Roma Baran is a folk musician and Grammy-nominated music producer who has produced for many artists, including Laurie Anderson and Kate & Anne McGarrigle. She was also nominated for an Oscar for her work as co-producer of a documentary about the music of Bernard Herrman. Baran has produced several of Rosalie's recordings, including the Grammy-nominated "My Last-Go Round." She was one of the musicians accompanying Rosalie during her concert in Hailey, ID, and is producing the CD of the concert. She met Rosalie in New York when she was just a teenager and looking for work as a guitarist.
Q: How did you first meet Rosalie?
A: A long time ago, I hate to say. It was in the sixties. I was in New York and so messed up and David Bromberg was playing with Rosalie at 'The Bitter End' and he had to do another gig so he suggested me to replace him and I went down to meet with Rosalie at 'The Bitter End' to see if she wanted to hire me but I was just so out of it I didn't say a single word. She said, "Well, okay" and we opened up our guitar cases and I played and she said, "That's fine. Just come back tonight." I don't think I ever said a single word that whole gig.
Q: Describe Rosalie's style.
A: The first moment I worked with her I saw in her what I still see and what I think everybody sees. She is so intimate and real and she's exactly the same off stage as she is on. She's very focused and she gets it. Music is complicated and performing is complicated and she really gets it. She really appreciates her musicians and loves the audience.
Q: Can you tell me about her voice quality?
A: It is certainly unique. In two seconds of any Rosalie song there's nobody you would mistake that voice for. Nobody. And there are very few artists you can say that about. Janis Joplin, just very few. To describe it - her voice, it's very emotional, very flexible and fluid and very tuned into the lyrics. The lyrics are extremely important to her.
"She just fought her way through being ill like she's fought her way through a lot of very devastating things that have happened to her in her life. The music I think saved her.
Q: Over the years, have you noticed her voice change in any way?
A: It's gotten better, which is amazing. Usually as you get a little older, the voice gets a little raspier and I think she's just singing better than ever.
Q: You must have been incredibly worried when she was so ill.
A: Oh, yes. Absolutely. She's just such a fighter. I don't know why it would be any different when she was ill. She just fought her way through being ill like she's fought her way through a lot of very devastating things that have happened to her in her life. The music I think saved her.
Q: What has she taught you about life as a friend?
A: Just watching her determination and her courage in an era where - especially women - had to be something in particular. She just went ahead and did what she wanted to do and what was important to her. That was amazing to watch unfold over the years.
Q: Can you categorize Rosalie?
A: I can understand people have to do marketing, but I certainly don't think of her that way. She's Rosalie. She performs, she sings, she talks, she tells stories, poems. The songs are very different. Clearly some of them have more of a country feeling, but no, I don't really think of her fitting into some category.
Q: How do you feel about her storytelling?
A: I never tire of it. You can imagine how many times I've heard some of these stories and they're always different. They're always very tuned in to the mood of the evening, the mood of the audience and I'm also mesmerized by her technique, just watching someone tell a story, that timing is always like to the split second, perfect in her delivery, so I never tire of hearing them.
Q: What was it like to get word about the Grammy nomination?
A: I was just thrilled for Rosalie. Millions of people have heard her and enjoyed her but to the extent that she hasn't had the commercial success, that was an affirmation of her standing in the music community. I'm really happy for her.
Q: What is it like being up on stage with her?
A: It's great fun. She is very interactive. Being up on stage with her is great fun. She's listening to the musicians all the time, making eye contact. She loves to have the interplay. Especially people reacting, answering her vocal lines with her instruments.
Q: Why hasn't Rosalie become more popular?
A: I think it may be because she doesn't fit into some marketing slot and because she certainly hasn't over the years fit into whatever the big thing at the moment is, and she has just continued to do what she does instead of trying to bend into somebody else's idea of how to sell her.
Q: Her legacy?
A: I think her legacy will be her huge body of work and over so many years, and of staying absolutely true to herself and not changing or shifting or reacting, but just really being true to herself and the music.