Rockabilly Filly Rosie Flores Slings a Working Girl's Guitar
Rosie Flores, known these days affectionately by many as the Rockabilly Filly, has had several careers: Punk rocker, cowpunk alt-country badass, potential country star, rock and roller, and rockabilly queen. Born in San Antonio, she spent her teen years in San Diego before striking out to find a career as a performer, writer, and guitar player.
Over the last four decades, the Bloodshot recording artist has released 14 albums and is set to release her fifteenth, Working Girl's Guitar, in the next few months. As a producer, she has just finished an album on legendary early rock and roll singer Janis Martin, known as "The Female Elvis."
Flores' trio will be rocking the Continental Club Friday night. Rocks Off caught up with her at her home in Austin.
Rocks Off: You began playing in your early teens. What was playing the guitar about for you at that age?
RF: I got in it for mental health. I was shy. I started a band so I could be more well adjusted and social. I started standing up a little straighter, grew a bit of confidence, lost my baby fat. Now it's medicinal. I get high with this inner feeling that makes me feel good. I think that's what happens if you do something you love.
RO: Caught your show in Austin a few weeks back. You seem very energetic and you're still going at it like you love it.
RF: I've been into health foods since college, I'm very conscious of my diet, vitamins, just taking good care of myself. I never got addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Call me uncool, but I feel good. And I like the journey that I'm on. It always helps to like what you're doing. I certainly never made it to big star status, but my message is to empower, and I think that also makes me feel good about performing and about myself.
RO: Career-wise, you were in Los Angeles for years rocking out and doing your country thing, then you went to Nashville. What happened?
RF: I met and got to play with a lot of cool people in L.A., people from all kinds of music, country, rockabilly, rock, folk. I was pretty popular in L.A. and I was dating Dwight [Yoakam] for a while. The woman at Warner's who signed Dwight sort of had stars in her eyes and signed me to a country deal.
But then it just seemed like that scene was dying. I'd met Lucinda and she kept telling me to move to Nashville, that it was a cool town for musicians and for being in the business. We had the Blasters, Dwight Yoakam, X, but that L.A. scene just seemed to be playing out, so I went to Nashville and did like it. So I moved there.
RO: What happened with your country career?
RF: Well, when they got me in the studio, they started laying down all these rules: you shouldn't do rockabilly, you shouldn't play much guitar, you don't have to do your own songs. In a nutshell, they wanted me to be Reba and I wanted to be Kitty Wells.
But I got to make some records, and I got a little airplay. I moved to Nashville. I played the Grand Ole Opry, I did what I thought you were supposed to do. But to be a female trying to do legitimate country music, you had to know how to fight and I didn't know how to fight.
But I had a real good shot at being a country star. They even had me working with Rick Zito from Fleetwood Mac. I had Billy Bremner on one of my records. And I'd be shopping in Nashville and people would ask for autographs.
But the bottom line to me was that the radio guy at Warner's didn't like what I was doing, so he never pushed me that hard. And airplay is what it's all about at that level of country.
When it didn't work like I wanted it to, I went through a bit of depression because I felt jilted. I didn't know if it was because I was Hispanic or because I didn't have a high-enough-powered manager, what was it? I just came to feel that I could never get over the hump of getting air play. I spent seven years in Nashville, but it just never happened and I eventually moved to Austin and got back to rock and roll.