How a surprise Fred Again.. collab helped I Am Roze find their voice

Following a feature on 'Actual Life 2', the Louisiana native is making empowering music that speaks to the heart

Though their artist name conjures an aura of assured stardom, I Am Roze is surprisingly reserved, their distinctly southern drawl almost a faint whisper as they meet NME in a west London recording studio. They’re in the capital for the first time to work on an upcoming project and, as a Louisiana native, they’re slowly adjusting to the chaotic energy of the city. “I’d never even been on a plane before this, I’d never been off the North American continent,” they tell us, audibly energised by an immense change in pace. “I’ve been feeling this freedom of ‘OK, so the things I’m doing are paying off’.”

The chain of events that led them to London was set off in 2021, when Fred Again.. sampled an Instagram video of Roze singing for his album ‘Actual Life 2’. While the album’s scrapbook approach to sampling social media clips documented the uncertainty (and digitisation) of life amid the pandemic, it also soundtracked a turbulent period for Roze, who was grappling with the loss of their home from Hurricane Laura. “I didn’t even know about [the song] because I was going through so much,” they explain. “It wasn’t until I had a meeting with some people from Warner that I found out. I was like, ‘You mean to tell me I’m being recognised? In the midst of my struggle?’”

They continue: “It took a while to process because my whole life was uprooted. But once I got past survival mode, it just showed me that even though life hasn’t been the easiest, there were still things waiting for me on the other side.”


That other side has manifested in the form of a hectic start to 2024, where Roze has headed across the Atlantic to write and record, and perform on Later… with Jools Holland. It’s been a whirlwind induction into the music industry for Roze, who grew up performing in casinos across Louisiana in their school’s show choir, before turning to TikTok in 2019 in hopes of reaching an audience further than their home state. There, they posted snippets of them singing covers, unknowingly joining the app at the right time and on the cliff edge of normality — before the pandemic beckoned TikTok’s explosion in popularity the following year.

Quickly, Roze’s voice, honed from the 90s R&B on repeat in their mum’s car and the summers spent with their grandmother soundtracked by ‘60s soul, began to garner a following on the app. But despite a wealth of old school influences, they’re not overly concerned with nostalgia, crediting a slew of contemporary artists, including Ethel Cain, Hozier and Girl In Red as modern inspirations.

These eclectic influences intertwine on their new EP ‘I’m Not Emotional’, marrying those early R&B and soul inflections with elements of indie-pop and inherently Gen Z lyricism that feels genuinely empowering. “I have never been one to really sit in my emotions and feel them. I’ve always been the person that compartmentalises and processes them logically,” they say, pointing a diamanté-encrusted acrylic nail to their chest. It’s why they simply want their music to “feel good” for the listener, hoping that someone on the other end of the headphones can find solace in the things Roze still struggles with.

i am roze
Credit: Oscar Blair

Crucially, ‘I’m Not Emotional’ chronicles a journey towards self-love, rather than existing as a point-of-view from the final destination. The EP’s title track, for example, details the impact of living with depression day to day; the hollowness of waking up and feeling unsettled, and the difficulty of completing routine tasks. “Don’t feel like brushing my teeth / And showering’s too hard for me,” they sing, outlining a slew of symptoms less frequently explored in music.

This realistic approach to songwriting is most evident on ‘Who I Am’, a self-love anthem without the saccharine optimism that bothered the charts in the 2010s. As well as a celebration of Roze’s own attainment of self-love, it’s also a response to the ongoing culture wars in the US, where LGBTQ+ rights are increasingly at risk.

“I just feel like, especially as a non-binary person, there aren’t many positive examples, because we’re always hearing about the brothers and sisters getting hit harder with this legislation that keeps coming against us,” they say. It’s an issue increasingly close to home for Roze – just last summer, lawmakers in their home state approved a series of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including a ban of gender-affirming care for minors.

“We’ve had our anthems and it’s like, ‘OK cool. But there aren’t enough songs telling people ‘I’d love me regardless of what you think’,” they explain. “For so long, I didn’t love myself. I didn’t know myself. but to be able to be in a place where I can write a song like ‘Who I Am’ feels natural and positive.”


It’s why, as they record their next project, Roze’s primary concern is establishing human connection through music, over any grand ideals of stardom. “I know that money is a byproduct of what I do, but I don’t create music with the intention of getting paid for it,” they laugh.

“At the end of the day, if I never made another dollar off of music, I would still be making music. I want to help people more than anything.” This ethos is embedded into the EP – a gallant introduction for an artist with one simple aim: “I want everybody to feel loved, I want my music to feel like a hug. I want us to feel like we’re close.”

I Am Roze’s debut EP ‘I’m Not Emotional’ is out now via LAB Records


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