Music Video:  “Staying Alive Ain’t Easy

Philly-based Indie-Rock Band Cold Roses Releases New Video “Staying Alive Ain’t Easy”

Cold Roses captures the essence of the Philly-soul sound in their new album Escape to Anywhere released on Los Angeles indie-label Recorded Records. “Staying Alive Ain’t Easy” is the first single—and the infectious chorus jumps out and grabs the listener, especially with the amazing horns.

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

“I don’t see any contradiction between playing a loud rock ’n’ roll song or a quiet acoustic ballad, if it’s all coming from a place that’s real and honest,” says Cold Roses’ singer-guitarist-songwriter Rob Clancy. “I love 60s R&B and soul, so I looked to that stuff and thought, what would happen if we bring in a horn section?”

The band recorded the new album at Los Angeles’ Cactus studio with veteran producers David J. Holman (who also engineered) and Roger Paglia. It marks the first release for indie label Recorded Records.

We talked with Cold Roses’ Rob Clancy about their unique sound, the collaborative effort and the organic creative inspiration that paved the way for their new album Escape to Anywhere.

COLD ROSES’ ROB CLANCY Web-Exclusive Interview

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher, Merlin David

How did the idea of “Staying Alive Ain’t Easy” come to you?
Both the song and video came about pretty organically. I was in my apartment during a snowstorm, picked up my guitar, and the lyrics and music just seemed to flow out all at once. It was just one of those moments where it felt like the ideas were being sent down from space or something. I had the whole thing written in about an hour.

Tell us about the inspiration for the video.
For the video I knew we couldn’t do something that was too theatrical or dramatic because the song is essentially about just living life. We were kicking a few ideas around with our director, Luke Paglia, but nothing was sticking. He already had a ton of footage of us on the road, in the studio and playing live shows, but we knew we needed something to fill in the blanks. He flew to Philly from Los Angeles when we were all back home and since he already had his camera, I suggested he follow the band around the city letting the camera roll the whole time. By that point it was starting to become obvious that the video needed to be a simple “day in the life” type of concept, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I think the video is a good introduction to who we are as a band—by showing the city we live in, being on the road, working—all the fun stuff.

Photo credit: Luke Paglia

Photo credit: Luke Paglia

How did the new album Escape to Anywhere evolve?
It was a whole new experience from everything we had done up to that point. Like most rock ’n’ roll bands today, all of our previous releases were independently recorded and funded. With Escape to Anywhere, we had just signed to our LA-based label Recorded Records and had the pleasure of working with David Holman and Roger Paglia, who helped produce and engineer the record. It was all very exciting, especially being able to work in Los Angeles.

Tell us how the songs came together.
I had new songs that I would show the band in the hotel room before we went to the studio, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to sit and deliberate everyone’s parts. I wanted to keep a level of spontaneity and energy in the songs—“here’s the structure, now go.” (Laughs) We tracked all the rhythm tracks live, no click track, because we wanted the songs to have a natural feel and groove. It was a real collaborative experience between the band and producers. They took what we were doing—and kicked it into overdrive and refined some of the edges. We experimented with sounds—Mellotron, harmonium, etc. It was fun. There was no “we’re going to do this my way” kind of thing. It was just going with what the best idea was for the song.

How has Philadelphia influenced your music—your sound?
Being in Philly forced us to work hard. It’s a town where you know right away whether or not the audience is into your sound. We’ve played to such a wide variety of audiences and we had to find ways to connect with each of them. Philly is also not far from the New York and Jersey shore scenes, and I think you can find traces of that in the music here. There is such a rich heritage of jazz, soul, gospel, opera and a rapidly evolving hip-hop, punk and rock ’n’ roll scene in Philly. The idea to add horns in the band was partly inspired by the Philly-soul sound, and using strings in “Staying Alive Ain’t Easy” reminds me of Gamble & Huff and Philadelphia International Records.

Who inspired you to write songs?
The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is the reason I’m a musician. I was 12 when I first heard it, and I remember feeling like I had just been struck by lighting. It was like having your life flash before your eyes, and I decided then and there that I couldn’t do anything else with my life but play music. It was a very vivid “aha” moment. Pandora’s box had been opened. (Laughs)

Cold Roses-6 - Escape to Anywhere coverWhat made you want to write songs?
I started out playing drums, then picked up guitar, and eventually started singing. I think that each progression was a very gradual attempt at becoming a full-on singer-songwriter. As a drummer I remember thinking “everybody plays guitar,” but it became increasingly difficult to compose songs behind cylindrical pieces of wood. I was writing poems, short stories and lyrics with no musical accompaniment, so I started teaching myself guitar. I immediately became obsessed with it, practicing 7 to 8 hours a day. I started playing in a couple of bands around Philly and became more interested and invested in songwriting and the songwriting process. Most of the time, I’d been writing songs for other people to sing, but it got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying it or making the music I wanted to make. I left the band I had been in for years, started writing and singing my own songs—and didn’t look back.

What is your creative process for writing songs?
There really isn’t a process because every song comes differently. Most of the time I’ll just sit with a guitar or piano and mess around until I stumble upon something that sounds good, then develop and expand upon it. But there’s no rhyme or reason as to whether the music is written first or the lyrics. I usually record a demo of it, get the band together, and we bash it out. The interesting part is seeing what the other guys in the band do, and how they interpret the songs. There have been times where someone will play a particular rhythm or melody that I didn’t think of, and the song will be that much better.

Tell us when something unique inspired you to write a song.
A lot of personal favorite songs were ones that almost weren’t songs. One in particular was “No Silence in the City.” We wrapped up a rehearsal and I had an idea for the verse and chorus, but didn’t know what to do for the middle eight. I remember saying “I have this idea for a song, but I think I’m just going to scrap it.” My drummer and bass player immediately replied “No!”. I went home that night to finish the song—and it’s still one of my favorite songs.

Photo credit: Luke Paglia

Photo credit: Luke Paglia

What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
Get your ideas down while they’re still fresh in your mind. The two things I probably use the most are my notebooks and the recorder on my phone. Some ideas get used right away—others may sit for a while. Others may not become songs at all. You start to create a “mental junkyard” of ideas and pick and choose the things you like.

What instrument/equipment can you not live without?
My electric Epiphone Casino guitar has been my trusted companion on stage and in the studio for almost as long as Cold Roses have been a band. I was always fascinated by that guitar and I bought it a few months after the band started. We’ve been through the mill together and it has become my “Lucille.” (Laughs) It has a sound and feel that works for me. I also have a custom-built Telecaster that I have been using for the live shows. A luthier friend of mine asked if I had any ideas for a custom-build, to which of course I had plenty, and together we forged a unique, one-of-a-kind Excalibur with an incredible sound.

What about your amp?
I picked up a Supro Black Magick amplifier when I was in Hollywood last year, and have been absolutely in love with it ever since. It’s an instrument in and of itself, and has been a game-changer to my overall sound. We were in a music store and there were Supro amps on the floor, but no Black Magick. My manager suggested we go checkout the back room, which I reluctantly agreed to. Right as we walked in, there it was—sitting in the corner, like it had been waiting there for me. (Laughs) I got it right there and used it for our performances at the Whisky a Go Go.

Photo credit: Luke Paglia

Photo credit: Luke Paglia

What about mics?
I can’t live without is my Telefunken M80 microphone. It is the greatest sounding microphone I have ever used, and I use it both on stage and when I’m recording at home. I usually hate the sound of my own voice unless I’m singing through a Telefunken.

What about accessories?
I have been an Ernie Ball disciple for years. That’s been my go to. I love the way they feel, sound and play. The other thing I use a lot is Catalinbread guitar effects. They’re out of Portland, OR. They make fabulous effects. I have their reverb, delay and one of their foundation overdrive pedals. The cool thing about them is that you almost treat them like an amp. You run your effects into that box—as you would an amp. And so my reverb is on 100% of the time. My delay is on 90% of the time. And the other thing I have is from a little company out Minnesota called Ramble FX. They made an incredible clone of the MKII Twin Bender fuzz pedals—which is the holy grail—germanium transistors, Jeff Beck vintage sound. We can talk gear all day. (Laughs) I played a 1964 Vox AC30 in the studio, and I used it—until I found the Surpo—it’s my baby.

What PRO are you with?
I’ve been with BMI for a couple years. I think it’s good for songwriters/artists to join collective organizations that have the artist’s best interests in mind—to help protect their creative properties and interests.
Do you remember the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?

The first major radio station that played us was 93.3 WMMR in Philadelphia. They’re one of the city’s longest-running stations and they featured us as their “Local Artist of the Month” a couple of years ago. I was in my apartment when they played one of our songs, and I started jumping up and down like a kid on Christmas day. It was surreal.

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

Top 5 Musicians who inspired you to become a musician? 
John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Jimmy Page, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash. There are hundreds more who have had a major impact on me, but these are sort of the “Founding Fathers.”

What are your Top 5 favorite albums of all time?
Rubber Soul (1965) – The Beatles
Led Zeppelin I (1969) – Led Zeppelin
Born to Run (1975) – Bruce Springsteen
Fear Fun (2012) – Father John Misty
Plastic Ono Band (1970) – John Lennon

Tell us about a “pinch me” moment—a time you recorded or played live on stage with someone you admired.
A few years ago we opened a show that featured Rival Sons, Stone Temple Pilots and Slash in a 25,000-seat arena. It was our first-time ever playing a show of that magnitude—to a crowd that large. What I think shocked us all was how many people were into it. At that point, I really had to pinch myself. Appetite for Destruction was my soundtrack when I was 18. I was a huge Slash fan as well as STP, and Rival Sons have become one of my favorite groups. So between the performance and meeting those bands, it was like a dream. I knew I had to play it cool, but in my head I was all “aaahhh!”—trying not to fan-boy too much. (Laughs)

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

Best advice someone has given you?
Advice that still resonates with me was given by my good friend’s dad. He had been a musician in his younger days, had a family and did the corporate thing, realized he hated that lifestyle and focused all his attention back to music—to become one of the “go-to” drummers in the Asbury Park scene. I really respected that. He said, “Surround yourself with people and players who are either at your level or above you. Otherwise, you’ll never grow and develop.” That really stuck with me, especially when starting Cold Roses. I wanted to play with great players, make great music—and have no limitations.

Any advice for songwriters?
To songwriters, stay true to yourself, be honest and be vigilant. You may become enticed to change things—about who you are and your music, but if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Your main focus should always be—making the greatest possible piece of art you can, and to keep your sights set on accomplishing that.

Best advice you’d like to give upcoming musicians?
Because of the “instant gratification” world we live in, and the American Idol mentality, a lot of new musicians get frustrated when they record a demo, play one local show, or upload a song/video to YouTube—and aren’t famous the next day. It just doesn’t work like that. A lot of the YouTube sensations or quick success stories are often short-lived because they aren’t equipped to handle the demands of their own success. That kind of preparation takes hard work, dedication to your craft, perseverance and most of all—patience. If you don’t enjoy the creative process and are only concerned with the end results, you might as well quit now.

What’s next?
We just released our record Escape to Anywhere featuring our single “Staying Alive Ain’t Easy,” so we will be playing in a town near you very soon. We’re all very excited to get out on the road and be able to share this record—with everyone.

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

Photo credit: Gene Smirnov

Cold Roses is:
Rob Clancy – lead vocals, guitars
Robby Webb – drums
Tom Petraccarro – saxophone
Rick Rein – trumpet
Dan Finn – keyboards

Where can your new fans get more info and stay updated?

Cold Roses  live

Cold Roses live

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