Interview: Roméo Testa
Wed, 02 Jul 2014 09:02:22
The End is just the beginning for Roméo Testa. His new EP, The End [iTunes link], just scratches the surface in terms of what this phenomenal young singer and songwriter is bringing to the table. He's got a robustly soulful voice and a penchant for poignant and powerful hooks that instantly enchant. Moreover, his lyrical honesty remains both welcome and thought-provoking. Roméo Testa has just started his journey to the top with The End. Get to know him now...
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Roméo Testa talks The End, his influences, and so much more.
Did you approach The End EP with one vision or vibe in mind? What connects it for you?
Well, I started writing this about three years ago. It’s been about the album. The EP is a sample of what I have for the record. As the saying goes, “You have your whole life to write your first album”, I have. I’ve gone through a lot of crazy things from childhood until now. I’ve just been writing my life story up until this point. I think The End gives you a good look into my experiences from leaving home to breaking up with girlfriends to having a new girlfriend I’m completely in love with. There are all of these different things you get to experience from the beginning of your life into early adulthood. I think the EP gives you a brief look into it. The album will go way in-depth.
You manage to convey a lot within six songs.
Thank you! I’m glad I did my job [Laughs].
Is it important for you to tell stories and paint pictures with the songs? Is that an aspect of songwriting for you?
Yeah, I think so. A lot of my style of songwriting—from the very first song I wrote—has been very literal and real. A lot of songwriters have very imaginative stories to their songwriting. Then, there are some who write what’s happening in the moment. A lot of what I tend to lean towards is storytelling and things that happen to me in everyday life and in that moment in time. "With You" is probably the most "storytelling song" I've ever written. I went to London about two years ago. I was staying by Hyde Park. I got off the wrong bus. I ended up walking all the way through the park. I didn't have my phone, my wallet, or anything. I just kept walking, and I started humming. I began to write this song. It's very literal for me. My girlfriend's dad is from London. She grew up back and forth between the States and there. She does a lot of the same things people who grew up in London do like drinking tea. Everything around there was reminding me of her. I took everything I was experiencing while walking through that park and brought that one to fruition. A lot of it is storytelling. Strong melodies and lyrics are everything to me.
After an experience happens, will you write it down immediately or is there a processing period?
A lot of the writing process for the album has been quite a bit of co-writing. I've gotten to experience other people's minds and get vision from them. I'll write down ideas all the time of course. My phone is full of random ideas I come up with on the daily. I'll bring them to a session, and we'll try to figure out, "How does this coincide with other people's lives? How does this connect to other people?" I try to be as relatable as possible as well. That's important for me. The first song I ever wrote was a protest song. My mom used to take me to a bunch of protest rallies when I was a kid. I lost my brother when I was about nine-years-old. I took those two things and tried to make them relatable to everything else. Music is a remedy for a lot of problems. Whether it's happy or sad, I want to make sure that process is always going to help someone get through something.
What's the story behind "Still Misunderstood"?
That was actually the only song on there that I wrote completely alone. As a kid, I was never the most social. I liked to lock myself in my room for hours and play my guitar. I was also the kid who dressed weird. I liked buying thrift shop blazers and shit like that. I found my identity really early, and it wasn't accepted. I know there are a lot of kids nowadays who are struggling from bullying and not being accepted for the persons they actually are. A lot of kids these days identify with pop culture, but they don't identify with people who think outside of that box. "Still Misunderstood" really captured that for me. It was a really emotional thing, and that made me who I am today. I wanted to make sure there was a song for the people who felt the exact same way as I did and didn't feel accepted. I wanted them to know it's okay to be different. It's okay to struggle with all of that stuff because there are other people who have gone through it too. It comes out alright. I'm a happy person. I love what I do. I've learned from all of those things. "Still Misunderstood" was really personal for me.
Where did "Light It Up" come from?
It was the only song I didn't write. It was a cover of a band For King & Country. As soon as I heard it, I felt this immediate personal connection to it. I try to write all of my own music just because I like to be personally involved with it. That's a very singular case. I felt, 'This song really means something. I identify with it completely'. There are uplifting aspects again. Like in "Still Misunderstood", everything in the world is trying to bring you down and you're trying to embrace the moments that make you happy and alive.
What artists shaped you?
It was a lot of early music like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. I listened to a lot of blues as a kid. A lot of the melodies are based on that. Then, there was a lot of Aretha Franklin, Buddy Guy, and Otis Redding. The album that really did it for me was Continuum by John Mayer. As soon as I heard "Waiting on the World to Change" as a kid, it was over for me! I must've listened to that album at least three-hundred times from beginning to end. I can probably still hum every guitar solo. John Mayer has always been one of my idols. I've always seen him as such an incredible songwriter and crafter of melodies. In terms of musicality, he's amazing.
What inspires you outside of music?
My mom brought me up. She's a very spiritual person. Other beliefs and cultures inspire me. She always encouraged me to meditate and think about things. I take a lot from her. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I have strong beliefs that things will work out. I'll take more from different belief systems and ways of thinking than other art forms.
If you were to compare the EP to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I've never thought of that! I love making music that will go to movies. I can think of a style. It would be that of a Baz Luhrmann or epic movies that are big and larger than life. You can probably tell by the arrangements on the album that I grew up playing violin and was super infatuated with big scores and film scoring. I take from a lot of those epic James Cameron larger-than-life movies.
Have you heard Roméo Testa yet?