An Interview With Singer-Songwriter Roan Yellowthorn

An Interview With Singer-Songwriter Roan Yellowthorn

(Don McLean's daughter), and the new artist you should keep your eyes out for.
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In a small, packed concert venue in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Jackie a.k.a. Roan Yellowthorn sat in front of her keyboard to play her first Manhattan show. The room was filled with love and excitement for Roan’s live performance of her newly released EP "Roan Yellowthorn." Her husband Shawn accompanied her by playing the drums.

Though Roan only started last year you would think that she’s been in the business much longer. Roan was an active member in theatre and clearly inherited her father Don McLean's musical genes. She has created her own unique sound and her music can be described as indie but with each word she sings you can hear all the emotions behind the song. She has found inspiration from poems to even "Teen Mom" couple Catelynn and Tyler.

Roan's performance was beautifully performed and written. After her show, I had the opportunity to sit down with her and talk.


Q. What does your name come from?

Roan: I never really liked my own name. I never felt like it was really mine. I have always kind of been obsessed with the idea of naming myself -- I used to give myself all of these weird, embarrassing nicknames that no one actually ever used for me -- and a few years ago when I was, like, 20, I decided to just sit down and come up with my "own" name. I was on the train, and I thought about it for a long time. I knew that I wanted it to be something nature-based and whimsical. And I settled on "Roan Yellowthorn." It felt right to me. I didn't actually legally change my name to that because it was kind of daunting to think about having to ask people to call me that, but I knew I wanted to use it somehow. Then, when I started making music, I felt again that my name wasn't right. Like, it didn't feel like it was "me." I tried for a while to think of a stage name and then it was just there in front of me -- the perfect opportunity to use Roan Yellowthorn, my chosen name.

Q. How’d you feel to play your first Manhattan performance?

My first performance in Manhattan felt like all of the great feelings surrounding the EP condensed into an hour. There were so many people there who I love -- family and friends and new fans. And it's always so much fun to perform with Shawn. We had a wonderful time and I guess Rockwood, the venue, did too because they asked us to come back and do another show there this summer!

Q. Who are your biggest musical influences?

Roan: Growing up, I listened to a lot of music that I didn't choose. I was at the mercy of my parents. My mom played a lot of classic country, musical theater music, Leonard Cohen, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Buckley. My dad had about four bands on all the time in heavy rotation -- Beach Boys, Kingston Trio, The Weavers, and Flat & Scruggs. So there's no denying the fact that all of that music influenced me a lot. Then when I discovered the radio, it was like an escape. So music from the '90s definitely influenced me, too.

Q. Have you always been interested in becoming a musician?

Roan: When I was in high school, I thought that being a musician was the cop-out choice for me. I was known for my voice and everyone asked me if I was going to be a singer. I was always like, "No! You don't know me. I'm going to be a vet." Or a writer or a social worker or, you know, any one of the other things that I'm interested in. I had to explore all of the other things out there before I was able to come back to music. I almost felt like I would be failing if I did music because it came really naturally to me. Or maybe I was just worried that I would fail and it would be embarrassing. I thought that I had to choose a career that was difficult and unpleasant, I don't know why.

Q. How would you describe your music to someone who has never listened to it before?

Roan: I don't really know how to describe my music because I can't hear it objectively. I love knowing what other people think it sounds like. I guess it's kind of folky, kind of poppy, definitely singer/songwriter. I guess I'd call it "indie/folk/pop." I don't think that's a genre.

Q. What kind of music do you listen to?

Roan: I listen to a weird mix of music. When I'm in my car and I want to feel cool, alive, and vibrant, I play Basshunter. I just got Aurora's new album and I've been listening to that lately on vinyl. I love her voice. Grimes is one of my all-time favorite artists. Everything about her inspires me. ABBA is another group who I just love completely. There are no bad ABBA songs. And since Taylor Swift partnered up with Max Martin, I can't get enough of her. The Swedes know what they're doing. We listen to a lot of Kurt Vile, too. For chill times, Elliott Smith, Smashing Pumpkins, The Shins (especially Kissing the Lipless), The Smiths and Kishi Bashi, who is amazing. And Robyn rules. And I know every Bright Eyes song, courtesy of Shawn, so I can't leave out Conor Oberst.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a music career?

Roan: To someone who wants to pursue a music career, I would say: If it makes you happy, do it. Just do what makes you happy. That's all that matters at the end of the day. And don't worry about what other people think, either way. Do it for you.

Q. "Teen Mom OG" or "2?"

Roan: Um…. I'm "Teen Mom OG" all the way. I'm literally obsessed with "Teen Mom." I love both groups but "OG" has a special place in my heart. One of the first songs I wrote was about Catelynn and Tyler ("Two Children"). Maci, Amber, even Farrah, as messed up as she is. I love them all.

Q. How’d you get into music?

Roan: I've always done music. I did a lot of theater -- I was Dorothy in "Wizard of Oz," Annie in "Annie" (twice), Ariel in "Footloose," Queenie in "Wild Party." And my brother and I played music together all the time. It's always been there. But I didn't start writing songs or playing the piano until last year when I got my first real keyboard from my partner Shawn as a present. I learned how to play it on YouTube and started writing songs pretty much immediately. Getting that piano definitely opened up a new world for me, musically.

Q. What’s the writing process like?

Roan: If I’m feeling it then I just focus on it and a song comes out. It’s the simplest way to put it. I isolate myself with a pencil and paper anywhere from 20 minutes to a week and a song will come out. If I can be by myself I can write a song in two hours.

Q. Are any of the songs inspired by your husband?

Roan: At least two of the songs are inspired by Shawn. "The Last Time" was inspired by a story he told me of an experience he had.

Q. Why do you and your husband still have flip phones?

Roan: I got the flip phone probably about four years ago. I have an addictive personality and I was just being annihilated by my phone. It was a full-fledged obsession. It was really affecting my life and my mood and my level of real-life social activity so I just cut the cord and got a flip phone. It was the best life decision ever. And then, a few months ago, Shawn got one, too. We go on road trips now and can actually get lost. It's awesome. Am I smug about it? A little.

Q. Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

Roan: I would like to collaborate with Grimes (because I'm in love with her), Max Martin, and maybe Angel Olsen. She's pretty cool.

Q. How’d it feel to release the EP?

Roan: It felt amazing to release the EP. I feel so indebted to all of the people who helped make it happen. My partner, Shawn, has been a pillar of encouragement and support the whole way through and has talked endlessly with me about ideas for production and arrangement of the songs. My family has been so helpful, especially Shawn's parents who tell all of their friends about our music and have done a ridiculous amount along the way to make the EP a reality.

John Naclerio, who we recorded with, Brittany Brave, my publicist, who goes above and beyond to connect us with incredible opportunities, and everyone who has heard the EP and given me their feedback about it. So many people have helped me and the EP is a symbol of that. It's such a good feeling. I can't wait to start working on a full-length album next!

Make sure to check out her EP on Spotify.

And you can purchase the album here.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Chiriboga

Popular Right Now

35 Major Life Facts According To Nick Miller

"All booze is good booze, unless it's weak booze."
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Fact: If you watch "New Girl," you love Nick Miller.

You can't help it. He's an adorable, lovable mess of a man and you look forward to seeing him and his shenanigans each week. While living the infamous and incomparable life of Nick Miller, and obviously Julius Pepperwood— he has learned many valuable laws of the land. And, although Nick refuses to learn anything from anyone besides his mysterious, old Asian friend Tran, he does have a few lessons he'd like to teach us.

Here are 35 facts of life according to 'Nick Milla Nick Milla':

1. Drinking keeps you healthy.

"I'm not gonna get sick. No germ can live in a body that is 65% beer."

2. Dinosaurs never existed.

"I don't believe dinosaurs existed. I've seen the science. I don't believe it."


3. A paper bag is a bank.

"A bank is just a paper bag but with fancier walls."


4. Having sex is similar to delivering mail.

"I'm like a mailman, except instead of mail it's hot sex that I deliver."

5. Moonwalking is a foolproof way to get out of any awkward situation.

Jess (about Nick): "Now he won't even talk to me. I saw him this morning and he just panic moonwalked away from me. He does that sometimes."

6. Using a movie reference is also a great way.

Cece: "Come on, get up!"

Nick: "No, I don't dance. I'm from that town in "Footloose."

7. There's no reason to wash towels.

Nick: "I don’t wash the towel. The towel washes me. Who washes a towel?"

Schmidt: "You never wash your towel?"

Nick: "What am I gonna do? Wash the shower next? Wash a bar of soap?"

8. Exes are meant to be avoided at all costs (especially if/unless they're Caroline)

"I don't deal with exes, they're part of the past. You burn them swiftly and you give their ashes to Poseidon."

9. IKEA furniture is not as intimidating as it looks.

"I'm building you the dresser. I love this stuff. It's like high-stakes LEGOs."

10. You don't need forks if you have hands.

Jess: "That's gross. Get a fork, man."

Nick: "I got two perfectly good forks at the end of my arms!"

11. Sex has a very specific definition.


"It's not sex until you put the straw in the coconut."

12. Doors are frustrating.

"I will push if I want to push! Come on! I hate doors!"

13. All booze is good booze.

"Can I get an alcohol?"

14. ...unless it's weak booze.

"Schmidt, that is melon flavored liquor! That is 4-proof! That is safe to drink while you're pregnant!"

15. Writers are like pregnant women.

Jess: "You know what that sound is? It's the sound of an empty uterus."

Nick: "I can top that easily. I'm having a hard time with my zombie novel."

Jess: "Are you really comparing a zombie novel to my ability to create life?"

Nick: "I'm a writer, Jess. We create life."

16. All bets must be honored.

"There is something serious I have to tell you about the future. The name of my first-born child needs to be Reginald VelJohnson. I lost a bet to Schmidt."

17. Adele's voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

"Adele is amazing."

18. Beyoncé is extremely trustworthy.

"I'd trust Beyoncé with my life. We be all night."

19. Fish, on the other hand, are not.


“Absolutely not. You know I don’t trust fish! They breathe water. That's crazy!"

20. Bar mitzvahs are terrifying.

Schmidt: "It's a bar mitzvah!"

Nick: "I am NOT watching a kid get circumcised!"

21. ...so are blueberries.

Jess: "So far, Nick Miller's list of fears is sharks, tap water, real relationships..."

Nick: "And blueberries."

22. Take your time with difficult decisions. Don't be rash.


Jess: "You care about your burritos more than my children, Nick?"

Nick: "You're putting me in a tough spot!"

23. Getting into shape is not easy.

"I mean, I’m not doing squats or anything. I’m trying to eat less donuts."

24. We aren't meant to talk about our feelings.

"If we needed to talk about feelings, they would be called talkings."


25. We're all a little bit too hard on ourselves.

"The enemy is the inner me."

26. Freezing your underwear is a good way to cool off.


"Trust me, I'm wearing frozen underpants right now and I feel amazing. I'm gonna grab some old underpants and put a pair into the freezer for each of you."

27. Public nudity is normal.

"Everbody has been flashed countless times."

28. Alcohol is a cure-all.


"You treat an outside wound with rubbing alcohol. You treat an inside wound with drinking alcohol."

29. Horses are aliens.

"I believe horses are from outer-space."


30. Turtles should actually be called 'shell-beavers.'

Jess: "He calls turtles 'shell-beavers."

Nick: "Well, that's what they should be called."

31. Trench coats are hot.


"This coat has clean lines and pockets that don't quit, and it has room for your hips. And, when I wear it, I feel hot to trot!"


32. Sparkles are too.

"Now, my final bit of advice, and don't get sensitive on this, but you've got to change that top it's terrible and you've got to throw sparkles on. Sparkles are in. SPARKLES ARE IN."

33. Introspection can lead to a deeper knowing of oneself.

"I'm not convinced I know how to read. I've just memorized a lot of words."


34. It's important to live in the moment.

"I know this isn't gonna end well but the middle part is gonna be awesome."


35. Drinking makes you cooler.

Jess: "Drinking to be cool, Nick? That's not a real thing."

Nick: "That's the only thing in the world I know to be true."

Cover Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter

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