About 10 years ago, singer/songwriter Ezza Rose hitchhiked to the Pacific Northwest from Los Angeles, riding with semi-truck drivers the whole journey north. After graduating, Rose decided to make Portland her permanent home.
“It seemed like a really accessible town for a creative person to live in,” Rose says.
She’s currently getting ready to release her fourth LP, No Means No, which draws inspiration from the disconnect between language and intention. Growing up, Rose says her mother would use contradictory expressions like “no means no” and “sorry isn’t good enough” (which is also the title of a song on the record). These phrases were confusing to her, since one reinforces the power of words while the other implies that sometimes, they aren’t enough to merit forgiveness.
In her own life, Rose feels like her words haven’t always been taken seriously. “When we disconnect the meaning from a word, it holds no value anymore and communication is gone,” she explains.
No Means No is moodier than Rose’s earlier albums, like 2014’s Poolside and 2015’s When the Water’s Hot, which pull from her bluegrass influences. The driving force of Rose’s music, though, is still her voice, which sounds fit for a smoky jazz lounge.
“We’ve gone electric and kind of veered away from the folky stuff,” she says.
Rose grew up in Julian, a historic Gold Rush town in California’s Cuyamaca Mountains that she describes as “a very community-driven place.” Her family didn’t own a TV, so she had to come up with her own ways to have fun. Her father often hosted his band practices at home, and eventually she started playing in her own punk bands.
The lineup of Rose’s current outfit includes guitarist Craig Rupert, drummer Ray Johnson, and bassist Alec England, who she met while they were working at the same bar. One evening England overheard her playing the first takes off the new record and asked to join her band.
For Rose, No Means No represents her effort to find clarity and speak up above the white noise. “It’s a reminder that I think truth is a real thing, and I think we’re lacking it as a society right now,” she says.