In the latest edition of “Nobody Tells You This, But…,” singer Rozzi tells Girlboss how she learned to connect to her authentic purpose and why you’re always on the path, even when you don’t know it.
Music is the only thing in my life that has chosen me. From the time I sang “I’m Sensitive” by Jewel—such an awesome song—at my first-grade talent show, I knew I was going to be a performer.
But getting from then to now, when I’m about to release my first full-length album, has been a long and rocky road.
My mom is in the arts and there was always music playing in our house. My parents thought my singing was super cute. But as I got older and still wanted to pursue music, my dad got nervous. He’s a public policy professor and he wanted me to have a steady job, like being a lawyer.
We’d have these crazy fights; I’d end up crying on every family trip. My parents are super supportive now, but he was trying to be protective because he didn’t know whether I was good enough to make it or if I’d always be struggling. He didn’t have a ruler to measure that with.
In middle and high school, I wrote songs and played in the school band. San Francisco doesn’t have a huge music scene and I started to feel trapped. But then I got into the popular music program at USC and moved to LA. That’s where things started happening.
I had a single dorm room where I would hang out and make music—my dream! In my sophomore year, I was a backup singer for Sergio Mendez and Don Henley, musicians my professors had introduced me to. At the end of my sophomore year, when I was 19, [Maroon 5 frontman and The Voicecoach] Adam Levine contacted me. That was wild.
I wrote a song with a friend of Adam’s, who sent it to his manager, who sent it to Adam. I got an email from him when I was at a Cinco de Mayo party. He said he didn’t have a label, but he’d create one if I’d be on it. Obviously, I said yes. I was thrilled.
I started going on all these incredible tours opening for Maroon 5. I sang Christina Aguilera’s part in “Moves Like Jagger.” Playing Madison Square Garden with them was one of the most fun experiences of my life. Being able to do what I love and connect with their amazing fans was so meaningful to me.
But at the same time, I was super green. I wasn’t an LA person; I didn’t know people in the business. I went to a bunch of meetings without any representation. To have these very powerful, very successful men telling you what is going to work—and to have no other people in your life that you can analyze that with—was hard. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know when I was in those meetings.
I have so much gratitude for Adam; I respect him deeply and I learned so much from him. I would have never missed out on the opportunity to sign with his record label. If I could go back and do it differently, I wouldn’t.
But those circumstances didn’t necessarily lead me to be the most authentic artist that I could be. I didn’t always advocate for myself as a songwriter. It was hard for me to make creative decisions, as I didn’t know myself yet.
In 2016, I got dropped from the label. There’s always been a voice in the back of my head that says, “You are a nuanced artist and you have something to say that you haven’t said yet.” I needed to be truly blindsided and devastated to fully listen to that voice.
My manager, Ben Singer, has a superpower where he can immediately understand who someone is and what they need to be the best version of themselves. We met after I got dropped from the label and he told me, “I’m never going to need to tell you to work harder. I’m going to tell you to live your life.” I really needed to hear that. I’d always been a work horse, but I wasn’t having enough adventures and experiences.
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I allowed myself to live more fully after we had that conversation. I fell in love and got my heart broken for the first time. There’s so much feeling in my new songs. Most are live takes from the day I wrote them.
Of course, if I had my way all along, I would have had massive hits when I was 19 and I’d be on a world tour right now. But the thought of not writing the songs I’ve written in the past year hurts my heart. This new music is the music I’ve always had deep inside of me.
The advice I’d give my younger self is to be okay with change, to be okay with evolving, and to be okay with discomfort. Let things happen and let yourself feel them. They’re leading you somewhere.
So if you’re struggling, don’t despair; just keep moving forward. You’re on the path, even when it’s scary, even when you don’t know it.
Rozzi was the first artist signed to Adam Levine’s label back in 2012. During her time there, Rozzi was able to hone in on her live performance, opening up for Maroon 5 (at Madison Square Garden), Kelly Clarkson, Gavin Degraw and Owl City. In 2016, she parted ways with Levine’s label. Her new single “Never Over You” was released in February via Small Giant/Columbia Records; earlier this month, she performed live on Jimmy Kimmel. Rozzi’s full-length album will be out later this year.