Monique Ella Rose is one of those rare performers that realize the importance of forging a connection with her audience; and how regardless of one’s tonal range or technical ability, it is the human bond between artists and the people they perform in front of that more often than not make the difference in one’s musical career.
As a singer & songwriter whose vocal style blends with Soul, R&B, Blues, Jazz & Funk, Monique is quickly earning a reputation as one of Michigan’s most exciting and gifted new talents. Last year she earned the honor being selected Best Female Jazz Vocalist at the 30th Annual Review Music Awards (where she will also be performing at this year’s ceremony) and on Saturday, April 8th at 6 PM she will be presenting a special performance entitled Monique Ella Rose & All That Jazz with a soulful Nina Simone Tribute live at Saginaw’s Castle Museum. Tickets are only $15 and can be purchased at the door or online at www.moniqueellarose.eventbrite.com.
She released her first single, ‘Move On’, in 2014 and her second single, ‘Hustle & Grind’, later that year on her label, Soul Blend. Her impeccable talent has earned her a spot on stage opening for artists such as Anthony Hamilton, Chrisette Michelle, Freddie Jackson, and even the late Dr. Maya Angelou. Indeed, when Monique sings you are taken on a passionate ride that leaves you wanting more. “Rather than being placed in any genre, I consider my music to be my life music, which means it may come out sounding like funk one moment, classic R&B the next, or even gospel. I write and sing what I feel.”
Monique explains that her interest and passion for music developed at a young age, given that her entire family sings and and instilled a deep appreciation for music within her while growing up. “I was born in Saginaw and my family moved down to Detroit when I was around 3-years old, so I first started singing in church, moved back to Saginaw in 1998, and have been here ever since.”
With her father being an artist & poet and her mother an author, playwright, and educator, creativity is genetically wired into her veins. “My family had music around all the time and the first time I sang a solo performance was at the age of 7 at a Sunday church service; and my Stepfather was actually a part of Motown,” she continues. “Even though I was so young at the time and didn’t realize how awesome that was, he actually played organ and keyboards for Motown, and because of that we actually had a studio in our house, so I immersed myself into music. As I got older, I was able to perform with different Gospel acts, singing in church and in the studio.”
In addition to singing in church, Monique involved herself in the Drama Club at school and today she fully appreciates how fortunate she was to have parents with deeply seated backgrounds in the arts. “My mom is an artist, so I was able to grow up inside the arts and cultural scene in Detroit, which was really awesome. I also remember that Gil Scott Heron’s father was also part of my Mom’s Bridge Club, so I had an opportunity to be around and grow up around that world and these types of artists, which inspired me tremendously.”
As for her current musical goals, Monique is gearing up for travel. In addition to performing at church she also works with the Big Jazz Band ensemble 23 North along with her own group, known as The Monique Ella Rose Band, which also will be performing at this year’s 31st Annual Review Music Awards on April 23rd.
“I see myself doing larger jazz festivals and am always striving to find a bigger and better stage to perform upon,” she reflects. “I’m grateful for every open door and every open stage and ever opportunity to perform that comes my way, but recently I’ve started to do more festivals and have some larger gigs scheduled for the summer. So far we’ve performed at the Michigan Blues Challenge and I’ve also performed at Saginaw On-Stage for three years now; but this was the first year I did it with my own band.”
When asked how she distinguishes herself and the sound she is striving to achieve, Monique admits it’s a hard question to answer and address. “Everyone has specific influences and for me I’m a student of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter in particular,” she reflects. “There are many singers I study on a regular basis and what I love about these three women is they each had a distinct style. What I notice while studying them is how they would often do covers of other peoples’ music, but would make the song their own with their particular vocal style, and that’s what I look to do when approaching a song.”
“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to music, but I feel you do have to put your own style into the material, make it your own, and be true to yourself,” she continues. “If I had to box my sound with descriptive terms, I’d say it’s a mix of jazzy, bluesy soul; but each one of my shows is never exactly the same, because I don’t take a cookie-cutter approach and am always reacting to the audience. For me the audience is the wild card and the extra ingredient – they present this tug that brings something out of me that you won’t find in the song alone. It’s all about connection with the audience and the material.”
“I had this place on Michigan & Court streets for seven-and-a-half years where I performed live music and poetry and featured a small stage where I could hone my craft,” adds Monique. “No matter if there were three or 40 people or a full house, that also allowed me to work around myself and develop my craftsmanship with audiences; and it gave me an early taste of feeding and getting that energy from the crowd.”
“What I love most is the spontaneity involved with music,” concludes Monique. “I like to do an improvisation where I will have the audience give me three words and I will make up a song right on the spot with the musicians. Not only does this allow you to feed off the audience, but by using the words they present all these emotions and ideas start flowing out. Music is awesome in that it allows you to create in a manner where similar to a painter, you see musical notes that are similar to colors and have an opportunity to put it all together.”
In addition to her live performances, which will include a performance at Friday Night Live this summer, Monique is also working on her debut CD, which she hopes to record live and is currently searching for a venue that will capture the sound she is seeking.
“Each opportunity to me is like an audition,” reflects Monique. “You never know who’s out there in the audience and who’s listening and who may reach out to you, which is why I look at each performance as an opportunity.