an RR22 production by Emma King

photography by Andyland

modeling and words by Opal Rose

Emma King: Can you tell us your story?

Opal Rose: I was born in the Bronx and then my family moved down to Maryland. I knew that I would come back eventually because the vibe here was always my vibe, versus the suburbs of Maryland. I went to an all girls school and whenever anything is separate or segregated it's a very limited experience. I didn't get to fully experience the world until I went to college and started to explore the art scene there. I had done choir and band but I hadn’t done my own thing. I did a few open mikes and decided that was the direction I wanted to go in. I also did a musical and that show was taking over my life so much I almost failed out of college. My parents, who are both musicians, told me they wouldn’t pay for school if I went for music so there is a lot of trauma there. I realized that if someone is going to tell me not to do something it is because of their own experience, it has nothing to do with me. I had to unlearn a lot from them about music, religion, society, and when I started to discover my sexuality that was another thing to add to it all. I discovered myself as an artist in the middle of that.

I worked with a lot of cool creatives down in the DC area and a lot of the people who come from that scene don't want to leave, but my vision was always global. That's why I felt like NY, at least if I’m gonna stay on the East coast, that's a place I'd be able to grow from. I’m seeing all these different artists, all the different cultures are here, so there's just ongoing inspiration. I followed my ex up here Fall 2015, stayed with family in the Bronx then eventually I came to Bushwick. Bushwick felt good for me because I saw artists there, there were a lot of events happening, I saw myself being able to thrive. I was here a few years getting settled and then I started creating music on my own and that's when I made my second EP and started performing it.

I was working with people then who weren't really on my team so they stopped a lot of the stuff we started. There is all this music still in utero, it’s very frustrating. I was pissed for a long time. I’ve learned to let it go but I also approach how I work with people differently now. I am open to collaborating but I need to know: are you going to finish this with me? What is the plan? Are you marketing? Are we putting this out? These are very important questions to ask as a creative because a lot of creators are not ready or willing to put things out. I have more of a command of myself now because I left my job, so now I am a full time creative freelancer, an entrepreneur. I am doing whatever makes sense to me at the moment and it feels better in my soul. Going into performances now I don't feel restricted, I am able to act differently and be more free on stage and in my life.

E: I’ve also experienced how challenging completion and sharing is in collaboration. I think a lot of people make work because they want community and to experience creativity but with the whole whatever-happens-next part it seems like the costs are greater than the potential benefits. Success is hard to come by so why would I do that to myself? But clearly you are in a different gear. You’re just going for it.

O: For me performance is the main reason why I am doing this. Yes, the recorded work is amazing but I am here to connect with people in a real live way. If I can’t do that it feels like I am not able to fulfill everything I was meant to do in this realm.                             

I realized that if someone is going to tell me not to do something it is because of their own experience, it has nothing to do with me. 

E: I wanted to ask you about the performance that I saw at 49 Ingrahm, Bushwick Open Studios back in September. What was your experience of that performance?     

O: How do I describe it… in a sense I felt like I wasn’t fully prepared because I made my playlist at the last minute. But while I was inside of it I was very much in the zone. I always see creative things like you’re channeling energy and I always try to touch the back of the room with that energy.

E: I was gonna say, I definitely smoked a blunt in the middle of your set and then it became a whole different thing. [Laughs]

O: Yes! That's what I want! [Laughs]

E: It was cool to feel the transition. In the beginning I was witnessing you creating a space and doing what you do and then I felt like this experience emitted from you and started filling the whole space and suddenly everything was quieter until it was just your voice and your music. There was so much going on in that space, all the art and dogs and weird social dynamics, there was a lot for you to come in on but I felt like you really did touch the whole space.

O: I always want to shift the vibe. It’s healing work that I am doing with this music. I do believe in the power of sound to heal. I don’t focus on specific frequencies but I know that I can take my vocals to places and take people with me.

E: You have a very tonal way of singing.

O: I do have a jazz background so the improvisational aspect of that training comes through. I won’t necessarily say that I am a jazz artist but I guess my music is still jazz. I don’t like genres because I feel that they are limiting. You’ll always get all genres from me. You’ll hear all the different influences I’ve had. I love harmony because of the gospel background I have, I love the interplay of tones you get in jazz music, pop is cool too- it encompasses so much.

E: And your music feels a little punky, a little dark.

O: The genre I was working on with my ex was Doom & B. Like dark R&B. The cover I did of “Strange Fruit” has some of those elements. I really love slides of sounds. My music is very experimental in nature.

E: I could also tell that these were finished products. I appreciate what you do because it comes across as very self-sustaining.

O: I have been in situations where I feel like I have to control it all or it's not going to be what I want the experience to be. I’m a vocal producer because I love to play around with sound and affect it in the ways I want. It is helpful when you don’t have to depend on people because I learned that I sometimes cannot. That's not to say that there aren’t people I can depend on- I haven’t met all of them yet, but until then, I will at least come as a complete product.

E: I've had the experience of getting on someone's track and then they send me the final thing and I couldn't hear myself. I'm like, is this collaboration? Total equality in collaboration isn't a reality because usually it's someone's domain but if we're going to collaborate, then let’s really collaborate.

O: I feel that there is a lot of ego involved. When something is properly mixed in my opinion the vocals sit on top of the track and not the other way around. It gets flipped.

E: Even with producers who are vocalists themselves! Then it feels like a real power play.

O: Or if you ask questions about why the production is a certain way, because I know more than I let on initially, it becomes a problem. You have to play dumb as the singer because they aren’t expecting singers to understand what they’re getting into. Because, unfortunately, a lot of us are that way.

E: I think even if you aren’t extremely well-versed in mixing, you know in your heart what works and what doesn’t. I am here because I am intuitive in this specific way so I want that to be respected at all points of the collaboration.

O: I agree. It’s frustrating.

E: It feels very gendered, this fear of not being in control. It’s all about control because as artists we are creating our own realities. Although at the end of the day it's not about gender, it’s about how you use your power.

O: In retrospect, I think there was a lot of jealousy at play because some of these producers would rather be the front person. And because they are not able to be that front person, they catch feelings. I don’t know how to convey that to these people but I don’t think that's for me to do. I’m probably just not supposed to work with them. It’s also evident in the amount of stuff they are or are not putting out. I believe in karma as well, so that’s all I’ll say. [Laughs]

E: That’s a good mic drop. So, you do spiritual consultations?

I don’t focus on specific frequencies but I know that I can take my vocals to places and take people there with me.

It is helpful when you don’t have to depend on people because I learned that I sometimes cannot. That's not to say that there aren’t people I can depend on, I haven’t met all of them yet, but until then I will at least come as a complete product.

O: Yes, I’m a healing artist. I’m very spiritual in nature so there are multiple tools I could potentially tap into: I do tarot readings, I’ve used music, I’ve done hands-on work like massages and reiki, I help people shift with a simple conversation. It all depends on what the specific scenario is.

E: Do you think healing is possible?

O: I believe we all have the potential to heal but awareness is always the first step. If someone doesn't believe that there is something to heal first of all that is going to block them- not to say that they won’t become aware, but I think there is a level of awareness that is necessary in order to proceed or evolve.

E: How has music done that for you?

O: I’ll say art all together because I always want to improve upon what I do each time I present myself, in whatever space it is. I also model, I’m starting to do some acting work too. It's always about elevating the experience. I’ve also been doing internal work like meditating. Eating really really clean: green foods, juicing; all of those things combined start elevating the whole experience because you start attracting higher-quality situations.

E: That makes me think about addiction and how these really insidious addictions like technology and cigarettes complicate our inner knowing of what is good. Then it comes down to this question of whether healing is possible, is it worth it to really try to take your healing to the next level? Like with performance, is it worth it to put it out, is it worth it to really invest in this thing that could fail? We all have commitment issues. We see it in our relationships, we spread ourselves so thin and that creates a feeling of scarcity. I have a million connections and I can only get this finite amount from each one. I want to eat healthy but I’m like ,what is to really to be gained from healing? Who am I to say that anything better will happen?

O: Everyone is on their own journey and personal state of awareness. For me, healing means I am being all of who I am. There have been many moments in time when imposter syndrome was a big part of my life. I was told when I was growing up, “Don’t be a musician because you're not going to make money.” That’s played itself out in many different scenarios in my life so far. Not to say that the music industry is amazing right now, because it's not, but it is possible to be a thriving artist. Not to say that all your money is going to come from art, I don’t think that is the right perspective on it, but you do have the ability to be abundant because we are naturally abundant. To be able to tap into that part of yourself is where the benefit of healing comes from, because if you don't believe that you have this abundance within yourself you're going to act differently in the world. The first aspect of healing is mental because your mind controls everything.

E: That feels like the fostering of hope and positivity. There is definitely a lack of hope now because things are changing so quickly that we don’t really know what's happening, we don’t really know if we deserve to feel hopeful. I think there are a lot of people who are refusing to lose positivity.

O: I am one of those people. I also cut the news off a lot, probably in ways that I shouldn’t, but it’s very heavy for me because I am very intuitive and seeing those images maybe once a week will fuck me up. When the presidency and the election was happening, I lost my shit because I paid attention. So I was like, you guys don’t deserve any of my energy, like fuck politics. Not to say that it’s not important but I don't believe in it because all they do is lie. I have issues with a lot of things for moral reasons rather than the structures that we have. I do believe we need to redo all of that but I don't know that it deserves my energy right now. It stresses me out. I don’t want to put stress on my life so I am choosing not to focus on that. I need to focus on myself first- they’re not putting money in my pocket anyway. You know, the covid relief checks were nice but they are no longer coming, so it's all these different aspects to look at. I also believe wherever you put your energy and focus, that's where you're gonna be able to start pulling from and manifesting towards. If you're only focused on these negative experiences, it may or may not start to replay themselves in your life. Not in that same specific way, but you’re going to take that energy on.

E: And I feel like the larger conversation is one that undermines itself. The takeaway is that there is nothing you can do. With virtue signaling, we all agree that this is not effective; it starts something and doesn't finish it. People try to have a conversation about creative options for redistributing money and supplementing the normative media in active ways, but how does that middle ground connect to our personal lives? Right now, it’s giving us hopelessness; right now, it's giving us this feeling that our actions are inefficient. It makes it that much more personal. I definitely appreciate that emphasis on doing what you can do for yourself first.

O: For me, I look at it as self-care. I get very overwhelmed very fast, and I am aware of that now, so I am choosing not to allow that in my space if I can. There are specific times during the week that I’ll choose to look at the news but I can’t look at it every day because it's just not helpful.

E: What’s next for you?

O: I'm waiting on getting a music video back before I do more performances. I want to book festivals and colleges as well as work on an actual album because the album has been a thing in my mind really since before I moved up here. The wait has been frustrating because I always want things yesterday but I am learning the patience part and I’m also seeing things happen.

E: Timing is key. Once you relax a little bit and have gratitude, things start happening. You realize that you may have been ready before but the moment wasn’t right.

O: I’m a musician but I hate to practice. I don’t have a reason why. Unfortunately, because I have talent it comes easy, so instead of honing my craft I tend to have anxiety. When you are actually working on the music, opportunities come in. I need to create a practice space where I have a routine- that's something I’ve been missing. Ideally, that's the next situation for me because I just left my job at Peloton a month ago after three years.

E: You’ve got to keep all the balls in the air with this lifestyle and when it's working, it's so much fun because your heart is really in everything you're doing. But it can also be challenging. I was talking to a peer who is a dancer and she was like I just don't know if I can create anything anymore, people aren't reaching out to me. That's real! And there is not really a safety net.

O: But we can create it. That's the important thing to realize, you do always have the power to move differently if you need to. It's not something I have always believed for myself but I do know that it's possible. The daily action things are important- keep your routine in that direction.

For me healing means that I am being all of who I am.

Brooklyn, NY-based alternative singer-songwriter Opal Rose (she/her) is a soulful experimental artist whose sound is influenced by the many genres she’s experienced- her sound is deeply connected to emotional liberation. Opal’s music takes the listener on a soul-elevating sonic ride. 

Her most recent release, “My Eternal” is available on all streaming platforms now!

photos by andyland :
: interview by thuja