Name: Roselien Tobbackx
Occupations: Singer, songwriter, producer
Nationality: Belgian
Current Release: Under her Rosie From The Block moniker, Roselien has just released the Love Potions For Block Parties EP via Welcome To Vice City.
Recommendations: For You - Charnett Mofett; I know why the caged bird sings - Maya Angelou

If you enjoyed this interview with Roselien and would like to know more about her, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I first started composing music on the piano when I was 10. I wasn’t familiar with soul music or electronic music at the time. I mainly listened to instrumental music and film soundtracks like the sound track of Amelie Poulain or The Sound of Music.

I started experimenting with Cubase when I was about 16 years old and from then on I also discovered Ableton. I still use this DAW up to this day to compose and produce.

I was very much into music that came from London at that time such as James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Pariah, Joker etc. From then on I wanted to combine deep emotion with grooves that make you want to dance as these artists seemed to be able to combine the two so well.

Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?

When music moves me I literally start to move. So when I hear good music I tend to want to dance to it. This is also how I analyse rhythm, by dancing to the music. When I hear a tune I’m really intrigued by I listen to it over and over again, I look up the lyrics, I analyse the chords and I analyse the rhythm.

But this is mostly when I’m beyond the first listening experience where I can get overwhelmed by the beauty of a tune and start to cry.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I’ve been writing, composing and producing for a long time since I started at a young age and it has evolved a lot. From the age of 19 I started becoming aware of black music and its impact on popular music. From that moment on a whole new world has opened to me and I started to dig deep into black American culture in terms of it’s music but also in terms of its activists and world views etc.

I’ve always wanted to combine honest, raw lyrics with rich, emotional chords and dope grooves. I found this combination in music by Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, D’Angelo, Georgia Anne Muldrow etc.
What I’ve added to this release under my alias Rosie from the Block is the broken beat influence I found in London. I moved there a couple of years ago and I got to know the work of Kaidi Tatham, Mark Force, IG Culture, Dego etc. For this release I wanted to really focus on the dance floor and produce club music people can’t resist dancing to.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.  

I’ve always felt like an outsider. Although I get along with many people and I seem to be easy to talk to, I have always carried a deep loneliness within me and a sense of being misunderstood.

Making music seems to allow me to tap into a universe where I become one with the world or ‘life’ or something. It allows me to be free and to be me. It allows me to truly feel connected with something even though I still don’t know what that ‘something’ actually is.  

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

The key ideas or ingredients to my music are honesty, infectious, deep grooves and rich (jazz) chords. This is what I look for in music.

I’m also a big fan of dancing and fine arts. I love painters such as Sorolla, Rik Wouters, Van Gogh, Hockney … I’m especially drawn to paintings with intense colours and unique recreations of light.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

Since a couple of years I’m fascinated by soul, jazz, RnB and funk music created in the second half of the seventies and first half of the eighties. I really love the writing, the production, the sound and the risks they took in that period.

I learn a lot when listening to music from that period (Kashif, Moacir Santos, James Mtume, Brenda Russell, Angela Winbush …) but I’m also intrigued by music and productions from today such as Frank Ocean, Little Simz, Tyler The Creator etc.

I believe it’s about studying the tradition profoundly and using those elements today in order to create the music of the future.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

I use Ableton, Sound toys plugins, a JX3P synth, a Rhodes, mainly hiphop and drum machine drum samples, my electric guitar and my voice to produce music. This turns out to be a good toolbox for me.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

I do a lot of other things besides making music these days since I’m an adult now and have to pay rent etc. I teach Dutch to people that arrive in Belgium in Brussels so sometimes I’m teaching. On other days I practice guitar or I practice piano. Sometimes I’m working on a beat or a composition as well. Or I work on my radio show for Totally Wired Radio, Acid Jazz’ Radio station in London.

I also run a lot and practice yoga. When I’m working on a track / production I can do this non stop for two or three days.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?

I’ll talk a bit about how my new EP under my alias Rosie from the Block came about.

Basically I just started making some drum loops. Then I looked into the sounds of the drums and layered some of them or changed the samples. Then I started looking for a great chord progression or two to add to the drum loop. Once I’ve got a good chord progression going I usually get really inspired and start working on some lyrics or melodies. Then I also looked for some top lines with a great synth lead sound.

My experience is that the less I think and the more I do without judging the better the result will be.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

I am someone who doubts a lot so when I work with other people I often have difficulties standing up for my ideas and pushing them through. So for me it is useful to work alone since I can then try any idea without having to worry if the idea’s good enough yes or no.

But recently I met someone I co-produced an EP with I can be myself with and I don’t feel too insecure to share my ideas with him. His name is Mambele and we’ll soon be releasing a new EP!

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

Music is there to heal and connect people. Besides that, its powers and potential are yet to be fully defined and can never be underestimated.

I came on this planet to entertain, support and heal people. I do this through my music as well as by teaching Dutch to immigrants and showing them the way in our society.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

If it wasn’t for music I don’t think I would still be here. Music has helped me through the most challenging parts of my life and has enabled me to under or ‘over’stand certain things that are hard to put into words or understand with the logical brain.

Music speaks to the subconscious and is able to heal things on a deeper level, there where words and common conversation with a therapist for instance cannot reach.

There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Science is another attempt of humanity to understand and essentially control our lives and surroundings.

I’m not saying science has no benefits, on the contrary, it has proved its existence to be very useful and meaningful. But when it comes to music I don’t think science will ever be able to fully explain it’s impact or power. This is because music operates on a whole other level than rationality, it speaks to our intuition and our subconscious and who knows what else it communicates with that we don’t know about.

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

I don’t think someone can be moved as deeply by a cup of coffee as one can be moved by a piece of music.

I think it is about the impact the end result or the ‘product’ has on other people. It can never be really ‘measured’ which we would probably like to do in this data obsessed world of ours but I believe people can tell how a cup of coffee makes them feel and their favourite piece of music makes them feel and I believe there is a clear difference.

Music can give you pleasure but it can also offer you a deeper understanding of life, some kind of ‘katharsis’. I don’t think a cup of coffee can give you that same feeling.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it is able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

I think the fact that we can break music down to frequencies is just the top of the ice berg. Music is so much more than a sum of frequencies but I wouldn’t be able to tell what else it is. It is a gate to the unknown, to other dimensions.