Photos by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor
By Rya Buckley, Contributor
Hamilton’s trademark multi-arts festival, Supercrawl, has grown to attract artists, entrepreneurs and audiences from across the globe. As a result, a local artist taking the stage of this event has become particularly special. Last weekend, aspiring 17-year-old Hamiltonian R&B singer-songwriter, Neena Rose, performed on all three days of the festival.
Having released a flurry of singles over the last 12 months, Rose has been generating a major buzz on the Canadian music scene. Her singles, including the recent release “(You A) Machine Gun”, are snapshots of her debut EP called 333, which is set to come out later this year.
Rose’s recent buzz has been years in the making. She recorded her first original song, “Rock N Roll Lullaby” at the age of 12. In 2013, Rose performed for Oprah Winfrey and a crowd of 14,000 when the media mogul came to Copps Coliseum (now FirstOntario Centre). While the early success has been rewarding, Rose mentioned that she had fallen in love with music years before she began gaining recognition.
“[T]he first memory I have of singing and realizing I even liked to sing was … at an anniversary party … for one of my aunts when I was maybe four. There was a pianist … and then she’s like ‘Hey, do you want to sing something … I’ll play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and you sing.’ I’m like ‘OK.’ So I got up there and I sang in front of all my extended family and everybody’s like ‘Oh my God, she can actually hold a tune,’” Rose recalled.
A couple years after the discovery of her talent, Rose’s mother put Rose in singing lessons. Rose remembers writing her first song around the age of five or six. She started to consider music as a career when she was 12 years old and attending a youth summer program. It was during this program that Rose recorded her first song. Attracted to both the creative process of songwriting and the ability to make a living by doing what she loved, Rose began to pursue music professionally.
Amidst her budding career, Rose is finishing up high school. She hopes to go to university for business and perhaps also major in music. She continues to immerse herself in both the business and creative sides of the music industry.
Earlier this year, Rose was the youngest Canadian to participate in California Copyright Conference’s “Young Guns – Innovative and Thriving in the New World Music Order” panel. The California Copyright Conference facilitates discussions of copyright-related issues in music and entertainment. Rose was brought in to give her perspective as an up-and-coming artist navigating the industry.
Rose is drawn to the systematic nature of the music business. She understands the importance of being an artist with a coherent brand. Her passion for both the creative and business sides of being a professional singer will likely serve as an asset as she continues her career.
“I love when there’s something I can follow, like a pattern. And so like there’s tricks and stuff as with everything, but I like that you can learn how to actually function in an industry, in a business and make it work and still do the things you love,” said Rose.
For Rose, singing, and especially song writing, is an outlet. She pulls from everyday happenings in her life when she is making music. She hopes to one day be able to write songs for other artists as well.
In all the music that she creates, Rose wants her audiences to feel empowered. From her debut single, “Games”, where she stated that she doesn’t want to be pushed around, to the more recent single, “Mannequin”, where she encourages listeners to be themselves, Rose spreads messages of positivity and self-love through her work.
Performing at Supercrawl last weekend is full circle for this Hamilton native, who attended the festival when she was younger. She has seen the festival grow over the years and is honoured to have been a part of its lineup.
“I’m definitely inspired by people in my own hometown pursuing their dreams … [The Hamilton art scene] is booming. It’s definitely really prevalent. There’s so many things that are happening in Hamilton that people don’t even know about,” Rose said.
And just like her city, Neena Rose is blooming too.