This month, we caught up with Unspeakable’s newest artist Nora Rothman on her upcoming releases, music in rotation, and life as an activist. Read the full interview below, and listen to “Strange” (prod. Dot) out now on Unspeakable Records.
What is your earliest experience of music that you can remember?
My mom has written and recorded, like, 8 incredible children's albums. She took me and my sister into the studio when I was three years old to sing and giggle on the tracks. I remember having the headphones over my ears and my sister making fun of me and us having the time of our lives.
When did you begin writing songs?
I had severe anxiety in my adolescence, beginning when I was 10 or 11. I always loved to write and sing, so when I was paralyzed by panic attacks, I turned to the things I loved. Writing songs got me through. My first ever song was called "Weights of Worry" and it was about having weights of worry around my ankles. Always one for the dramatics. But listen, it helped, so I never stopped. Maybe Weights of Worry will show up on Fresh Finds, look out.
What is the story behind your upcoming EP? How did these songs come together, and what is your intention in sharing them?
These songs are like random pages ripped out of a diary from the last decade of my life. I wanted to collaborate with a talented producer with femme energy, so I reached out to Dot and she graciously jumped on board. The sound is completely new, but the songwriting is still grounded in my hopelessly singer-songwriter-who-idolizes-Joni-Mitchell style. Basically, I'm handing my songs their first pair of heels and driving them to the bat mitzvah party.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Depends what city I'm in. If LA, I'm driving to the venue absolutely blasting pump up music (Lizzo, duh). A director I once worked with always said to "have a day." So, I try to do that. I practice a little, I warm up my voice a little, I feed myself, I handle my other "obligations" (what even are those). Then I remind myself that I get to do my absolute favorite thing to do and I don't have to look at spreadsheets anymore and I'm ready to get on stage and have fun.
When do you feel most creative?
When I'm going through it. And usually at night. But I'm beginning to appreciate the lighter moments of creativity that come from boredom and curiosity rather than existential angst. I'm trying to avoid that whole thing, you know. Any tips?
As a woman living in the United States, how do you personally cope with and/or address a lot of the social issues our country is facing today?
I volunteer. I give causes my presence, energy, and time. That means I knock doors for pro-choice candidates on the weekends. I work at an environmental nonprofit during the week. And I run Earhart, a platform celebrating gender diversity in music. It's dark, of course it's dark. But there is a lot to do, and it will make you feel better to be active. If you're looking for a place to start, check out Supermajority. Good things coming from them.
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
I have been harboring a dream of collaborating with Esperanza Spalding for so long. Her talent is otherworldly. But like, if Justin Vernon called me I would def call him back.
What have you been listening to recently?
I listen to Earhart's weekly playlist. Each Friday, a different artist curates songs by fellow femme and gender nonconforming creatives. The sounds vary from rap to Mexicana to punk. I love being immersed in someone else's world each week. We've got over 200 followers, which is pretty damn cool. If you're reading this, I already know it's your cup of tea...and you should follow it...on Spotify...now...
Do you have any upcoming shows or events you can tell us about?
I need to book those, don't I... balancing career, personal life, and music can slow things down. It takes a lot of time to get a live show just right. So while I work on that during my off hours, I will repeat my quote of the moment: "you can have it all, just not all at once." This is attributable to like 15 different women—but most importantly, Oprah.