Rosehardt on His Debut Album, Male Body Positivity and Gaining Confidence
Rising New York City-based R&B singer Rosehardt just released his debut full-length album, Songs in the Key of Solitude. He spoke to TIDAL about the crafting of his first record, an innate desire to communicate a range of feelings in one package, and his joy in expressing male body positivity.
What does it mean to you to have this first full-length album under your own moniker out in the world now?
It grew legs very fast. I put out one solo project during my senior year of college. I made another solo project in conjunction with Quincy Vidal, this group I was and am still in. We did a double album, so one side was just me as a little project. As I worked on this, I saw some themes growing out of the music. I was in a bit more of a charged environment; I had been in a relationship for three years, so it was my first time alone in a while. I had what I wanted to say and wanted to get it out. I thought I’d just drop it and let it exist on its own. I thought it’d be something that would work its way through my peers and my circle.
When my manager, Gabriel, came into the equation and said he wanted to manage me, it kind of took off from there. After that, I was able to hone in and whittle away at the album.
Where does the cover of your album factor into wanting to create a cohesive work?
A lot of that was Gabe’s idea. My initial thoughts were that I wanted the cover of the album to be a painting of me completely naked. Full frontal, no shame, in space. The album is done in the name of solitude. I’ve always been obsessed with the cosmos, especially at this point. I wanted it to be fully me, no piercings, no nothing, in the most empty place imaginable. Gabe was like, ‘That’s cool, but let’s dress it up a little.’
I really wanted to work with Ntangou Badila, who did the body paint. I was really steadfast on working with her. I wanted Liz Pavlovic, a graphic designer, to collaborate with Ntangou. Gabe ended up printing out some references and I wanted to work with this photographer, Maciek Jasik. We went to Styles Upon Styles, Ntangou did the body painting and we made the album cover. The colors come from thoughts Gabe had.
Do you have any synesthetic qualities that come from that cover?
A lot of that is Gabe. I definitely can talk about music in colors, but I don’t know how much actual synesthesia I have. I know people who have true synesthesia, I can describe it in certain ways. I just make whatever I think sounds good and they can be influenced by anything I listened in the last year or month.
I can never really describe my sound. ‘Come Away Death’ and ‘Bad Song’ exist in two different worlds. At some point, I was really influenced by Steve Lacy and then really influenced by Iron & Wine. It’s based on a lot of factors, in turn, that make my music very broad.
Is there anything about Rosehardt being a portmanteau of family names that influences your feelings about the project?
The name is really from my brothers. My mother had a kid from another marriage; his last name is Rose. My father had a kid from another marriage; his last name is Eberhardt, which is my last name. When they got married, my mother kept Rose as a professional name. She’s a dance professor and her first email used Rosehardt. It’s been around for 20 years and that felt perfect. My two brothers and my mother are my foundation. Those three people that are my rock, the most supportive people in my life.
How do you channel your own feelings about mental health into your music?
I think it was my upbringing and training as an actor. We learned, at the beginning of every year, how to fall on your face, let go of yourself, and free yourself of as much inhibition as possible. They always encouraged doing first and worrying about the feeling after. The way that it translates to my music by encouraging to create purely first, because the music is just me. It allows me to be very exact about what I am going through.
Creating this album also occurred during one of the hardest times of my life and I’m still navigating that. There’s only so much I can do with my music, so I like to create things that epitomize that struggle, but also not being dismissive of it by saying, ‘Yeah, if you want to know how I feel. Listen to this song.’ I can also be upfront about it. Anything I can do to make these mental health conversations normalized. Whenever I mention I’m going to therapy to one of my friends, the whole atmosphere shifts. I just remind myself to focus on truth, truth, truth.
The song ‘Wax’ on the album is the rare, unabashed song that is purely male body positivity. Where does that song arise from?
It’s not celebrated, because when you think of a dude masturbating, you jump to the thought of ‘pervert.’ I think there is this beautiful influx of positivity of sexuality for women, which is beautiful and overdue, and it can be the same thing for men. It was something I was feeling at that time, purely. I think it’s worth something to put it out there for someone else. I wanted to boil it down to that it feels good to care for yourself in that way and it should just be a purely positive experience.
The album can be heard as this very personal record that mirrors the feeling of further understanding yourself and your values. Do you feel as though you’re someone who will continue to work through those kinds of thoughts?
I’ll say, I definitely feel more sure of myself now then I did when I was in a relationship. My pride in this work and how people are reacting to it also impact how I see myself. We’re all insecure, especially the quality of my work in contrast to my peers, and what my capabilities are. I’m still working on what exactly it means to me to be sure of myself.
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