Prog and psychedelic rock star Rosalie Cunningham unleashes long-awaited debut album and tour

Rosalie Cunningham is at The Railway in Winchester on August 2, 2019.
Rosalie Cunningham is at The Railway in Winchester on August 2, 2019.
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For the fans of Rosalie Cunningham her debut album has been a long time coming. Unfortunately, circumstances have meant they have had to wait even longer than she intended.

In spring 2017, Rosalie called time on Purson, the psychedelic, prog-rock group she founded, after two well-received albums. 

To many it looked like odd timing as things appeared to be going well for the band.

‘From the outside, yeah, things were going really well,’ she explains, ‘and in a lot of ways they were. But it was my intention to, I don’t want to call it “go solo”, as Purson was, in a lot of ways a solo project in the studio. We were very much a band live, but in the studio it was always my project, and I kind of wanted to call it by my name eventually.

‘I wasn’t in the right place to do that when I started the band, I didn’t really have the confidence to do it in my name, and I wanted that whole band experience. So I did that knowing I would eventually do that, but there was never really a good time.

‘There were probably better times to do it when we were in a lull, and from the outside it probably looked like I pulled the plug when we were finally starting to make some waves, but it wasn’t quite like that for us.

‘It wasn’t personal issues with the band, they’re all still my best friends, and I miss playing with them, but things move on and change.’

Rosalie set about writing what would become her self-titled album, which finally came out yesterday.

And she’s been itching to release it.

‘Oh god, yeah, it’s been the longest process.’

It had originally been a Pledgemusic campaign, the now-infamous crowdfunding platform which collapsed earlier this year, taking hundreds of thousands of pounds from acts and fans alike.

‘That pushed things back by a few months, once that fell to pieces we had to restart my whole release schedule from scratch.

‘It wasn’t as bad as it could have been though because I wasn’t at the end of my campaign yet, but I didn’t get any money from them.’

Because Rosalie was quick to step away from Pledgemusic when things started to go wrong, she hasn’t been left liable to fulfil the pledges. But she was still considerably out of pocket, as she puts it, ‘I’d thought that was money in the bank,’ and she’d already spent a big chunk of what she was expecting on making the record.

We speak a few days ahead of the start of the album launch tour, and although she’s got hundreds of gigs under her belt, Rosalie admits to being nervous.

’It does feel like there’s more pressure, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m going under my own name or just because of the enormous gap between Purson and now. 

‘I’ve played the odd gig since then, but not with my own material, and there’s a lot of people waiting and being quite vocal about that on social media.

‘I’m confident in the band. I don’t mean this in a nasty way, but I wanted to take the level of musicianship up a notch from Purson, and it is. It’s sounding really good, and we’re all really excited about it because this material is all fresh and new. But it is all very nerve-wracking at the same time…’

Now that the album and tour are finally here, the pressure is in contrast to the early days after Purson’s break up, when Rosalie was just writing.

‘I had no intention of calling it an album, or touring it or anything, I just had some downtime, so I was writing without any pressure in my head for into be anything in particular, or for a band to play.

'I think that’s why it’s turned out a little bit different from Purson, as I always had in the back of my mind: how’s this going to work on stage? How are the band going to play this? And I didn’t have any of those constraints. And I had more time. 

‘I did it all on my own watch. I could spend more time on arrangements and things, and I think that’s given the impression of more mature songwriting.’

While the end result is unlikely to alienate old Purson fans, it is a more far-reaching record, stylistically. And the final track is the 14 minute epic, A Yarn From A Wheel, which represents a long-held ambition for the singer-songwriter. 

’I’ve always wanted to do something like that. 

‘It’s been through so many mutations. For the last year or two in Purson I was talking about it, but never got around to it, so it was a long-time coming. It was kind of a patchwork quilt of loads of odds and ends, half-finished song here, a riff here, a verse here, that I kind of stitched together and then I wrote the narrative to thread it all together.’

So will it get a live outing?

‘Yeah, we’re doing it.’ At our time of talking, she confesses they haven’t had much chance to rehearse together, ‘but fortunately the musicians I’m working with are amazing.

‘The level of concentration in the room at the moment when we play that song, it’s painful, but it’s sounding really great.’

Rosalie Cunningham

The Railway Inn, Winchester

Friday, August 2 

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