NewTracks New Artist: Rowdy’s Rose

NewTracks New Artist: Rowdy’s Rose

In a reversal of the norm, Rowdy’s Rose ‘s Blair and Rosie Shaw have been husband and wife for several years longer than they have been bandmates, and are now unabashedly training up a new generation to join them on stage. Living in rural Waikato country music is their thang, but they’re busy making sure their enterprise spreads a lot further, like Pennsylvania USA for instance. Shooting Star is featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this June.

What are your names and pronouns, where are you from and what instruments do you each play?

Rosie Shaw and Blair Shaw. We are from a little town called Kihikihi, 25 minutes south of Hamilton. We each play acoustic guitar and both take vocals. Blair also plays electric guitar and has learnt mandolin and bass.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Rosie: I had a background in dance at an early age, choirs and then musical theatre which ultimately gave me a love for performing. Also my Mum was a beautiful vocalist and a grandfather who was banjo player, which could quite possibly be my earliest roots in country music.

Blair started playing guitar at 14, wrote his first song at 16 and always had an emphasis on music throughout life. Blair can work out songs by ear and we spend a lot of time jamming all sorts of music together.

What’s the background story of how Rowdy’s Rose came to be?

Rosie: We have been married for 11 years now and Rowdy’s Rose is our first big project together. Blair used to perform as a solo act called ‘Rowdy’s acoustic sessions’. He taught me to play guitar about 8 years ago, and after one particular day playing around with recording programs at home, he started explaining how to lay tracks. He laid down a guitar track and asked me to put some vocals down. I disappeared into the room and had so much fun – I put down a three part harmony and when Blair heard it he said, “We have to do this together!” Then we started jamming together at home and honing our craft together. Band practice is any time/all the time!

How did you come up with Rowdy’s Rose?

Rosie: ‘Rowdy’ was a nickname Blair had been given when he was living in Canada back in 2011 (because he was quite quiet when he first started a job there. This is quite funny to those who know him as he’s usually more rowdy than quiet in his usual circles!)

We decided my name blended quite well with Rowdy and following Rowdy’s acoustic sessions… Rowdy’s Rose was born. It also has a country feel that gives listeners a clue as to our genre.

Anyone else directly involved?

Just the two of us for now… but we are making some amazing connections with fellow musicians and producers as we grow in our music journey. Our young boys (7 and 10 years) are hugely musical too. We may have a full band before we know it!

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

As we continue to listen to artists we admire, and work with producers and other musicians in the industry, we feel we are evolving exponentially. To the point where we have now been nominated for a songwriting award (and a new vocalists award) in Pennsylvania this year as part of a USA country radio station where our songs have been charting for the past 1.5 years.

Rosie’s writing style is more storytelling and emotion driven whereas Blair’s is a little more mysterious to the listener where there is a hidden message to decipher. It makes for some interesting diversity in our tracks.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? (i.e. best gig/support slot/airplay etc)

Our biggest highlight to date has been our two nominations for USA country radio and being invited to attend the awards in Pennsylvania in October and also perform on the USA stage to represent Kiwi music. This is not exclusively a country radio station and plays many international artists, so to be singled out as nominees for best songwriters and vocalists, we feel is a huge privilege to honour our work. We have also loved playing our tracks live in studio and hearing our tracks on radio for the first time is an amazing buzz!

What is the story behind Shooting Star?

Rosie: I lost my Dad very suddenly in 2020 and so the story reflects the special father-daughter relationship we had. He always told me growing up, I could be anything I wanted to. One day, a few months after we had lost him, I sat in my living room in the sun and all these lyrics came rushing through me and I took pen to paper. It was almost an ‘outer body’ moment and I remember reading the words back when I had finished and realising it was like a message to me from him, in that moment.

That I’ll always be ‘enough’ and that I have all the answers I need inside of me, as the lyrics reflect in the song. Working on the production of it together has resulted in a track we are very proud of.

What makes Shooting Star stand out for you as a single?

The raw emotion. Since it was written, it always had a feeling it needed to be released in the hope that it could be a hopeful message for others sharing the same journey of losing a loved one and feeling that connection of them still watching over you. Now that it’s released we can see that is happening.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the track?

There are a lot of beautiful musical moments in the song due to the phenomenal production from Dave and the input of the gorgeous violin and pedal steel from our friends Nick Jones and Bill Bassett. These instruments just add such beautiful elements that really emphasise the real emotion of this ballad.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where? 

We produced it with the very talented Dave Rhodes of Dave Rhodes Productions who is based in Whitianga. We had a few mutual friends and had heard Dave’s work with other musicians we loved. He was just winding up his work with Devilskin and we jumped and got stuck in and learnt so much in the process. It was very intense in a really positive way, due to the emotional release that came with it for us.

My father also lived in Whitianga and we stayed at his house while we recorded, so it was a really loaded emotional experience, and it’s so amazing to see people connecting with it now. Our two young boys were there for some of the production as we had to travel out of town to record it, and seeing the production process was a really special thing for them too.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Once you release a song it’s not yours anymore. So the listeners can take what they need, but mostly connection and comfort. A lot of people have come to us and told us they have been in tears hearing it, making them realise a connection to someone they have lost. Some have said it’s really healing for them and have come and told us after a gig..Seeing people tear up when we do it live is a really special moment to witness.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

We just keep writing and trying to hone and perfect them until one jumps out at us as the next ‘special’ one. They just pop up with a good feeling. Shooting Star was waiting, bubbling under the surface for a while.

We spoke with Jon Toogood from Shihad last year and when we asked him about his success as a musician, he told us to just keep writing and writing and writing. And we can see what he meant. Not every song you write is going to be a hit, but the more you write, it gives space for a great song to rise to the surface.

Who else is in your team?

At the moment it’s just the two of us. We have had to learn a lot of new skills as we go but we are people who love to always be learning and growing as individuals and as artists. Rosie wears the hats of marketing manager/booking agent/publicist/finance manager etc etc! Blair also helps with all of the above and then is our main man for technical specialist/sound engineer and all the heavy lifting, lol! Although we do have two very cute little ‘roadies’ who occasionally come to family friendly events and carry the cases and model the t-shirts!

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

We have many more songs up our sleeves to record this year and met some pretty talented country artists during our sets at the Bay of Islands Country Rock Festival in May, so you never know what collabs may happen. Plus after our trip to USA this year for the awards ceremony we will be swinging by Nashville, which is such a magical place. Anything is possible.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Kaylee Bell Where Were You
  • Rosie Teese – Overboard
  • Cooper’s RunGotta Be Somebody

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

We have applied for NewTracks in the past and not been successful, but this journey of ours has taught us a lot about the importance of self belief and putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you may not make the cut, but it doesn’t mean you should give up. Getting turned down at times is a natural part of life, but if you believe what you have is worth working at, you can dust yourself off, get back up and try again. Be open to learning and evolving. For us it involved trying different avenues, finding out what we needed to learn and making the effort to learn it. But we have never been afraid of hard work, we are pretty determined and resilient! When you have those attributes things start to pay off at some point.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

We are just really working on building our community. When you have a tribe of people behind you believing you have something of value to share, it can really propel you to another level. Our ‘tribe’ just voted us into the #3 spot with this song on a top 100 NZ countdown on an independent NZ radio chart last week. They also voted four of our other tracks into the top 40 of the same countdown!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

We love following our favourite artists like Carly Pearce, Lainey Wilson, Cody Johnson, Chris Stapleton etc on Youtube and also we love the Grand Ole Opry Channel on Youtube for discovering up and coming country artists too.

Any last words?

We are beyond grateful that our music is resonating with people and we have our dreams and goals in place and are steadily working towards them – getting to the States is a big part of that. But something of huge importance to us is to have FUN and soak up every part of the journey. We are grateful for every listener and every opportunity. Watch this space for some exciting developments at the end of the year.