At the Women In Music Awards 2023, we celebrated the achievements of 13 game changing executives and artists as the industry came together to honour their work. Music Week has spoken to all 13 winners to tell their stories.
Interview: Colleen Harris
Last year, Hackney-born vocalist, producer and DJ Eliza Rose became the first female DJ to reach No.1 in the UK since Sonique did so in 2002. This year, she is the winner of the New Artist Award at our Women In Music event.
Rose began her DJ career while working at an East London record shop, where she filled a growing vinyl collection with releases by the likes of Nina Simone and Amy Winehouse as well as Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child and a host of old UK garage records.
Her hybrid DJ-plus-vocals live shows helped Interplanetary Criminal collaboration BOTA (Baddest Of Them All) become a fixture in the clubs and subsequently last summer’s festivals, exposure that took it to TikTok and subsequently the top of the charts.
With MOBO and BRIT nominations already under her belt, the Warner Records-signed artist is set to define UK dance culture for years to come. Last year, in her first interview with Music Week, Rose spoke passionately about opportunities for women in electronic music and her own journey. Now, as she is crowned New Artist and the Music Week Women In Music Awards, she expands on her story and her music industry mission.
Firstly, how does it feel to win this award?
“It’s amazing really. When my manager told me I was quite shocked. I didn't think I would even be up for anything like that, so it felt very special, especially in the middle of my tour where I've been quite tired and away from family. It was a nice little boost to get something like that.”
Looking back to last year when you hit No.1, how did it feel making history?
“It just feels a bit surreal. I think that put a lot of things in perspective for people and showed how difficult it is still for women in the music industry. So, it was cool to be able to shine a little bit of light on that. I have noticed a change [for] women in electronic music, it’s becoming more accessible, a little bit more commercial. Kenya [Grace] just went to No.1, so I think it was a real path for change. I guess it felt like a real achievement. I've been pushing women in music, and particularly DJing, for a long time. So to be able to kind of have something solid, it felt like a win for underground women in music.”
What do you think it was about BOTA that made it so successful?
“I think it was a perfect storm, we had just come off the back of Covid and people were ready for a little rave up. I think that the sentiment behind the song massively resonated with a lot of people, especially people trying to live their authentic selves, which is quite a cultural movement that I feel is happening around the world now. It was the right time.”
There are more female, black and LGBTQ+ identifying people at the forefront of the scene now, but do I think there's enough being done behind the scenes? No, I don't
When you were writing it, did you think it was going to be such a global hit?
“I guess it did stand out but not in the way of me expecting it to go to No.1, I thought everybody's [either] going to like this or absolutely hate it. Luckily, everybody loves it. I think that when you write something a little bit different, especially as an artist, we're so overly sensitive, you're like, ‘Ooh, is it good enough?’ Even when people were telling me their responses, I was still like, ‘Alright guys, calm down. It's not that good’. But I think that was just me being a little bit scared about the overwhelming reaction that it was getting and not believing in myself. I think having BOTA has helped me really believe in myself and trust my instincts. So it's been a cool journey.”
So how have you navigated this global fame you've experienced since it came out?
“It's quite odd. In a way it's quite satisfying because it's something that I've been working towards for an extremely long time. So to finally have my hard work pay off in such a solid format is incredible. It's quite overwhelming at times, but I'm loving it and I'm just trying to ride the wave and keep creating good underground music and take this amazing opportunity that I've been gifted with, as much as I can.”
Was it how you imagined it would be?
“Well, I think BOTA is its own entity, it's everybody's song, I call it the people's rhythm. I really love that because it allows me to have a little bit of separation from the song as well. It shows the power of that track and how that resonates with people. My life has certainly changed in an amazing way because I'm going into the studio to write with people like MK, for example, who's a major inspiration to me. It’s created so many opportunities for me to make more good music, and that is just a blessing. I'm way busier than I was and I'm knackered 24/7 but also very grateful.”
You mention MK… who else are you working with?
“I should be having a song with Calvin Harris coming out, so that's really cool. Without BOTA I would never have been able to have that connection. I've been in LA and connected with some great artists. Having a publisher means you get put in a room with people; I've worked with some guys called Emotional Oranges; I also been working with a guy called Gev, this undiscovered guy who makes UK Garage but lives in New York; my good friend Sally C, she's an amazing underground DJ and producer. I'm able to work with people from all walks of life. Calvin Harris is obviously a massive artist, but then I'm still able to create things with my really good friends who are really underground. I feel so blessed to be able to juggle both of those balls. I don't think there's many people that are able to do that so I'm really riding that wave and doing it all.”
When you spoke to Music Week last year you said, “As a Black mixed-race woman, my visibility will help inspire others to feel this as a viable career”. Do you think the music industry is doing enough to build a more diverse and inclusive scene for artists?
“I think more female, black and LGBTQ+ identifying people are now at the forefront of the scene. Do I think there's enough being done behind the scenes? No, I don't necessarily think so. When you speak to people, it's still often older white men. What I would like to see is more change behind the scenes. I think that there's a lot more visibility than there was. But that can become quite performative if it's not filtering down into the rest of the machine of music. That's what I want to start seeing now, more people working at the labels, more people working on the marketing team, and having that diversity throughout. I think there's definitely change, it starts with visibility, and then it will trickle down. But I'm ready to see the trickle now.”
I feel very supported and able to do what I want. I don't like people telling me what to do
You signed a deal with Warner Records following the breakout success with BOTA. How have they supported you so far?
“They've been great. They've left me to it. I don't feel like they've been too heavily involved and that's what I want from a label. I think labels are changing quite a lot now; back in the day there used to be a lot of dodgy deals, the label used to have a massive say in how you were marketed. I'm very lucky, I've kind of got the whole package in the sense that I've already got a creative director, my stylist is one of my really good friends and she knows exactly the style I like. I'm very involved in the whole creative process and so I feel lucky to be left to my own devices and trusted, so I've enjoyed working with them [Warner]. I've also got my management and my other label team One House who I've been working for a long time. I feel very supported and able to do what I want. I don't like people telling me what to do, so it's perfect.”
How have you experienced navigating the underground dance music scene, which has embraced your music, at the same time as being signed to a major?
“It’s quite unusual. Sometimes I feel like I'm absolutely killing it, and sometimes I feel stretched a little bit thin. I believe I can do both, and I think I am doing that. It definitely feels like double the work, but I've always been a hard worker, and I'm willing to give it a go. I'm happy to straddle both of those worlds, and I think BOTA created so much respect for me in the underground dance scene that people don't look at it like “Oh, sellout”, they look at it as like, “wow, okay, she has opened some doors for us here”. And I think I can hold on to that.”
This year also brought your first US tour, did you feel like you were breaking new ground there?
“So amazing. I've never been to America before so that's another opportunity that BOTA created for me. Touring is obviously quite intense; I'm a party girl but I'm also going to the studio, so I've had to rein that in the last couple of weeks, really knuckle down and make sure I'm making the most of these opportunities, which I've really enjoyed. They're loving it, I think. I've got a big queer following, especially with the BOTA track - a lot of the girlies turning up and dancing, and that's fabulous. As long as the queer people are coming to your party, then you know the party is going to be good. I've met some amazing characters and people on the way. It's been wonderful.”
What can we expect from you next?
“I'm going to continue making good underground dance music but you're definitely going to hear some more soul and jazz coming from me next year. I've got some things on my label, Rosebud Recordings, which are going to come out. I've done a track with MJ Cole, which is really beautiful. I'm really excited for people to see more flavours of Eliza Rose. It'll be an EP; there'll be some dance tracks on there, and garage, but the leading track will be a neo soul track. If you go on my Rosebud Recordings SoundCloud, you'll see that the ethos of how I started was to write a soul and a jazz track, then I would get people to do UK Garage remixes of that track. I want to move back into that world next year and show my depth as an artist, you know, I'm not just electronic music, I love all types of music. I want to express that and use this opportunity, while I have it, to do what I want.”