Rochelle House

I have an unlimited respect for artists like Rochelle House – the San Jose, California native is simply a bottle of determination. Often we feature emerging artists that we here would consider “young” – teenagers and 20-somethings. House has taken a different and very honorable musical path, and she explains it best when answering our question about playing in San Jose: “I think everyone is surprised. To have gone from being a stay at home mom to being up on stage or making serious records is kind of unusual. But I was always passionate about whatever I was doing whether it be writing music or raising young artists. I am a passionate person.”

House put music as a career on hold, raising four children and obtaining two degrees… and now she’s letting the inspiration explode in the form of “Cold Jazz”. House lays down the definition, “A rhythmic emotional music that is played by deeply skilled musicians, usually with a lyric that carries a message.”  Pick up her sophomore release “Water” to test it out for yourself – it sounds like “a trumpet and a poet. Like a hill-billy, with Barbara Striesand, Miles, Coltrane and Thelonius mixed in.” House not only is the voice behind this collection, but she also took advantage of being in the studio: “I am a fan of rap music and I really respect what these people do in the studio. It is like collage, taking all these different pieces of recordings, cutting and pasting them together to make new art.” The new record truly is record unique to the skills of one Rochelle House.

House has a lot more she plans to take on, including a new collection called “Songs from the Bookmark” as well as the organization of her own group – a sort of Rochelle House Orchestra. Keep an eye out. There’s much more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Rochelle House

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Rochelle House (RH): I am not sure that I have a genre. I made up a name for what I do, ‘Cold Jazz,’ Cold Jazz:  A rhythmic emotional music  that is played by deeply skilled musicians, usually with a lyric that carries a message.

As far as how I sound....I think I sound kind of like a trumpet and a poet. Like a hill-billy, with Barbara Striesand, Miles,Coltrane and Thelonius mixed in.

PEV: Born in San Jose, California, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

RH: I lived in small towns as a child we didn’t have a lot of diverse music on the radio but my mother was a jazz fan. We couldn’t afford records really, so we listened the same 3 or 4 albums for years. We listened to Miles Davis, Barbra Streisand, and Dave Brubeck. We listened to some classical music too but I dont remember what it was. My mother would tell us stories that she made up to along with what the orchestra was playing. I so enjoyed that. Both of my parents were singers. When my father was home he sang old country songs and played the guitar. We would sing with him. And my mother sang in choirs.

PEV: Having played in the business for a good time now, what was it like for you when you first started out?

RH: I am still just starting. I took 20 years off to raise children and just started going to jam sessions and learning songs and making records in the last 10 years. During this same period I went back to school and earned a BA and a Masters Degree, continued to raise kids and started for the first time in my life to make a living. So honestly I am just starting here in the music business.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

RH: I guess when i realized that my lyrics are better than my thinking. That was “something.”

PEV: With that, what can fans expect from a live Rochelle House show?

RH: What all my shows have in common is the caliber of musician that I play with, my willingness to fully commit to the song and to the moment and that the band will be having fun.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

RH: Find the mic.

PEV: Any pre-show rituals before going on stage or do you just wing it?

RH: I say a prayer inviting God to play music through me.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

RH: I want to write music that is simple and honest and that is healing. Whether it is sad song or a song of encouragement I hope that it connects to people in a healing way.

PEV: Tell us about your sophomore release, "Water". What can fans expect from this work?

RH: Well, I had a lot of fun mixing that one. Marc Seales, who arranged and produced the basic tracks on ‘Dreams of Love” also did so on ‘Water.’ At the last minute Marc brought in Cuong Vu, the trumpet player, and had him lay down several tracks. Cuong has this board with all these electronic devices on it and when he plays the trumpet he has the sound move though the effects and  turns the sound into some pretty incredible music.

Cuong started playing these beautiful parts and we recorded each pass, of course, and then he and Marc left, and the engineer and I started listen to this exquisite stuff that he had played. I  finally said, “let’s move some stuff around.” I am a fan of rap music and I  really respect what these people do in the studio.

It is like collage, taking all these different pieces of recordings, cutting and pasting them together to make new art.  So we did that, we took one of Cuong’s passes and turned it into an introduction for ‘Come on boy put your shoes on.’ It is so cool to hear just his trumpet line  knowing that he played it over the tracks but it sounds great all by itself.  That was fun and it made me want to have my own studio and my own engineer on call.

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

RH: Yes, I do get writers block every few minutes but I just act like it is funny and it goes away.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Rochelle House?

RH: I think i would have to know you better to know what types of things surprise you?

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

RH: I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a singer when I grew up. As far as knowing that it would be my career...I am still wondering about that.

PEV: What one word best describes Rochelle House?

RH: Brave.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

RH: I love traveling. And I have a vision of a how fun it would be to be on the road if we could do it in a way that allowed for time to get to enjoy the places and the people we visited, but I have not really begun that part of my career.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

RH: Yes, I really want to play music in South America. I have been wanting to play in Buenos Aires.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

RH: I think everyone is surprised. To have gone from being a stay at home mom to being up on stage or making serious records is kind of unusual. But I was always passionate about whatever I was doing whether it be writing music or raising young artists. I am a passionate person.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

RH: I am not finished raising my children. And I am always studying something. I recently finished my Masters Degree in Whole Systems Design at Antioch University in Seattle. I go out to hear music a lot. I love to dance too.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

RH: Yes. My son Raven Matthews is a really good rapper. He started writing rhymes when he was very young. He wrote and rapped under his breath constantly for 10 years. Now he is 18, just starting college at Sarah Lawrence College. He and a couple of his friends put out a really good cd when they were in high school. Their group is called ‘Faded Theory.’

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

RH: Teaching college and working to raise awareness about the unjust and racist criminal justice system in our country, with the hope of dismantling the industrial prison system and finding alternatives to caging the poor people of color in our country.

PEV: So, what is next for Rochelle House?

RH: I am ready to make more recordings. I have one that is called “Songs from the Bookmark” I have the songs ready and am looking for funding.  Isn't that what we are all doing? I also have a group that I am putting together. A strange Orchestra. Three drummers, two bass players, a guitarist and me...so far. I think it is going to be really cool. Watch for us. We may be called Rochelle House Orchestra...but we shall see.

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