Rosie Roulette shines with originality

Rosie Roulette shines with originality

Image by Tom Shepherd
Words by Tehya Nicholas

An artist making music to break stigmas surrounding mental illness

If you were to imagine a Tim Burton heroine combined with Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls, you might come close to understanding the marvellous vibe that is Rosie Roulette. The New Zealand-born singer-songwriter, cabaret and burlesque performer and self-professed “twisted Disney Princess” is a breath of fresh air in the independent music scene.

Rarely do you see a performer so quintessentially themselves in both life and art. But Roulette has found her niche and dominated it. In 2015 she released her first album ‘Racing the Dark’ which showcased Roulette’s powerful, ethereal vocals and her penchant for Shakespearean references. It set the tone for the gothic, sweeping orchestral sound Roulette continues to work with today.

Classically trained in voice and stagecraft, Roulette has been writing music since the tender age of eleven. Initially, songwriting was a side project while she studied at the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art and later pursued a career in musical theatre. But in recent years she decided to turn her passion into a reality – a move that she once thought was impossible.

“I’m my own worst enemy really, because of my training and classical voice. I always thought my dream of becoming a rockstar was unrealistic or unattainable. But I’m done taking my dreams for granted and I’m ready to start taking myself and my music more seriously,” Roulette explains.

Roulette began working with Bradshaw Music Productions to transform her back catalogue of songs into stream-able tracks. Her lyrics fuse autobiographical details with famous myths and fairy-tales, blurring the lines of fact and fiction — and of light and dark.

As a queer woman living with both mental illness and physical disabilities, Roulette is passionate about capturing the light and shade of her experiences, never shying away from their complexity. Growing up with anxiety and clinical depression, her music has been a way of honouring and celebrating her story.

“Songwriting is how I’ve coped in some of the darkest points of my life, it’s how I’ve dealt with loss, trauma, anger, and any emotion that weighed me down and needed to be let out. I also like to think it’s the ultimate justice against my tormentors and abusers, immortalising them and their misdeeds in song.”

Like the artists she listened to growing up, Roulette hopes her music will connect, heal and inspire her listeners. In particular, she hopes to break stigmas surrounding mental illness. In her music video for ‘Sweet Madness’ from 2017, Roulette uses two characters to visually represent her own experiences.

“I was labelled the ‘weird kid’ and was called ‘crazy’ a lot – eventually I started to believe it. But now I’m doing all I can to reclaim that word, through my music and art. Creating characters like Melancholy and Mania not only to express myself but to show others with mental illness that they’re not alone. It’s important to me to use my art and my platform to break down the walls of misunderstanding surrounding all invisible illnesses, as someone with both mental illness and physical disabilities.”

What makes Roulette so captivating is her playful attitude, despite dealing with weighty themes. During her weekly QuaranTEAni Live Stream sessions – which Roulette films from her home during lockdown – she interacts with fans, often writing and performing songs while drinking tea. It’s a positive virtual escape from the drudgery of COVID-19.

“I wanted something to work towards and look forward to every week. Likewise I wanted to give something to others for them to look forward to and enjoy too. I wanted to be the reason why someone else smiled during this unprecedented time.”

Clearly, the pandemic hasn’t rained on Roulette’s parade one iota. Despite being immunocompromised and having to self-isolate, her new single ‘Desdemona’ hit airwaves earlier this month and it’s nothing short of Evanescence-inspired fire. The track takes its name from Shakespeare’s Othello, whose story of betrayal Roulette personally identified with. She sings of her misplaced loyalty while exploring the fallibilities of her previous queer relationships. It’s rhythmic, dynamic and hauntingly beautiful.

While we may not know yet when her next album drops, Roulette is hoping to release her next EP by late 2021. If that feels like it’s too long to wait, you can find her performing at the Australian Burlesque Festival in October – pandemic providing, of course.

Until then, you can get listening to ‘Desdemona’ on Spotify here or below. You won’t regret it.