In 2012, Carly Rose wowed fans as the runner up on The X-Factor when she came in second to Tate Stevens. Shortly after the show, she emerged with an original song titled “Unforgettable,” which she followed up with “Fighters.” In 2014, she performed a few more times but stepping full speed into the music industry spotlight wasn’t exactly what the then 13-year-old had in mind for herself at that time – at least not the way that things were headed. Six years later, after taking a break to polish her sound, the artist, whom Simon Cowell once awarded “4,833 yeses” to, is gearing up to release her debut EP.
“For me, it was exactly what I needed to do,” says Rose, of her decision to put her music career on pause. “And I look back on it was very no regrets.” She tells American Songwriter that back then, she felt extremely young to be thrown into the world of entertainment, especially when tossed into collaborating with well-known writers and producers. “I didn’t barely know how to speak up for myself in sessions or feel like I really should talk about what I actually wanted to do,” Rose admits. She often felt people were projecting what they thought she should do on her versus listening to her views. “As a 13-year-old girl who can sing, it was just this kind of direction that was pretty predictable in my opinion,” she proclaims.
But those early sessions did get things started for the now 21-year-old star, who looks back at the talent she was in the room with and can now appreciate the influence that they had on her career. “I was really honing my craft all these years of being in so many sessions, and I didn’t even realize it until I was probably like 15 or 16,” she reveals.
The break from the business, during which Rose accepted a few acting roles, including portraying Gilda Flip on The Electric Company, gave her space to dabble in writing on her own. “I was really able to think about the music that I listened to and the style that really excites me and come to terms with the fact that I can try to apply that to my own music,” she explains.
On July 8th, Rose released a single off the forthcoming EP titled “twentyone.” The song touches on the perils of being in the spotlight as a teen and pays tribute to artists lost far too young, such as Juice WRLD and Lil Peep, both of whom she idolized.
“I was 20 when I wrote the song and I related really deeply to them in the sense of they both died at 21. I was about to be that age, and we were on the same career path and had similar dreams and aspirations,” Rose explains. “I felt this strong need to write something to get my feelings out and to try to, in any way that I could, help people deal with that.”
The biggest thing she’d like fans to take away from the track is the ability to look past the desensitization surrounding artists dying young. Whether it’s a Mac Miller or a Juice WRLD or Lil Peep, it’s kind of become the thing where we take a couple days and there’s some Instagram stories.
“We acknowledge it, maybe for just the fact that we should and that is the socially exceptional thing to do. But then life moves on,” she says.
Her hope is for people not to judge these artists for the way that they went out, in the case of Lil Peep and Juice WRLD via a drug overdose, but to remember their achievements and to honor their body of work long after their passing.
Rose’s upcoming EP tackles other important themes, such as substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, and the dark side of the spotlight. “It’s definitely heavier,” she say. But the songs, says Rose, are still fun to consume. “When you hear those topics, you might expect a certain kind of song that’s going to be darker and somber but what I’m really excited about with this EP is that I like to juxtapose those heavier topics with a sound that’s a bit more accessible, a bit more easy to listen to,” she says. Her latest music is inspired by experiences she’s helped loved ones through, which have given her a new perspective on varying aspects of life.
Following the EP release, which is slated for the fall, Rose says music is her number one priority.
“I’m definitely at the point in my life where I’m very ready to go for it. And really take the big steps,” she proclaims, noting that she has a great team behind her, something she was lacking during her X Factor days. And though she loved her time on the show and values the lessons learned, Rose is excited to be able to have less eyes constantly on her. “I have room to be free and do what I want to do. And that’s a really exciting thing,” she says.
The alt/pop performer has a core fan base that was there since X Factor, which she is extremely grateful for, but her focus beyond that is on bringing in new people that don’t just see her as a 13-year-old girl who competed on the show.
“That’s not who I am anymore,”she explains. “It’s definitely part of my life and no way do I want to ignore that or avoid it, but my goal is to have a long career not based on that.”