Irish musician Rosie Carney on new album ‘I wanna Feel Happy’: ‘Because it’s so personal, I feel like I’m giving away a part of myself’
Rosie Carney came back to Downings, Donegal at the start of lockdown. She’d been living in west London and she needed to be around the family and the Atlantic air.
he was reunited with her dog, Hemingway and a retired racehorse called Digger. There was also a dangerous French draft horse, Hendrix. This was Rosie’s company for a year, when she wrote music, avoided social media and let herself mend.
Her dad encouraged her to listen to the lesser-known parts of the David Bowie catalogue, particularly a ghoulish tune called Please Mr. Gravedigger. She was also listening to Smashing Pumpkins, Big Thief and Radiohead.
By way of recuperation, she decided to record Radiohead’s second album, The Bends, in full. This was an act of love and also a way to immense herself in Thom Yorke’s intense world, where sadness and high comedy are mixed together.
She also loved the sonic adventures of Radiohead, driven by the swerving guitars of Jonny Greenwood. So Rosie made herself an extra challenge to follow that brief. She had made her early reputation as a folk artist, but she was now ready for the weird parts of Black Star and Fake Plastic Trees.
She put her version of The Bends into the world and it was well received. But what about Radiohead? Did you hear from them? Rosie pauses.
“I wish I did. I’m just gonna keep covering their albums until they notice me.”
Another positive from this project is that Rosie’s own songwriting began to flow. The lyrics dealt with break-ups, high anxiety and abandonment. Loyal Carney fans were already aware that this artist has written about issues like abuse and mental health, so this is another part of the confessional.
One song, Time Waits for no Waiting Room, is set in a hospital room. Another, called Send me Home was written about a night of rest and recreation that led to a panic attack and a phone call for the ambulance service. “All the songs are very emotional to me,” she says.
The album is called I Wanna Feel Happy. It is very good. Yet the author feels a bit conflicted.
“I get such a complex when I release something that belongs to me. Because it’s so personal, I feel like I’m giving away a part of myself and there’s always a few days after releasing it that I selfishly wish it could still be mine for just a second longer. But then I see that people are connecting with it and I start to get messages from people, it’s just really rewarding. It reminds me why I do what I do.”
Another inspirational source was Taylor Swift and her Folklore record.
“That album was so significant because Taylor Swift went back to her roots. She started off writing folkie acoustic music. Then obviously there was the pop thing which was very successful for her. But then to completely go back to her roots and come up with an album like that. So emotive and evocative.
“For me, it was everything I needed to hear at that time in my life. I’d convinced myself that folk music was no longer cool, that everyone was making indie bedroom music. And then Taylor comes out with this incredible folk, dreampop record. And it just gave me so much confidence to start writing folk music again.”
Rosie is back in London and about to move into a new place in Islington. She is clearly pleased with the leafy surroundings and the response to her new music. She’s looking ahead to live dates in America and Canada.
“I don’t wanna do loads of touring, because it’s not good for me. But I do wanna get back out on the road.”
Rosie has reason to be hesitant. She was signed to Polydor Records as a teenager and it ended badly. She was being feted in Hollywood before her music had evolved. Since then, she has been working at a more achievable pace, releasing the Bare album on her own terms in 2019 and pairing with artists like Lisa Hanningan. Self-care is more important now.
“In the past I’ve always learn the hard way. It’s all very invaluable. I’ve learnt what doesn’t work for me. So going forward, for my benefit and for my listeners, I want to do what’s best for me and what works for me.
“To me, that looks like not touring for months and months on end. Just doing handfuls of shows here and there. And finding other ways to connect with my listeners. I’m still figuring that out. It’s hard that we live in a world that’s currently so demanding.”
But there’s no giving up, right?
“You know, I have thought so many times about hanging up my hat and becoming immersed in my horse life. But I’m the one who won’t let myself do that. I would still make music anyway. It’s who I am. I have to make music. And as long as I’m making music, I’m gonna want to share it with people. Especially if I know people can connect to it. It would be too easy to quit and I don’t ever want to quit. So I’m gonna keep on going.”