Many people who are not very educated in the music industry assume that overnight successes are common and that talent is all you need to survive, but they are so mistaken. I always knew this was not the way it works, but it became more of a reality when I didn’t get millions of streams on my first single. I’ve learned that trial and error is the only way to find what works for yourself individually and there is no clear-cut way of achieving success overnight. Perseverance is key and with the right mindset, I believe anyone can get to where they want to go.
Ihad the pleasure of interviewing Neena Rose. Between her breakout single — 2018’s “Games” — its successors, “Circles” and “Rewind”, Mannequinn and this year’s forthcoming EP 333, Canadian singer/songwriter and pop-R&B artist Neena Rose has emerged onto the music scene with a magnetism not encountered every day.
The 18-year old Hamilton, Ontario-based artist has received extensive early support from media and playlisters, and was a recent panelist at the California Copyright Conference, making her the youngest female Canadian to speak thus far. In November of 2019 she was 1 of only 6 Canadians nominated for a Hollywood Music and Media Awards, in Los Angeles , California.
Her debut single — “Rock N Roll Lullaby” — was recorded at age 12 with Diamond/Platinum producer/songwriter Roy “Royalty” Hamilton III (Britney Spears, Nas), and the five years since has included performing for audience sizes up to 14,000 (including Oprah Winfrey), and singing CHCH legacy program Tiny Talent Time’s new theme song.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you so much for reaching out! I grew up in a really great family with two brothers who both loved music. My younger brother tried to play drums, but he was more of the family athlete. My older brother and I, however, were always in lessons and were even in a rock band together for 3 years. We basically grew up in a music studio and were always taking musical lessons of some sort. My mom even started working at this studio because of how much time we spent there! A day in the life of 12-year-old Neena was waking up, going to school, going straight to the studio, then eating something/ finishing homework in between lessons and then finally getting home at 10pm. On top of all this, I was very focused on school and maintained 90+ averages in all my classes, but always had the dream of moving out to LA to pursue music full time! Overall, I was always a really busy kid, but it taught me how to prioritize and built a really strong work ethic.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I actually have a very specific moment in my life that brought me to where I am today, and although I was so young, somehow I vividly remember the day. I was at an anniversary party at a restaurant when I was 3 years old. There was a pianist there and my older brother and I were so intrigued, we couldn’t help but gravitate towards her to watch and listen. We sat with her and she offered to let my brother play a song on the piano, then asked me if I’d like to sing in the mic. I ended up singing Twinkle Twinkle for the whole restaurant and at that moment, my parents decided to put me into lessons. The rest is history. I guess when a 3-year-old willingly grabs a mic and holds a tune longer than 5 seconds, it means something, and I knew in the moment that I wanted to keep doing it. I even remember the first time I “wrote a song” when I was 6. We had family over and I told them I wanted to perform a song I wrote for them, so I stood up and started free-styling a whole 2 minute song called Sunflowers, AND IT WASN’T HALF BAD!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It’s hard to pick just one, but I think one of the most impressive stories I have is singing for Oprah Winfrey when she came to Hamilton for a show. The promoters heard about me and requested I open the show with the anthems. Keep in mind, I was only 13, but I ended up singing for 14,000 people and meeting Oprah herself. I even received a personally signed letter from Oprah expressing her gratitude for my performance. So, that was definitely a highlight for me thus far! The past couple years, though, have been filled with amazing experiences like being nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media Award and being one of the six Canadian HMMA nominees to be acknowledged and congratulated by the Ontario provincial government in the legislative assembly. I absolutely can’t wait for what’s to come!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I think the funniest mistake I made when first starting out, happened when I was singing the national anthem for a conference, where the premier of Ontario was present. I was around 13 years old and for some reason, my anxiety was through the roof. Before I went up to sing, I started to think about the possibility of me forgetting the words on stage, which OF COURSE resulted in me forgetting the words. I stressed myself out so much that I got on stage and forgot about two lines and had to pretend the mic slightly cut out. I was so so embarrassed, especially because I made myself forget the lyrics by putting it into my own head. Ever since that day, I’ve learned that confidence is EVERYTHING and no one is perfect. Now before I perform, I use positive affirmations, rather than stressing myself out about what could go wrong and it has made a huge impact on my nerves before I perform.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Although 2020 has been such a crazy year, it has been such a monumental time for my music and I’m so excited to announce everything that is happening. In March, I signed a label deal with The Orchard/ Sony, which means that all of my upcoming music will be released through Sony! I began working with amazing producers from around the world, and released a remix of my most recent single, Secret, which is climbing the billboards in Denmark. With my brand growing and gaining more exposure, many producers from around the world have begun to contact me for collaborations which has been so amazing! I’m so overwhelmed by the interest from producers around the world and I am so grateful for the relationships that I’ve made and for the team that we are building around me!
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I believe that diversity in the media allows everyone in the world to relate to public figures and feel represented through their individual cultures and beliefs, which lets them feel that they are a part of something great. Having a role model that one can relate to on a certain level, also results in a more engaged and receptive audience.
Diversity also allows for an amalgamation of different experiences that we can use to understand other cultures that we may not already be familiarized with, making us better, more engaged, global citizens.
Representation of all cultures also allows consumers to reflect on their own lives because it opens up their minds to different experiences that they may not see in their day-to-day lives and make changes according to how things make them feel. Certain things may inspire someone to appreciate what they have, or recognize an ignorance within themselves and make a change for the better.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I think I’ve been well equipped for this career from a young age, but there are things I was told that I wish I understood earlier instead of having to learn the hard way.
- Throughout my life, I’ve been told to just be myself and I always thought that I understood what that meant, but deep down I knew that I was just trying to replicate things I’ve seen other people do. It took a couple undesirable photo shoots for me to realize that I was not staying true to myself when I looked at the pictures and really didn’t recognize or resonate with the girl I saw. After doing some soul searching, I’ve realized who I am and what Neena Rose as a person, and brand, really encompasses.
- Another thing that so many people told me daily was to stay consistent in everything that I do. I usually brushed it off, but I soon realized that they were right. Whether we are talking about social media presence, or how many songs I write in a week, consistency truly has been a missing key and I’ve noticed a huge shift since I realized that for myself.
- Many people who are not very educated in the music industry assume that overnight successes are common and that talent is all you need to survive, but they are so mistaken. I always knew this was not the way it works, but it became more of a reality when I didn’t get millions of streams on my first single. I’ve learned that trial and error is the only way to find what works for yourself individually and there is no clear-cut way of achieving success overnight. Perseverance is key and with the right mindset, I believe anyone can get to where they want to go.
- Something else I’ve learned is to take risks and be open to trying new things. Being unique is the only way that you will have a shot in todays market because its all been done before. You should never strive to be the “next” someone, just strive to be the most interesting vision of yourself and you will notice a difference right away.
- I think the biggest thing I was told, but adapted as a life skill is not to be afraid to communicate my opinions. Music industry or not, knowing how to clearly communicate your vision to others is crucial to getting the results you want. Maybe it’s the Canadian in me, but in the past I was nervous to speak up because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but with age I’ve realized that when you are working on a timeline and budget, you have to learn to be clear and open with what you want to see done. Understanding these things has made such a positive change in both my music and life in general and I hope someone reading this can take at least one thing away from my experiences and do something great.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Personally, I think that burning out is the result of overworking yourself without reward. My best advice is to choose a career path that you enjoy, so that it doesn’t FEEL like work, but obviously every career has those boring, or annoying things that you are obligated to do. To get those tasks done, I motivate myself with rewards. Ever since I was younger, I would always give myself something to look forward to right after I finished all my work for the day. The reward adapted as I grew up, but it has proven to be super effective for me in all stages of my life. Back then, I would motivate myself with special treats and candy, but these days I slot time to be away from work and party or have some downtime with friends. Although being an artist is a 24/7 job, I designate a couple hours per week to spend with my friends to destress and charge up.
Being a very sociable person, with unbelievable amounts of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I am so motivated by the fact that once I get my work done, I’ll be able to let loose and be able to come back to it with a fresh perspective, which ultimately improves the quality of my work because I allow myself to be removed from it and feel like I’m seeing things for the first time. Also, I think that knowing perfection is impossible, allows you to get things done without teeter-tottering on the fact that it may not be good enough. Realize that nothing is perfect and all you can do is try your hardest; the rest is up to the universe.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, I would want everyone to feel empowered to do what they have always wanted to do and feel fulfilled in everything they do. I think with social media being so powerful, teens especially have been influenced both negatively and positively. We’ve seen the power of TikTok in the past and mainly my generation coming together to create change. I know I’ve felt afraid to do things in the past out of fear that I’d be judged and I think the world would be so much more interesting and positive if everyone just pursued what they wanted to, and felt satisfied with their lives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
YES!! I have an amazing team around me and I am so thankful for every single person in my life. First and foremost, I am so grateful for my parents who are so supportive of my career choice and encourage me to chase my dreams every single day. They go out of their way to make sure I have everything I need and I will never be able to express the amount of love and gratitude I have for them. I am also so so thankful for my amazing manager, Tina Cole, A.K.A Mama Swag, for guiding me through my journey from the beginning of it all. When I was 12, Tina ran a summer-long program that taught young emerging artists about the music industry and what it really takes to become a successful artist, which I had the opportunity to participate in. When the course was over, we stayed in contact and she became a great source of advice for my family and I while we were navigating the beginning stages of my career. After a couple years of mentoring, I asked her to be my manager and I think that was one of the best decisions I’ve made! Tina has always had my back and has been the catalyst of many big opportunities I’ve been granted, and I can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done for me thus far! ❤
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
A quote I live by is, “Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary” by German actress, Uta Hagen. This quote is on the cover of the book I’ve written all my songs in since 2014 and has really stuck with me through the years. I got the book for Christmas in 2013 and it really resonated with me. I have the book propped up in my home studio as a reminder that in order to achieve what I want to achieve in life, I need to get out of my own head and do the unexpected, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same! 🙂
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
If I could have lunch with anyone in the world, it would be Drake. I think Drake’s voice is literally flawless and his songs have truly gotten me through every stage of my life, but other than the fact that he’s an amazing artist and songwriter, he has really opened the door of opportunity for Canadian artists to break internationally. I would love to thank Drake for bringing the world’s attention to talent from Toronto and paving the way for Canadian artists like myself. Also, I think I bring up Drake in every interview I do and I sound obsessed but I just respect him and his music so much lol.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can check me out on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok! My username on all platforms is @neenarosemusic. DM me and let me know you saw this interview so I can follow you back! Also, everything to keep up to date with me is posted on my website which is www.neenarosemusic.com! Thank you so much for this opportunity!