INTERVIEW: Rosa Tu discusses the past, the future, and her latest single 'The Swamp'

With a loving affection for poets such as Mary Oliver, Frida Kahlo, and Joan Baez, New York-based singer and songwriter Rosa Tu has always looked to bring a more thought-provoking angle to her prose, as she now returns with her latest single 'The Swamp'.

Following in the footsteps of artists such as Laura Marling and Benjamin Francis Leftwich, 'The Swamp' sees her in far more solemn and forlorn direction. Using little more than an acoustic guitar and her own captivating voice, this new offering demands to be heard with its passionate and heartfelt delivery.

So with her new release swooning over us right now, we sat down with her to find out more about her sound and what she has planned for the months ahead.


Hi Rosa, how are you today?

Sore from biking and slightly cloudy from a late night of carbonara and red wine, but also excited that it’s raining, and when it stops the air will hopefully be cooler.

For those that haven’t heard of you yet, how would you best describe your sound and who have been your biggest influences so far?

Maybe… stripped-down New England folktale? You’ll hear classical guitar, and a pleasant voice, often with harmonies, singing about love and grief and things that have come to pass. I like to think it’s like a lullaby, or a eulogy, or people telling stories in the woods.

Listing all the influences is hard; there are so many, all the time. It’s usually specific songs or paintings or poems that have moved me, rather than artists, but in truth I’m mostly influenced by feelings, relationships, and existential ponderings. I really admire the Mexican-American songwriter Lhasa De Sela, her singing-style and the poetry of her lyrics. And the work of composer Adam Simon, whether it’s an art song, shape-note song, or piano concerto, is like a balm to the aching soul.

You have just released your new single ‘The Swamp’. Can you tell us how that track came about?

It came about very early in the morning pretty much directly from a dream. I woke up with the guitar melody in my head, and images of the story, then I spent the next while learning how to express those things with my fingers and words. I don’t write all my songs that way, but this composition was remarkably stress-free.

And was there a particular style you were looking for when you wrote it?

No, I don’t usually write with style in mind. With this type of song, a ballad, I focus on the story. I sit for a while with the characters in my mind. Then once the world gets more vivid, I do my best to express it all in as few words as possible.

You are releasing your new album ‘Drink All The Wine’ later this year. What can we expect from that release?

It’s a pretty lonely and sad album, but kinda sexy too, in a weird way. Or maybe I should say sensual? Sensual. And loving. It’s very loving.

Aurally speaking, there will be nice soothing guitar parts and stripped-down vocals (like in ‘The Swamp’, which is track 10 on the album), as well as some sweet-ass violin, 7-string guitar, and clarinet, and the occasional sound of birds chirping outside.

The coronavirus outbreak has obviously affected everyone’s plans, but what have you got in store for the rest of the year?

The specifics and practicalities are unclear, but I plan, as always, to become a more kind, internally stable, and alive person. I hope to deepen some friendships, complete some writing projects, and go on some very long walks. I also hope to embark on a few more musical collaborations, and to finish (and make plans to record) a number of songs that have been bothering me.

And finally, standard interview question, where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself alone. Maybe I’m cooking. Maybe I’m writing a song, or singing, or on my way to meet someone for a coffee. Maybe I’m spending all day swimming, in clear water, with my eyes open.


Rosa Tu's new single 'The Swamp' is available to stream and download now. Have a listen to it in the player below.