From Empathy to Empowerment: ‘Post-Chainsmokers’ ROZES on Thanking Her Bullies

PROMO credit Justin James Muir

ROZES came to the forefront of the pop world as the vocalist and writer behind The Chainsmokers’ “Roses,” the triple platinum smash that stormed the Billboard charts and ushered in an era of EDM-inflected pop from 2015 through 2016. During that time, publishing companies and record labels feverishly sought the new artist’s talents, but ROZES decided to first take on the songwriting side of the industry–locking in a deal with major publisher, Warner/Chappell where she could join the community of songwriters who create hits for both themselves and others.

“I have a really good team and manager who’s been working in the industry for a while,” she explains over the phone. “We went after the writing side first. I think everything kind of just fell into place the way it did.” The effort has paid off–in the past two months alone, Rozes has released a summer solo single (“Canyons”) and a collaboration with Galantis (“Boys on Girls”), in addition to writing a single for Cheat Codes (“Sober”). The fact that these singles have picked up over 10 million Spotify streams is a testament to the writer’s midas touch for crafting dance bangers, but also a surprising revelation that music fueled by such vulnerability can connect so deeply.

There’s a certain thrill to the rawness behind ROZES’ music: the embodiment of a realization that it’s okay to feel both deeply and harshly in the wake of emotional pain, but also empowerment in the empathy it takes to move on. Within her latest tropical single, “Canyons,” there’s a deeply set feeling of physical loss that permeates throughout. “My love” ROZES calls out into a sparsely set electronic abyss, and it echoes back to her, re-colored by a vocal filter. “I’ll love you even when you let me down,” she cries, acknowledging that moment in a space of intimacy, when you can be inches from someone else but the air feels devoid of warmth.

The song, written about an argument between ROZES and her friend, acknowledges an internal disconnect between physical closeness and emotional distance–and a recognition that sometimes the two can coexist. “I realized that I’m not going to agree with the people I love on everything that I’m so passionate about,” she explains. “When it comes to arguments, I always saw it as everybody has to be on the same side for us to be compatible, and I think [writing this song] was a learning process for me, where I had to take a step back and realize you can disagree and still be compatible and love this person.”

This understanding and ability to move on have turned sadness into an opportunity for release. Passionate disagreement, a history of being bullied, and an extremely strong sense of empathy have fueled ROZES throughout her career. Born Liz Mencel in Montgomeryville Pennsylvania, the artist went through a rough period of bullying in high school and middle school, but turned to singer-songwriters to learn how to channel her feelings.

It was a natural progression from multi-instrumentalist and vocalist (Liz plays clarinet, trumpet, guitar, violin, saxophone, flute, and piano) to songwriter. “When I had been in my roughest part of bullying, it turned me to music. I see that as a blessing in disguise,” she explains. She describes her songwriting as a “healing” process. “I turned to Adele or Amy Winehouse, who had deeply heartbreaking stories but turned to music to build themselves up. I started writing and sharing my music [and] I started to realize that I wasn’t alone in my feeling, and that’s what began to fill me up.”

“I’ve realized that I have a voice and a platform.”

Since then, her songs have quickly taken off–collecting over 40 million streams on Spotify (and of course, “Roses” sits at a hefty 571 million streams) and reaching an even wider audience. “I think that over the past couple of years since The Chainsmokers song I’ve realized that I have a voice and a platform and people listen regardless of what your message is. I have some super fans and my message becomes their opinions. I think that it’s important to be sensitive to the fact that I’m also shaping the minds of people.”

She points to a moment at a recent AJR show where a young female fan approached ROZES, who is an advocate for body positivity and acceptance of all kinds. “You know, I’m not like the most skinny or fit person in the room and I had a fan come up to me and thank me for like not being that way because it made her feel like I was human.” ROZES is also a staunch advocate on her social media platforms for both LGBT and minority communities. “I want people to hear my message but take from it… a positive influence. I want my fans to know that they don’t have to conform to any mold.”

The ability for ROZES to listen to and understand fans is unsurprising–her voice is one that puts pain on display, seeking to empathize in even the toughest situations. In “Matches” with CASH CASH, ROZES shows her concern for an ex who broke her heart: “The truth is I worry you never found something to escape who you used to be,” she intones. Similarly, in “Under The Grave” ROZES aims squarely at herself, taking the blame for her inability to reach out to family and friends as her artist life began to take off.

“I couldn’t make any excuses for being a bad friend when in the end the truth is I was not there when I should have been,” she explains. “I think that I’m empathetic to a fault, almost. “I’m so aware of what other people feel, that I almost kind of throw myself under the bus a lot of the times.”

“I am also excited about showing people what I’ve become post-Chainsmokers ‘ROZES.’”

For now, ROZES is looking towards the future, with a fall tour planned with R&B crooner, MAX, and plenty of new music on the way–including a new single, “Famous,” coming out on September 29th. “I’m most excited for that tour, but I am also excited about putting out more music and showing people who I am and what I’ve become post-Chainsmokers ROZES. I’ve done a lot of growing since then.” She’s working with producer Toby Gad (Beyonce, Demi Lovato, John Legend) with whom she shares major chemistry. “Whenever we get in the room we seem to write something so fun and real.”

And as for the bullies? “In the end, while I don’t understand why people are mean, I understand that it’s part of our path. And you know, as the person who I am now, I could literally turn around to my biggest bully and say thank you.”

Note: Transcribed quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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