ROSIE THOMAS and Friends present A VERY ROSIE CHRISTMAS at the Pike Room

SATURDAY DECEMBER 6, 2008
doors at 8PM
tickets: $10 in advance (buy tickets)

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ROSIE THOMAS and Friends present: A Very Rosie Christmas. With special guest, the one and only SHEILA SAPUTO. Here's some info about Rosie:

One night in suburban Detroit, a twelve-year-old Rosie Thomas lay sleepless in her bed, obsessively dwelling on what she perceived to be her lack of life purpose. Then, well after 2 AM, it suddenly hit her. She sprung up and raced down the hall. “Daddy, Daddy, I know what my mission in life is,” Rosie exclaimed, poking her father. “I just want to entertain people.”

Fast forward one decade later, recently transplanted to Seattle and frustrated with her decision to attend theater school, Rosie sat one night voicing her disappointment to new friend, singer-songwriter Damien Jurado, when he promptly turned to her and said, “Rosie, what do you want to do with your life?” Rosie thought for a minute. “I just want to entertain people,” she finally said.

Rosie ended up lending vocals to a track on Jurado’s album, Ghost of David. The folks at Sub Pop Records liked what they heard and offered to sign her. Three albums and a few years later, Rosie had certainly become an entertainer.

But she was again dissatisfied. Not with her music, or even the business of music. Rosie’s three albums: 2003’s When We Were Small, 2003’s Only With Laughter Can You Win and 2005’s If Songs Could Be Held, were well received and earned her a national audience. But her real struggle was what to do with what she had received.

“I got so consumed with what I was supposed to be that there was a part of me that started doing it for the wrong reasons. While I was grateful for more opportunities, I wanted to affect more and more people, so much so that it overwhelmed me,” Rosie says. “I also learned very quickly that success on any level didn’t bring satisfaction like I thought it would.”

Hoping to get back to the loose, easygoing recording sessions of her first two records, Rosie knew she had to first participate in the long exercise of letting go.

“The past is still important because it allows us to be where we are presently. So, those three records were so important to get me to a place where I could begin again,” Rosie says.

For advice on how to do that, Rosie phoned recent tour mate and friend Sufjan Stevens, whose sudden popularity was giving his own career a new turn. He encouraged Rosie to come visit him in New York City where they could record with no expectations of albums or release dates, just simply as friends coming together to make music.

So, Rosie came to the city, trading the stiff route of producer-led studio recording from her previous album for the modest confines of a Brooklyn apartment with Sufjan and another songwriter friend, Denison Witmer. They set no deadlines or official recording schedule. The group of friends simply set up one or two microphones in a bedroom, living room, or kitchen and captured the songs as they happened.

“Whether you are a musician, painter, or whatever, there is a passion that sometimes gets lost because all of the sudden you have to clock-in or have deadlines. I sort of wanted to get back to that time when I played music for nothing,” Rosie says.

Most of the songs were recorded immediately after Rosie wrote them, with Denison and Sufjan scrambling to quickly write their own parts before Rosie herself forgot the songs. The laid-back gatherings, conducted off and on over two years, sparked a healthy creative process. By the end, Rosie realized that the recording had produced something completely unintended, an album.

Eventually, those songs, hastily recorded outside of a proper studio, became the aptly titled These Friends of Mine, her fourth release. The recording process was so liberating that Rosie’s even left the proper label practice behind, opting instead to release the album on her own imprint through Nettwerk Records.

Possessing a homespun familiarity, many of the songs on These Friends of Mine are characteristic of Rosie’s other work, with her fragile falsetto lilting over sparse piano arrangements, like on “Kite,” a hushed, near-lullaby that attempts to find the supernatural in simplicity.

Rosie’s music typically exists in the intangible realm of memory where childhood idylls meet adult expectations, and this album is largely no different. But These Friends of Mine finds Rosie more often channeling the concrete – the actual concrete, the streets and sidewalks of New York City.

“New York has always been this obsession of mine. So, that makes it all that much easier to write about. It’s just such a huge theme, especially when you are actually living there like I was when we were recording,” Rosie says.

Songs like “Much Farther To Go” and “New York City” reflect Rosie’s city-centric approach, where lightly strummed guitars meet whispered vocal harmonies imbued with a sense of plaintive longing.

But more than location, the songs and their origins emit friendship. Co-written with Sufjan, “Say Hello” came to life as the pair thumbed through a hymnal for inspiration while seeking to pen their own version of the many call and response standards.

Even the three cover songs on the record were chosen because of the kinship they embodied. While on tour with Rosie, Denison covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Songbird” and Sufjan performed a re-imagined rendition of R.E.M.’s “One I Love.” Rosie recorded her own versions of the songs to pay tribute to both of them, also including a cover of Denison’s own song, “Paper Doll.”

Well over a decade ago, a teenaged Rosie knew that being an entertainer was meaningless – even impossible – outside of a fostering community.

“When I woke my Dad up that night, even then I understood that you couldn’t be an entertainer unless you did it for the benefit of other people. That’s just a valuable lesson I have to keep reminding myself,” Rosie explains.

And for Rosie that reminder took a familiar incarnation, a gathering of friends, collaborative creation, and, in the end, a sincere celebration of music and people called These Friends of Mine.

 

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