Words continued to flow after Alexa Rose released her debut album Medicine for living in 2019. In the spring of 2020, during the shutdown, the North Carolina-based singer and songwriter began assembling her second album and recorded it in five quick sessions. Often writing songs the day before her return to the studio, Rose reflects on a past decade and a universal urgency to capture the present on Upstream (Big legal mess / Fat Possum).
âI left my whole being in the room and on this record,â Rose says. âAnd there’s nostalgia, and it’s hot-tempered, adventurous, but it’s also sweet. I think I’m really a sweet person in my essence, but in the past I felt like I needed to be stronger, so I allowed myself to stand up to be gentler on this album. , and that felt really true to me for who I am as an artist.
Recorded at the Delta Sonic Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, Rose reunited with her Medicine for living team, produced by Bruce Watson and mixed by Clay Jones and Matt Ross-Spang with his former band Al Gamble on organ and piano, guitarist Will Sexton, bassist Mark Stuart, drummer George Sluppick.
Recognizing more references to water on the album, Rose worked around Upstream, the farthest point, where water merges with tributaries and other bodies. âA lot of the songs center around the flow of time,â says Rose, who first heard the source word on a study trip to the Appalachians.
âI love the imagery and the metaphor of source as source,â says Rose. âThe springs are the source of the river. It might be a little stream or a tributary or something, but it’s the most important part of the river because they color everything downstream. I was just thinking what this word meant, and how much water was [mentioned] in the album, and how water feels. It can represent time and how time moves inconsistently.
An intimate story of remembrance, regret and forgiveness, Upstream takes place around the nostalgic “Clearwater Park” with the song of Rose Looks like a ghost town tonight with the lights of the paper mill burning holes in the cloak of darkness, reflect on a friendship that has taken different paths. âPeople don’t intend to change, just as rain doesn’t intend to turn to snow,â says Rose. “The song is about accepting it and forgiving myself for being the one who has changed too.”
Written in the summer of 2020, âHumanâ reflects a sense of emptiness and helplessness during one of the country’s most turbulent times. All along, Upstream pulsates around an exploratory nature of “Big Sky” and a past heartbreak on “Wild Peppermint”.
âI was feeling the humanity and the revolution, and people felt really suffocated and stuck during the pandemic,â says Rose. âI was also thinking about the last decade of my life and my childhood and I felt really nostalgic, so this record felt a lot more in the moment to me. There is a greater range of emotions.
For the Virginia native now based in Asheville, NC, the writing turns on and off like a switch. âSometimes I’ll go six months without writing and say ‘I’ll never write again’,â shares Rose, who wrote much of Upstream in spring 2020 and completed in December.
âI feel more connected to this album, for sure, so hopefully that translates into,â she said. âIf there are objectives with the music I make, it’s that there is an opening for people to find their own interpretation. “
Rose adds, âI write songs that are really personal to me, but I tend not to be too specific, so it’s possible that people see themselves really reflected. I think that’s kind of the point. That’s why each of us is here doing this, hoping that people will see each other in it, feel something, and feel less alone.