Catching Up with Grammy Winner Autumn Rowe
Grammy®-winning songwriter, producer, vocal coach, and DJ, Autumn Rowe, gives us a glimpse of her life in music.
One of our core values and commitments to our community is establishing a culture of giving back by empowering women. From supporting causes that are aligned with our values to sharing stories of inspiring women, we can be instruments of positive change and encourage women to grow and succeed. We catch up with Grammy® winner, singer-songwriter, and vocal coach, Autumn Rowe, on what she has been up to this year. Whether you are a fan of Autumn, want a successful career in the music industry, or simply seeking some life inspo, read on for good vibes and learn about her journey as an artist.
VEERAH: Congratulations again on winning your very first Grammy last year for “We Are”. It is said that the last Black artist to win this category was in 2008. It must have been a dream! What was the experience like for you?
Autumn Rowe: Yes, it was surreal to be a part of something so monumental. I’m really happy for Jon Batiste and had no doubt that he would change the world from the second I heard his voice. I hope this moment inspires others to pursue the music in their hearts regardless of what the trend is. Music can win for the sake of music. The album (We Are) continues to be a gift. Last June, “We Are” was performed at the Juneteenth White House Concert by Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands. I can’t even put into words how special it was.
V: They say that what you’ve been doing while growing up translates into your chosen career path. Any special childhood memories that made you realize why you are where you are (career-wise) today? How has your upbringing influenced your craft?
AR: Well, necessity is the mother of invention. I’ve always been creative and used music as an escape from hard times. Music became my safe and happy place, where I can transport to somewhere great. Having a tough childhood, I learned to find so much peace and a spiritual connection to music. This is a big part of why I'm so drawn to it today.
My influences were also diverse. My mom would listen to the likes of Stevie Wonder, Carole King, and Aretha Franklin, but I'd open the window to the projects and there would be DJs playing hip-hop, freestyle, and all the new music. The streets were filled with music growing up in the Bronx. I was surrounded by culture.
The celebrated artist has gone a long way from performing and DJing at events. | facebook.com/AutumnRoweMusic
V: A lot has changed nowadays for women carving a path in the music industry. Do you agree or is there still more work to be done? Can you offer any advice or insight to other women who aspire to be artists?
AR: A lot has changed for women in music but not nearly enough. I still look around in the most important rooms and see mostly men, especially older white men. We still haven’t had a real “Me Too” moment—women only make up about 12 percent of songwriters and three percent of producers. On top of that, songwriters as a whole still aren’t being paid what we are worth. Overall, it’s a system that undervalues many creatives.
My advice to other women is just to keep working, have a great lawyer, and make your own way. Make sure this is what you really want, ‘cause it’s not worth the hassle if you don’t eat, sleep, and dream this. If you do come in, give it everything you got.
V: With all the songs you have written and produced, is there a song (or songs) that stand out because of the process or story behind it?
AR: I’ll start with my first major release, “Happiness”. It came out in 2010. I’ll go with this song because when I was writing it, I was working in a shoe store and was absolutely miserable. All I wanted was to do music for a living but instead, I was selling shoes. After a year on the job, I saved up a week’s worth of paid vacation and wrote every day. Mind you, I was already writing three to four times a week with a four-hour round-trip commute to the studio. There came a week when I told myself that I needed to write a song so I could quit my job, and that’s when “Happiness” was born. It ended up being recorded by artist Alexis Jordan, and I landed my first publishing deal. The song became the official song of the FIFA World Cup in 2011 and it changed my life forever.
Autumn and fellow Grammy-winner, singer-songwriter Jon Batiste, at the America’s Got Talent studio. | @autumnrowe
V: In the face of pressure and uncertainties, how do you stay calm, recharge, and regain your energy?
AR: I definitely have days when I'm stressed and overwhelmed, but having had such a tough childhood, I don't totally lose perspective because most of these stressors are very light compared to not having electricity or running water. Having survived such tough circumstances kind of gives you an inner strength where you know you can get through almost anything. Of course, I have bad days, but I tend to be resilient and bounce back quickly.
The other thing is when you get into the arts, you have to not only accept but embrace a life of total uncertainty. Uncertain of it all, songwriters don’t have bi-weekly paychecks or know how a project is going to do. We just have to be okay with that level of guesswork. I must say though, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
V: We know you love dressing up too! Describe your style and style influences. How has fashion shaped your overall branding as an artist and musician?
I do love dressing up! I think fashion is an extension of our personalities. I give a lot of credit to my stylist Meghan Kucich, she dresses me for most of my events and shoots and has really taught me a lot. I’ve always loved fashion, but I'm a bit more educated now on how it all works.
Songwriters don’t often get the chance to walk red carpets as we are often overlooked, so having a great ‘fit really helps boost one’s confidence and make a statement. When I do get to walk a carpet, in my head it’s like, “Hey, we are here too, and we matter. Remember us, the ones writing the songs.”
A closeup on Autumn’s Grammy—we don’t think this will be her last! | Photo from Autumn Rowe
V: We would love to hear about your aspirations and long-term plans for your music. What dreams and visions do you have for the future of your business?
AR: I can’t help but be creative, music is just in me. I’m spending a lot of time in Nashville this fall. I’ve just signed with a new publisher (Spirit Music Group) and management (Cory Litwin and Range Media Partners). I’m really excited about my new team and pushing myself as a creative person. I’m currently developing a really special artist who I can't wait for the world to discover. Also, I’m writing my first musical and starting to get into TV development ideas. I’d love to do more intertwining with film, TV, and music.
The future is looking bright for this staunch advocate of songwriter’s rights. | autumnrowe.com
You are truly an inspiring woman, Autumn! Warriors, we hope you picked up a thing or two from our insightful conversation with this passionate artist.
For more about Autumn and her work, follow her on social @autumnrowe and visit her website. To check out her Grammy-winning look in VEERAH, read this blog. Listen to her latest single with Jesse Clegg and Msaki, "Home", here.