Black Rose Maze
You know those delightful moments when a record comes out of nowhere and hijacks your ears? That's what happened to me recently with the debut record from Black Rose Maze. Fronted by Montreal-based powerhouse vocalist Rosa Laricchiuta and made up by a crackerjack band, the record contains 11 songs that will have your pulse racing in short order.
From the moment I heard the first single, "In the Dark", I was hooked. Laricchiuta has a voice that demands you listen to each syllable, knocking over each note like a bowling bowl. The songs are all of the hard rock variety with enough melody to make each one stand out and enough horse-power to ensure you get a speeding ticket if you're silly enough to play this while driving.
Laricchiuta was introduced to the public a few years ago as a result of coming close to winning La Voix, Quebec's version of The Voice. From there, it was a whirlwind of opportunities like sharing a stage with Melissa Etheridge, national tours with French music star Eric Lapointe (her coach on La Voix) and also joining Trans Siberian Orchestra for their annual performances. This background was solid enough to bring the avid hockey player to the attention of Frontiers Records and have her signed to a record deal.
Considering this is the Only record I want to play right now, I had to speak with Rosa to find out more it and her. Here's our chat:
antiMusic: The one negative about having a project through a label like Frontiers is that sometimes it's a result of throwing a bunch of un-tested elements together and hoping for a positive result. While I don't know you, despite bringing together some outside help --- Alessandro del Vecchio, Jeff Scott Soto, etc --- the resulting record really seems like it carries your essence front and center. How much of this is your vision?
Rosa: Oh, good question. Yeah so with this record, my intention was to collaborate with as many musicians and writers and singers as possible. But at the same time, the way the album fell together was...I don't want to say by chance....but I think it was meant to be. At least 50% of the songs that I wrote in there really speak about the experiences in my life and that I went through. And the other 50% sort of have the same message so I feel very lucky to have all these people on the same page as me. It all turned out great in the end. I had no I idea what I was going into at least half of the time (laughs). And then it ended up being exactly what I had envisioned.
antiMusic: Tell us how Black Rose Maze came together.
Rosa: I always wanted to be in an all-girls band since I was a kid. I thought it was just so cool to be able to sing with chicks who were musicians. So I just really left it up to my producer. I put a lot of faith and trust in Alessandro. He's an amazing human being --- very talented. I felt that he knew the direction that we could go with this album. I trusted him with my songs and my vision and how I wanted things to go. So I left it with him to pick some musicians to make up the band. And he did a pretty good job because they are exceptional musicians...unbelievably talented.
antiMusic: The band's debut record sounds really tight. What are some of the best memories about recording it that you'll carry forward?
Rosa: Well, when I was recording the album, I was sick. I had a little bit of a cold. I don't know why because I'm the person that never gets sick. It must have been the traveling and I had not been to Italy for so long, My mind was all there, it was just the vocal chords that may have been a bit tough. But we managed. There was a lot of excitement. I was always ready for changes here and there. It really was an open door.
I worked with Alessandro and we were on the same page. He is very patient and that for me, is an amazing quality to have. Especially since when you're recording an album, ideas are going to change a lot. I want to sing something one way. And then maybe try another way. So he was really patient with that. And he supported every decision I made and we made a lot of decisions together. I liked that because I didn't want to do everything myself. I wanted my producer to help me and it really came out well.
antiMusic: "In the Dark": is the first single and it's a real corker. Your voice totally dominates the song. What can you tell us about it, either what prompted the lyrics or how it came together?
Rosa: Yeah. Thank you for that. It's my favourite song. It was the first song that we had done before the pre-production and it was the first song we finished. I wrote that one with my mom. I asked her to give me some phrases about her experiences because she is separated from my father and I kind of went through the same dilemmas back in the day when I was dating and it just wasn't the right person. So I just wanted her to describe her marriage and we started from there.
So I kind of put my life and my mom's life together and what I went through back then and what she went through at the moment. So the song was about being in the dark and it's not a good place to be. I was really just speaking from the dark and just talking to you about it now, I have goose bumps. So I built it from that and it just really hit home, It's really about breaking free from emotional abuse basically.
antiMusic: "Laws of Attraction" features your friend Jeff Scott Soto. Your voice blends so terrifically with his. Tell us how this duet came about?
Rosa: Aw, that's pretty cool. I've always been a fan of Jeff Scott Soto. My first metal concert was Sons of Apollo. He invited me when they came to Montreal so I said absolutely. I'm not a big metal fan. Rock yes, but I had never been to a metal concert. But I really fell in love with Jeff's performance, his voice, the way he engages with his public. I was really impressed. I also sing with him in Trans-Siberian Orchestra and his voice is just Boss. It's so big and there's so much depth to it. Every time I listen to him, it just grabs my whole insides.
So when I got the OK and signed with Frontiers, the first thing I said to Alessandro was "I want to do a duet with Jeff Scott Soto. That's my only request. I really want that." And he said, absolutely. And Jeff accepted so graciously and here we are. We're getting a lot of great comments about how well our voices blend together so hopefully in the future, there will be some more songs.
antiMusic: "Let Me Be Me" is real slinky and has lots of personality. Tell us about this one.
Rosa: Another one that I wrote. Wow, I love it! (laughs) So I wrote "Let Me Be Me" at my kitchen table. I was envisioning when I was a teenager, I would just pick up and go to the clubs. I thought well, let's go back there and play with that a little bit. I kind of embellished the lyrics a little bit (laughs) but it was just so fun. And you know what else, I actually hired a professional dancer to give me some choreography for this particular song. I was hoping that we could choose this song for a video later on. It didn't work out that way but I still want to do this.
This is my goal. I want to use my whole choreography throughout the whole video. It really plays a special part in me, this song. I really enjoyed the process of writing it. Even the dance teacher said me, "You know this song is really catchy and I'm always listening to it now." So I think there's going to be a video of it coming out soon.
antiMusic: "Free" is from your first record. The lyrics sound like they really represent your vision moving ahead and not just as a supporting member of things like TSO. Tell us about writing this song.
Rosa: "Free" is a song that was part of my first English EP. Again, that song is about breaking free of emotional abuse. I really enjoyed writing this because I could envision my driving away or just being outdoors in the open, wanting to be free. It really helped me emotionally. I performed that song a lot. I also have a French version that plays a lot here in Quebec. I find it poppy in a few parts so it's fun to sing. It's another video that will be coming out in the near future.
antiMusic: "Maze" is excellent, not only because of the song, but because of your amazing breath control. You're not just singing on the chorus, you're really projecting. Have you had to work on the part of singing or are just naturally blessed with that ability?
Rosa: That's a very big compliment. Thank you very much for that. I don't know if it's because I have a lot of Italian blood in me (laughs). I do sing technically...of course I have to know the technical parts of singing but I've always been a belter and an emotional singer. Like everything is just OUT. And for me, live is where it happens. So if I'm giving a concert somewhere, putting on a show, that's where the magic happens. I need that energy from the people....that connection. The studio is good too but it's not as good, you know?
I do have this natural way of just belting out and I put all my emotion and everything out there on the table. I've always sung like that and that's my strong suit. That's what stands out in me as a singer, that ability to push, to make people feel. It's that raspy-ness I guess and the power...I even surprise myself sometimes. (laughs)
As far as the breath goes, that just comes with experience. I do a lot of cardio so that definitely helps. It's also being consistent with vocal warm-ups in the technical part and just knowing how to use your tools and techniques and proper timing, which have come in handy for the studio.
antiMusic: What can you tell us about "Maze" and also because it's included in the band name as well?
Rosa: I didn't write this, it was Luna Akire who is the Alessandro Del Vecchio's better half. He asked me about the song and I said I would listen to it and read her lyrics. Then I found that there was a connection between her and I. We're the same but different. So when I read the lyrics to "Maze" I said, "Whoah. This is amazing."
Then the fact that the band was already called Black Rose Maze, I was like, "Is this a coincidence or what?" I'm telling you that the way this album came together was just complete magic. Everything was meant to be, the way it all just happened. The outcome was just insane.
But yeah, Luna is just a great writer. She hits hard with melodies and emotion and I'm just floored to have her as part of this project.
antiMusic: "Look At Me Now" is in the same vein as "Maze" in terms of your amazing breathing ability. The verses require a lot of effort. Tell us about this one.
Rosa: Yeah, I have to be really careful when I'm singing "Look at Me Now" live because it does require a lot of breath and power. So I have to be really careful in terms of song selection and all that. But I wrote that song and it was on my first EP. That one and "Free" were taken from the EP and that's thanks to the owner of Frontiers Records, Serafino. He loved these songs and asked if I wanted to put them on the new record and I said, "Absolutely." So it was a very big compliment for him to choose the two songs that I wrote from my first record.
So "Look At Me Now" is another one about coming out of a bad situation with strength and look where I am today and I'm very proud of it. And that's why the lyrics are very intense. Live, it's a tough one to sing but every time I do, I just get deep into the lyrics and completely lose myself in it. Every time I envision this song, I keep imagining me breaking walls with a wrecking ball or something...chains and stuff. It's crazy (laughs).
antiMusic: Possibly my favorite song along with "In the Dark" is "Only You". The chorus is excellent! That ascending "Whoah" line is totally addictive. And when you repeat the "How could you" it makes you sound really indignant. It makes the line really come alive. What can you tell us about this song?
Rosa: (laughs) Thank you! Oh man, that was a tough one to sing because getting the breath is really hard. So that was a really challenging song for me to sing because it's out of my comfort zone, singing songs like that. But I chose the song because of that. I like to be uncomfortable sometimes and just challenge myself. That's what growing and evolving is all about, especially in this business.
This song was actually written for Avril Lavigne. Her writer wrote the song for her but he gave it to us, actually a few songs, and I selected this one. It really stood out to me. And it's just cool to know that it was kind of a Canadian thing.
And again, I really challenged myself with it and the fact that I was sick when we were recording the vocals, I had a to take a lot of breaks and drink a lot of water and honey.
antiMusic: "Earth Calling" stands out from the others in a good way with a serious message. Tell us what this one means to you.
Rosa: Yeah, "Earth Calling" is a great, amazing detailed song about Earth and Luna did a really good job with this. It's the deepest song, I've ever sung. It's a very inspirational song and I just felt like doing something different. It's definitely out of my comfort zone and I really like that one.
antiMusic: "Call Me Now" is truly epic and a real showcase for your voice. It really goes in some interesting directions. How much fun was it putting it together?
Rosa: Oh yeah. Listen there were so many songs that we had to sing in the studio and I kept saying, "I can't wait to get to "Call Me Now". But we had to wait because of the fact that I had a cold. So every day I was like "How do I feel today? Can I do it?" But I really enjoy that one. Like you said, every song is different, right? They're not all the same.
Luna did another great job on this one. It's just so funny how all the songs all came together to put out the message that I wanted to put out there.
antiMusic: You have an interesting background. You first came to national attention with La Voix. What were you doing after that?
Rosa: I was still singing and gigging. I was teaching. I give voice lessons. I was still writing songs and I was doing a lot of musicals as well. You've got to be very resilient in this business so I was open to a lot of interesting projects. I toured with my coach on La Voix, Eric Lapointe so I was pretty busy with his shows and my shows. I had a musical that I did for two years. I have my YouTube channel too and I do a lot of videos when I can. With the pandemic, I'm doing a lot of voice lessons online and I have a home studio so I get to work on music all the time.
antiMusic: TSO must have been a bit of a shock, going from karaoke bars to arenas. Did you enjoy getting to be part of a massive performance instead of having to carry the whole load at the front of the stage?
Rosa: You have NO idea how scary that was. (laughs) After La Voix, I shared a stage with Melissa Etheridge after she invited me but it was the kind of stage that I was used to. When I did the first shows with TSO....actually up to the end of the second year with them, it was still really awkward. The stage was so huge and I wondered how people would hear me. Am I supposed to sing through a microphone or am I supposed to sing with my body? I was exerting too much energy. I was singing more because I thought that they wouldn't hear me.
It was an adjustment. I'm OK with it now. But at the time, I was like, "Where do I stand? The middle? The complete left? The complete right?" I mean, I would go from one side of the stage to the other and I was out of breath because I had so much energy and that's how I portray myself on stage and I move around a lot. So it was a really big adjustment. It took me two tours to finally go, "OK, I know what I'm doing now. I'm grounded and I'm good." But it was one hell of a challenge.
antiMusic: If this COVID thing keeps up for awhile, what are your plans in the meantime?
Rosa: I'm OK with the COVID. Like everybody else, at the beginning, it was an adjustment. The uncertainty, I'm not going to lie, caused some anxiety but you have to accept and work with what you have in front of you. I'm generally a pretty positive person all the time and I'm not a very complicated person either. So I keep giving my vocal lessons and it's just as gratifying as singing on stage. I really enjoy that.
I also work in a music school, full-time. I'm a lessons coordinator and I recruit students and hire teachers so that keeps me busy. I'm also a hockey player and I had just had a game last night. We have a large dog at home and my husband and I keep ourselves busy. So we're just hoping for the best and taking it one day at a time.
Morley and antiMusic thank Rosa for taking the time to do this interview.