent, but never a star.”
“When I was in high school, I joined an award-winning choir and made the choice to quit what I thought was my first love – cheerleading,” she recounts. “My voice teacher told me that if I wanted to maintain my voice I had to make a choice. I chose to sing. I went on to writing my graduating class song and going on to college to study music.”
Betty’s vision was “to go to college and pursue the American Dream.” The dream was to pursue a practical profession like law, medicine or education. “I’m sure now my parents wish that I had taken it more seriously,” she muses, “but ironically, I wouldn’t be as versed as a musician if it were not for them allowing me to at least participate in musical activities.”
Music is a calling that wouldn’t leave Betty Roze alone. She taught herself to play the guitar as the music in her community shaped her style of singing and songwriting. “My early musical influences were people that I knew personally - my mother, my aunt, and my choir teacher. I wasn’t really allowed to listen to much secular music so my influences were Helen Bailor, Bebe and Cece Winans, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston. The first song that I ever wrote was a pop song called ‘Something About Your Love Boy.’ It was influenced by the music of the time - New Edition, ABC, and Tracy Spencer. I was in my teens and I am sure I wrote it about some heartthrob at school. It was sooooooo cute and it was a damn well written song.”
Betty Roze’s family allowed her to enter competitions, which gave her the opportunity to fine tune her singing and interact with audiences. She notes, “I was always involved in musical competitions such as piano recitals, musicals, talent shows, and beauty pageants. I have won many competitions with my voice. Being on stage was always natural and freeing for me. Funny thing is that I am always forgetful of lyrics on stage, but I am always so caught up that no one ever knows.”
Singing live manifested into writing a litany of original songs for Betty Roze. It was a way for her to translate what she was experiencing to others. “My songwriting method normally comes during times of change for me, like the sadder side of the fence these days,“ she conveys. “They are mostly inspired by men that I deal with. Though 90 percent are about one certain man that I know I truly love,” she corrects, “loved. I come up with the best songs and concepts while on quiet drives. It’s been that way for years. Sometimes other songs, melodies, rhythms and themes in other songs inspire me to write. I just pick up the guitar when I have a solid melody, and throw it on a voice recorder ‘til it’s time to mold it.”
Her entry into the music business was writing songs for recording artists who were signed to labels. “I made the decision in 2001 to be a career songwriter,” she said, “when I began to effortlessly write songs that artists wanted to sing and labels actually wanted to cut me nice checks for. However, all the while I was struggling with denying myself as an artist. It was very frustrating writing songs for people and their albums and letting my dream slip away.
“In 2003, I walked away from my career as a songwriter and picked up the guitar and wrote my own songs. When I first had the chance to perform my music on stage, I made the decision to walk the walk of a professional singer, songwriter, and artist.”
Betty brought up the fact that, “I was signed to a company called Oblivian Entertainment, [which] has since went under. Moreover, it was also the company that my attorney warned me not to sign with as opposed to the bidding company.”
Because Oblivian offered me $30,000 more, I went chasing. I chose $30,000 over being taken under the wings of a powerful and respected woman and publisher who saw my talent and wanted to teach me the business. That’s what she told me. I won’t mention her name or company, though, but that mistake taught me to value quality over quantity,” she warrants.
“Hey, I ended up serving this woman drinks by the pool side three years later at a spa that she visited and I had the pleasure to happen to work at. Life!” Betty laughs.
Betty acknowledges how she needed this experience to guide her judgment better for the future. “Sometimes I think my career could be light years from where it is now, but then I think the lesson that I learned was far more valuable than choosing the wrong deal. Hence, the balance,” she reasons. “I get real emotional when I think about that situation, but it also makes me feel really good knowing that big companies took an interest in me.”
She explains, “I made the transition from songwriting for other artists, financially, when my company folded. I made the mental decision when I had the courage to admit that I was sick of writing for people who loosely used the term ‘artist’ for their title, yet couldn’t create anything like songs. So I grabbed the guitar and did what was in my heart - wrote. Then the true artist in me was confirmed.”
Betty Roze networked with musicians and found the right mix for herself in the studio and on stage. “My normal band consists of Cori Jacobs (keyboards), Dave Noble (guitar), and three consistent background vocalists - Bridal Sarai, Chanell Jones, and Kristy McClave. The bass and drummer tend to change. Cori pulled the musicians together and I auditioned the gals.”
For her debut album, she and her keyboardist Cori Jacobs produced the tracks and used some basic tools to create very polished tunes that ignite with rock, soul, and R&B. “We recorded the album in Cori Jacobs home studio,” Betty noted, “It doesn’t take a lot of stuff these days to make a hit record and get a great sound. Cori and I produced this record together and he brought a great energy to the project. He’s a very musical guy. My songs went from sounding folk, which I kinda miss, to a more pop/rock sound.
“Unfortunately, yet fortunately, I am the only person making the decisions about everything and anything that’s going on with me - my image, music, and business, so I fight the battle within myself daily about whether I’m making the right decisions,” she comments. “I’m prayin’ for someone’s assistance. I meditate and affirm and value my family to keep myself centered and I try my best not to be hard on myself. I’m a Gemini.” which she describes makes her, “a seeker (so) nothing ever seems right.”
She added, “My mother is definitely mostly responsible for my well being in my life. Real simple, she’s my number one fan. She supports everything I do. She won’t let me give up or give in, to the point where sometimes it’s cheesy. I love her dearly,” she affirms. “My father respects me and that’s important to my success and my brother is anxious for me to win. Then there are my two girlfriends - Tiffany and Gabriella - who have been upping me big since day one.”
Betty’s foundation in herself and her talent is firm, which has given her even greater belief in her debut album. She observes, “So far I haven’t found it difficult being a black female singer trying to break through with this album. I mean, the core of it is soul and it’s been done in a big way. Tina Turner ring a bell?”
Mizz Turner does, and it’s refreshing that Betty Roze fancies herself as a protégé of Tina Turner. Her vocal motions not only measure up to the female soul songstress, but Betty Roze is also a radiant maven on stage where she enjoys being most.
She affirms, “A live show as opposed to the studio is like heaven and hell. On stage is better than sex, period!! I could die on stage. My feet could be planted there and all I would need is a toilet and food. HA!! I hate the damn studio. It’s like work. I’m in and out. I try to sing my song down in about three takes, throw in some backgrounds and a lead and I’m out. If it’s written and arranged well with soul and spirit behind it, then it’s a winner. I love cool imperfections,” she admits. “It keeps it real and alive so I don’t like to fix a lot of things unless I burp or something.
“Of course, warming up and vocalizing is essential before singing live or in the studio,” she declares. “It’s a muscle and it gets weak. I haven’t been that great at vocalizing lately, but I am actually about to make it a habit again. I’ve been in a business mode for a while and my voice is suffering.”
Betty also witnesses that her fans feel neglected having to wait so long for her debut album to be released. “My fans are good, very supportive. I feel like they enjoy the music. They show up and party, dance, sing, laugh, and cry. I am just taking a long time to release something and I’m sure that’s frustrating.”
In the interim she has a music video for them. She reveals, “I just filmed a video with no budget, written on the spot in one night to ‘Stupid Girl’ and I’m very proud of it. Lots of creative effort in dyer circumstances. You can check out my video at www.myspace.com/bettyroze Her videos and music are also available at http://jacindahainesakabettyroze.musicnation.com
Though the long wait for Betty Roze’s debut album has ended, in many ways her journey is just beginning. For those aspiring to be singers and songwriters, she suggests, “First fully accept yourself as an artist, keep your bills low and esteem high, and do as much work for yourself as possible, yet stay creative and when someone tells you no, remember that most companies told The Beatles no, and have since re-evaluated their decision to do so. Yeah! Capitol Records,” she cheers.
Which ever label signs Betty Roze to a record deal is still hidden in the stars, but for sure she knows that she is meant to take front stage.
For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.