LA Weekly: I saw you perform as part of the Songs from the City songwriters showcase at Walt Disney Concert Hall a few months ago (which featured, among others, Inara George and Van Dyke Parks, John Doe, Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio and Bob Mould). What was that experience like?Daniel Rossen: That was actually my first time ever performing by myself. Id never done that before, so I was a little bit I mean, I wasnt nervous at all beforehand, but when I got there I was a little taken aback, because when I walked into the theater, Van Dyke Parks was soundchecking, onstage playing Vine Street. I had heard he might be there, but I had no idea that hed be performing Vine Street. That album, Song Cycle , was one of my favorite records growing up, and I completely idolized him as a kid. So that was a little scary, having to play directly after Van Dyke Parks doing Vine Street.
LAW: I remember you mentioning that onstage.
DR: It was a little bit upsetting for me, but I was able to speak to him before the show, and I'd met him once before very briefly, and he was a really a very sweet guy and very reassuring that his songs were just ancient and didn't matter anyway and I shouldn't feel bad about it. But, yeah, it was amazing, in a weird way.
LAW: I didn't know it was the first time you had ever played solo. I would imagine it's a different atmosphere for someone used to playing clubs.
DR: Yeah, you know, I'd had a few glasses of wine so...
LAW: Let alone with like, what, a dozen amazing songwriters listening to you.
DR: Yeah, you know, but some of them were surprisingly very nice, like John Doe is a very sweet guy, and obviously Van Park is amazing, and Kyp Malone I know from home, and it's kind of nice to have his face around just as something familiar. Actually I thought his performance, he ended being my favorite of the whole night because it was so starkly different from everything everyone else did. Like everyone was trying so hard, I felt, to wow the audience with dynamics -- like, 'Just because we're playing alone doesn't mean we can play loud and project' -- and I mean I kinda did the same thing, because I was a little scared to play something too quiet. But Kip just went on and did fifteen minute stories with just three chords pretty much, and it was beautiful. I thought it was amazing.
LAW: It was amazing. I'd been a fan of TV on the Radio, but it had never really clicked for me until that night.
DR: He's genuine. You can sense what a genuine person he is, you know? There's nothing objective about what he does, I don't think, which is kind of amazing. I don't know, maybe it's because I know him a little bit -- I'm not exactly friends with him, but I know him enough to know when he's being authentic or when he's being honest.
LAW: So how did this performance with the LA Philharmonic come about?DR: The idea of it has been around for a while, but we just never had found the time when it was appropriate or seemed like we would be able to even remotely fill the room at all. But then when I came back and did this show, in January, I met [LA Phil programmer] Johanna Rees again, and I spoke with her at length about it. And we got along well, so we just decided that there was this opening on March 1 and that we should just do it. The LA Phil is trying to woo younger audiences, I guess, is what a lot of this is about. They seem to feel that a lot of younger people don't have the attention span to sit down, or pay the ticket price to listen to a piece by Stravinsky or something. So this is a way for them to introduce an audience they don't think typically would give them the time of day.
LAW: And you're collaborating with them on selecting what the Phil is performing?
DR: To a degree. We originally talked about us basically curating a show. But the problem is they're only going to rehearse for this maybe once, so they have to be pieces that are generally part of the LA Phil repertoire. But I talked to the director of the Phil last week and they listened to our music, and he gave me some suggestions of pieces that are in their repertoire that he thinks would be appropriate after hearing our music. They're doing a piece by Benjamin Britten which is called The North Sea Portraits. They picked kind of impressionistic orchestral music that they felt related, or sounded vaguely like the washes and textures that are on Yellow House.