Carly Rose came to widespread attention at age 13 when she appeared on the X Factor USA and blew everyone away with her stunning vocal talents. In the decade that’s passed since, she’s embraced both the professional and personal sides of her life, blending both to create honest and relatable songs for her growing army of fans worldwide.
To mark the ten-year-anniversary of her most memorable performance on the hit show, she’s released a new version of Karmin’s “Brokenhearted”, and XS Noize caught up with her to let her reflect on the impact that song has had for and on her and to find out what lies ahead.
How would you say you’re unique as an artist? What makes you stand out?
Permission to toot my own horn? Okay, here I go. I think my writing style and sonic vision is a really interesting blend of primarily indie rock influences that, when paired with a voice that happens to be classically trained, can come together to be something preDy unique. Also, throw in the fact that I was put in endless pop writing sessions post-X-Factor at 14 years old and have been doing that for nine years now. I have pop-centred tendencies that help reel in my sometimes outlandish influences to make stuff that I hope is relatable and palatable yet hard to define at the same time. I also just love music more than anything in life, so I hope that comes through too.
Has music always been your goal/ambition for you, or did you have other ambitions before deciding to go into music?
I would say I am one of those people who never wanted to do anything else. There are home videos of me as a very young child pretending to be different contestants on American Idol, so you could say I really manifested the path my life would take! I started taking singing lessons at five and was in my first Broadway show at 7. This world felt like part of me from a very young age and naturally became the only path I felt worth pursuing.
You came to considerable attention by appearing on X-Factor 10 years ago, wowing audiences and music fans alike with your cover of Karmin’s “Brokenhearted.” What do you think it was about that performance that captivated so many so much?
I think a lot of things came together to make that performance something special. The song’s arrangement is breathtaking, especially because it is so incredibly different from the original. There is always something captivating about stripping a song down to its most in1mate, bare form. The arrangement of the song made it easy for me to lean into the raw emo1ons. How can you not get to that place when you hear that piano? The setting where we filmed the judge’s houses portion of the show was also so stunning. It was the perfect storm.
Many bands and artists are riding the ‘nostalgia train’ lately, reflecting on their artist journeys, career highlights, etc. You’re somewhat doing the same and have just released a new, grown-up interpretation of your hit cover. Why did you decide that now was the right time to do such, and does the song still hold as much meaning to you as it did back then, or even more?
In my mind, now was the only time that made sense to do it since it is the 10th anniversary. That felt like such a huge and unbelievable milestone worth honouring. I never wanted to rely on my X Factor success to keep people engaged with me. I want the music I am making today and the person I am today to be what draws people in. But with the 10-year mark, I felt comfortable dipping back into that time and nostalgia since it is how I was brought to many of my fans’ attention. I want it to be an ode to that time and also the bow that I tie on that period of my life while I welcome people along the ride for my current journey as an artist.
What do you hope those who hear it take from this new version? How exactly is it different?
I hope that people get hit with a sense of warm nostalgia at first. Past that part, it is an extremely emotional song, especially stripped down like this, so I hope it allows people to tap into any unresolved emotions they may be feeling in their relationships. Well, it is definitely different singing this song as a 23-year-old rather than a 13-year-old. I think the emotions the lyrics convey come off more authentically as I am now an adult who has experienced what the song is referring to. Sonically, we just tried to expand on the original version of the cover. I wanted to experiment with the vocal production and create an ethereal soundscape which I think we really did accomplish. I wanted to try to transport the listener while still maintaining the magic of the original.
After X-Factor, you seemed to shy away from the fame and attention that could have come your way and opted to return to a rather normal way of life by attending college and finding your own way into the music business. Do you have any regrets over that, or do you think maintaining that normality is what so many fans like/love about you – that you’re grounded and ‘normal’?
I think wondering ‘what if’ is a very natural part of the human experience. I would be lying if I said I never look back and wonder what would be different for me right now had I chosen to jump into the machine directly after my time on X Factor. However, I would not trade in the long-lasting relationships I got to cultivate with the people I grew up with and the experiences I had in that formative time in my life for the world. A big part of why I decided to return to my hometown and school was so that I could experience things that inspired my writing and shaped who I would be as an artist. At 13, I had been working professionally in the industry for most of my life at that point and felt I needed to balance out my childhood with normalcy to have anything aside from my career to write about.
Over the years, you’ve earned yourself an impressive following on several social media platforms, most recently on TikTok. Do you ever feel any pressure because of the following you have, like you have to live up to certain people’s expectations of you, or do you think: These are my platforms; if people don’t like what I have to share, they don’t have to pay attention.?
That is a very interesting question. I have always found social media to be one of my weakest points. I struggle to get my personality – like the ones my friends and family encounter daily – across on social media. Some people are just really good at it, and you look at their Instagram or their TikTok, and you feel like you know them and understand the kind of person they are. I don’t feel that way about my own social platforms, but it is something that I am actively trying to work on.
TikTok has definitely made it easier for me to experiment with letting more of my personality shine through in my content. However, on there when I sing, I have to deal with being constantly compared to how I sang as a 13-year-old. Some people don’t seem to like that I do not sound exactly like I did ten years ago, but I mean, voices change, and people grow. I think it’s funny like no one, even in their speaking voice, sounds the same at 13 as they do at 23. So how could I be expected to sound the same in my singing voice? Voices mature and grow with us, and I love that about having my voice be my instrument.
Do you have any live dates coming up? What’s a Carly Rose show like for those who have never attended one before?
I just started to play acoustic sets in LA as I start to put out more music and figure out my live set. A Carly Rose show so far, however, has lots of awkward/self-deprecating banter from me mixed with some music I absolutely love to perform. I am even more excited to perform the upcoming music I have because playing these songs with a full band is going to be crazy. I love when I write a song and immediately feel ecstatic thinking about what it will feel like to play it live. I have been feeling that way in the studio a lot lately, which is super exciting.
Finally, how are the last few months of the year shaping up for you, and what can you tease about what 2023 has in store?
I have been so humbled and flattered by the response to Brokenhearted, and it has made me even more excited to show everyone what is next. I feel like every artist says this a bunch of times throughout their career, but I genuinely believe my best music is yet to be released, and lately, I have been making stuff that reminds me why I wanted to do this in the first place. I have my trusted core group of collaborators who know my vision so well at this point, which is a huge blessing. I just got a song back the other day while on my trip in NYC, and I literally blasted it in my hotel room and ran around the room with the biggest smile on my face…grateful that I get to do this, and so unbelievably excited for everyone to hear these new parts of me. Blasting in their respective headphones and, soon enough, live in concert.