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

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What Your Hogwarts House Says About You

Get yourself sorted and find out where you belong in the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
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Sorting at Hogwarts is a big deal. Being sorted into a house is essentially being placed into a family while you are away from home learning about witchcraft and wizardry. Your house is made up of the people you will live with, go to classes with, play Quidditch with and everything in between. You basically spend 24/7 with them. Your Hogwarts house is your home away from home.

When you get sorted into a house, it is based on your personality traits. The people in your house are typically like-minded people who display the same characteristics as you.

When you’re a first year at Hogwarts, the minute you set foot in the castle you are swept into the Great Hall to have the ancient Sorting Hat placed on your head. This Sorting Hat decides which “family” you’ll be spending your seven years with.

For some, it is very obvious which house they will be in, due to certain personality traits they possess. For others, they may exemplify traits that fit a multitude of houses and are uncertain where they may end up.

To find out where you belong, you can take the official "Harry Potter" Sorting Hat quiz at Pottermore.com. For all you muggles out there, these are the characteristics that the houses possess and what your house says about you:

Gryffindor: The house of the brave, loyal, courageous, adventurous, daring and chivalrous. Those who stand up for others are typically Gryffindors. Brave-hearted is the most well-known Gryffindor characteristic, and Gryffindors are also known for having a lot of nerve.

Gryffindors are people who hold a multitude of qualities alongside the ones listed, making them a very well-rounded house. People who are Gryffindors are often people who could fit nicely into another house but choose to tell the sorting hat they want Gryffindor (there's that bravery). "Do what is right" is the motto Gryffindors go by.

Being a Gryffindor means that you're probably the adventurous and courageous friend, and you are usually known for doing what is right.

Ravenclaw: The house is known for their wisdom, intelligence, creativity, cleverness and knowledge. Those who value brains over brawn can be found here. Ravenclaws often tend to be quite quirky as well. "Do what is wise" is the motto they strive to follow.

Though Ravenclaws can be know-it-alls sometimes, they most likely do know what the wisest decision is.

If you are known for being the quirky friend, the smartest in the group or just great at making wise decisions, you're definitely a Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff: This house values hard work, dedication, fair play, patience, and loyalty. Hufflepuff’s are known for being just and true. "Do what is nice" is their motto.

Hufflepuff is known as the “nice house” and believes strongly in sparing peoples feelings and being kind. This is not to say that Hufflepuffs aren't smart or courageous. Hufflepuffs just enjoy making others happy and tend to be more patient towards people.

If you ever find that you are too nice for your own good and cannot bear to hurt someone’s feelings, congratulations, you are a Hufflepuff.

Slytherin: This is the house of the cunning, prideful, resourceful, ambitious, intelligent, and determined. Slytherin's love to be in charge and crave leadership. "Do what is necessary" is the motto of this house.

Slytherin is a fairly well-rounded house, similar to the other houses. They are loyal to those that are loyal to them just as Gryffindors are and are intelligent as Ravenclaws.

Slytherin house as a whole is not evil, despite how many dark wizards come out of this house. That is merely based on the choices of those wizards (so if your friend is a Slytherin, don’t judge, it doesn’t mean they are mean people). Slytherins do, however, have a tendency to be arrogant or prideful. This is most likely due to the fact that everyone in Slytherin is exceedingly proud to be there.

What Hogwarts house you’re in says a lot about the person you are, the traits you possess and how you may act in some situations. But in the end, your house is really just your home that is always there for you. Always.


Cover Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures

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Picking Passion Over Pressure Is The Answer To A Fulfillng Life

Don't crack under pressure, flourish with passion.

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What motivates your actions? The answer to this critical question can determine whether or not you are living a fulfilling life. Many of us follow a social script as if we are reading lines from a play. We succumb to the influence of those around us and roam aimlessly in the direction of the masses.

The concept of living within the confinement of certain "norms" is an expectation society calls us to uphold, and it is not an entirely negative idea. But when life becomes "a series of motions to go through", this expectation can become problematic. When you find yourself stressed out about doing whatever it is you think that you have to do, stop and ask yourself if it makes you truly happy. Are you pursuing your passion or are you just performing under pressure? To find true contentment in your life, pick passion over pressure.

Be an individual before an identity.

When people first introduce themselves to a new friend or group of people, they are quick to jump to aspects of their life that compose their identity. Many of us define ourselves by what it is we do, and not necessarily who we actually are. For example, this can include identifying as a member of a club or sports team or even defining yourself based on accolades and accomplishments you have achieved. While these are definitely adequate ways to distinguish yourself from others, have you ever stopped to look beneath the surface? It is important to know what unique qualities make you an individual and not just a part of a larger entity.

By viewing yourself as an individual, you will find your passions in life more easily and find genuine enjoyment in all that you do. Taking on an identity will only hold you under unnecessary pressure to fulfill a role that could leave you feeling unsatisfied later on.

Become self-aware.

To find out what makes you truly happy, you need to establish a clear sense of who you are. Fostering self-awareness is a journey, and it can be discovered through life experiences. In order to figure out what you love doing, push yourself out of your comfort zone to figure out what you don't love doing. This can mean joining a new club, taking a challenging class, or working in an environment that you are unfamiliar with. Once you begin to discover how you react in certain situations, use these personality traits to your advantage.

Don't make the same mistake twice, and avoid taking on a position that you know would not be compatible with your lifestyle. By becoming self-aware, you will discover your passion more easily and will be able to take on realistic opportunities that will prove to be fulfilling. When you try to become someone you are not, it will seem like there is always a lingering pressure to "keep up the act", and it will be harder to accomplish tasks because you don't truly enjoy doing them.

View outside opinions with a filtered lens.

Don't let others dictate your future. When you make life decisions based on what other people think is best for you, you will be pleasing everyone except yourself. Consciously decide whose opinions are valid, meaningful, and constructive to your life. This can include the wisdom of close friends and relatives, professors, or a boss that has known you for years. By finding out who knows you best and who truly desires the best for your life, you can tune out the background noise and hone in on the few voices that actually do matter.

Place value in what these people have to say, and take the words of others with a grain of salt. Avoid letting irrelevant or negative opinions linger in your mind. If you allow the influence of others to infiltrate your decision making, you will find yourself in many regrettable situations and unsatisfied with the outcome of your choices. By subscribing to the helpful advice shared by those closest to you, you can foster your true passion.

Practice positive thinking. 

You can't find out what makes you happy in life without actually experiencing what happiness is. To discover your passion, adopt a positive mindset. Get out of the habit of mentally putting yourself down, and take the word "can't" out of your thought process. The more mental blocks you put on yourself, the less likely you are to have good experiences. Release your inhibitions and train your brain seek positivity in any situation.

Don't allow minor inconveniences to disturb you, and remind yourself of the saying that "it is only a bad day, not a bad life." In doing so, the positive choices you make will lead you in the direction of your passion so that you can live a fulfilling life.

Be open to new ideas. 

Keeping an open mind will allow you to experience life from a new perspective. Even when something seems foreboding, treat it as a lesson. If you cannot think of a positive quality for the situation you find yourself in, then don't assign your circumstances any qualities at all. If you keep a neutral mindset, you will eliminate the possibility for disappointment. This will encourage learning and growth, which are essential in your journey to finding your true passion.

Being open to new ideas will help you avoid sticking to the status quo. By taking part in something you have never done before, you are less likely to find yourself confined by what others expect you to do.

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