Rosa Linn, courtesy of Columbia Records.

“I literally left my life behind and started with a blank page.” While that may be true for Armenian singer-songwriter Rosa Linn, her page didn’t stay blank for long. After representing her country at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, where she performed the rootsy, organic “SNAP,” Linn found herself catapulted to international stardom almost overnight. “SNAP” didn’t just capture the public’s attention – the song became one of only two Eurovision tracks to crack the Billboard Hot 100 in the 21st century and currently sits at more than half a billion streams on Spotify alone.

Among Linn’s fans are staple indie bands Milky Chance and Young the Giant, along with the modern king of folk-pop himself: Ed Sheeran. Sheeran, who Linn counts as a driving inspiration for her own songwriting, has already booked her to open a slew of dates at his Mathematics Tour this summer. Rather than simply basking in her whirlwind success, Linn is putting that momentum toward further establishing herself as the artist she envisioned as she was writing songs from her childhood bedroom in Armenia. The latest step in that process is “Never Be Mine,” a stripped-back cut that puts Linn’s soul-infused vocal front and center.

Linn caught The Untitled Magazine up on the new single, everything that has gone right since “SNAP,” and why a career in music once felt out of reach. Read our interview with Rosa Linn below.

You’ve been a musician for most of your life, having started learning piano at six years old. When did you know you wanted to turn it into a career?

I really didn’t enjoy piano lessons at first. I was too little to understand the beauty of classical music, and it was difficult for me to motivate myself to practice every day. But when I was nine, I started watching this TV show about a high school girl rock band and I became obsessed with it. I would imagine myself being on stage in front of a huge crowd. Then I asked my dad if I could take guitar lessons and started learning, playing, and singing old school songs like “Hold Your Hand” and “Hey Jude” by the Beatles, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Rod Stewart. I also sang songs by Billy Joel, Celine Dion, Bonnie Tyler, and so on. I joined a band and did my first gig when I was 12 in my hometown of Vanadzor, Armenia. We played in front of 300 people! And when I heard the crowd singing along, I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

You’ve mentioned that growing up in Armenia made the distance to a career in music “feel endless.” Why was that? What was your big turning point when you realized it might be possible?

The music business in Armenia is very different from in the States or Europe. We don’t have major labels, big publishers, or management companies. We lack the infrastructure for a business to exist – for example, there are no proper copyright laws in Armenia, making it difficult for an artist to make a real living making music. When I started writing songs, I didn’t have a lot of money or connections to even afford to record my songs professionally. I had no idea how the industry worked. I always wanted to be an artist with global success, but it seemed impossible for a small town girl from Armenia to make it on her own. That said, I didn’t give up on my dreams because there was nothing else I wanted to do – I still can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Making music is the biggest part of me. So I kept writing songs in my bedroom; taking every single opportunity to showcase my artistry until I was at the right place at the right time, and I got discovered by Tamar Kaprelian, the CEO of NVAK. It was the summer of 2019, and I was playing at a local festival with my band. And since then we’ve been conquering the music world together.

What inspires your songwriting? 

I’m inspired by the music that I grew up listening to: Ozzy, Sting, Adele. True human feelings; people I love and care about. I write a lot about my anxiety and depression — my loneliness. I get inspired when I think about life and the meaning of it. And of course, love.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

I adore Sting and Adele. I am a huge fan of Ozzy Osbourne. U2, Coldplay, Aerosmith, Norah Jones – I really love the pure old school music of the 80s, 90s and 00s. 

How would you describe your sound in your own words?

A love-drunk poet with a big voice. Although, I read a quote recently written about me that I think is more accurate: “Imagine if Ed Sheeran had a baby with Sting and Phil Collins.”

Beyond writing, you’ve also been composing since you were making music in your childhood bedroom. Do you play a heavy role on the production side of the music you’re making now?

I try to be as involved in the production of the music as I can. I really appreciate the fact that I had to make my own demos at first and that I learned the basics of Logic Pro. It gave me the essential skills and confidence that I use now in the rooms with my collaborators. I know what I want sonically, and I’m able to express it to the producers and even have input on the production. I usually come up with synth melodies or catchy guitar loops. I like recording big background vocals and creating additional hooks with just “oohs” and “aahs.” It’s just so fun. I consider arrangement and production a part of songwriting too. If I hear the sonic end result in my head while writing the song, it’s usually a very good sign. 

What was it like to represent your home country at Eurovision?

Another dream come true. I have watched Eurovision with my family since I was a kid. Every year I would tell my mom, “I’m going to be on that stage one day.” It seemed like an impossible dream for my family and me, which then turned into a reality. I love my country, and I was proud to represent my culture on such a big platform. It was a huge responsibility and a lot of pressure, of course. I finished 20th – basically at the bottom – but I got so much support from Armenians from all around the world, which really meant a lot to me. 

Right after Eurovision, “SNAP” went mega-viral – the song cracked the Billboard Hot 100 and currently sits at more than half a billion streams on Spotify. What was your reaction to that level of success?

I can’t say that I was totally shocked because I always believed in “SNAP,” but of course I never saw myself getting this much attention and success. I didn’t think it would happen this early on in my career. That song basically gave me a chance in this industry, and now I get to continue to prove myself.

Since then, my life has completely changed. I moved to the US and started working with legendary songwriters and producers like Rick Nowels, Dan Wilson, and Marcus Mumford. I’m learning my craft from the giants who wrote some of my favorite songs of all time. I got to perform on the same stage as Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Jack White. I still get a feeling that one day I’m going to wake up and this whole thing was just a dream. 

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind “SNAP”? Was it based on personal experience? 

“SNAP” is a very personal and vulnerable song. I wrote the initial idea when I was 18. I was in my bedroom heartbroken, confused, going through a lot of changes – mentally, I was in a very bad state. It’s a story of my unrequited first love. I was so obsessed with this person that it took me four years to completely get over him. All of these feelings, hormones, mental ups and downs made me feel like I was going to, for a lack of a better word, snap. But now I appreciate all the pain – I was able to channel it into this song, and it led me to where I am now. 

Rosa Linn, courtesy of Columbia Records.

Your latest single, “Never Be Mine,” is a highly emotive piano ballad. What’s the story behind that song?

Well, it’s another song that has helped me heal. It’s definitely a narrative extension of “SNAP” and a continuation of the relationship in that story. It’s about being so emotionally enamored and entangled with someone who will never be yours. 

Are you planning an EP or to release an album sometime in the future?

I have been writing almost every day for the past four months. I am planning to release several singles, which will eventually become my debut album. I have a lot of ideas for EPs, and I already think about what I would want to do for the second album. It sounds very ambitious, but I just feel really excited. I want to be an artist who delivers full bodies of work with meaningful lyrics and beautiful melodies. Most importantly, I try to stay true to myself and release music that I believe in and love. It takes a lot of effort and hard work, but it is all I want to do.

You recently performed at iHeartRadio ALTer EGO in a coat with “STOP THE BLOCKADE #ARTSAKH” on it to call attention to injustices in Armenia. Can you elaborate on the current situation there and what it meant to you to perform in support of your country?

I always try to stay away from politics in the songs that I write, but what is currently going on in my country is more than politics – it was and continues to be a humanitarian crisis. I couldn’t stay silent and ignore what was happening there while living out my dreams far away from home. I decided to take that opportunity and use the platform to bring awareness to the living conditions of 120,000 people who are effectively being forced out of their motherland.

You’re gearing up to open for Ed Sheeran at his Mathematics Tour later this year. What was it like to go from covering his songs to being asked to join him on tour?  What are you looking forward to most regarding the tour? 

When I got the news from my manager, I had just woken up and didn’t even realize that everything had already been arranged and that the contracts just needed my signature. I was so naive, I thought we were applying for it [Laughs]. When I finally realized, I’m opening for Ed Sheeran, it is real, I was just dancing around my room trying to never forget the moment. It was pure joy and happiness. I am beyond excited to meet Ed – to talk to him about music and life in general. He is one of the songwriters that I’ve always admired and looked up to. It gives me goosebumps when I think [about the fact] that the 13-year-old girl from a small town in Armenia who dreamed about performing on the big stage gets to perform in stadiums with Ed Sheeran.

“Never Be Mine” single artwork. Credit: Columbia Records

Do you have any words of wisdom you live by?

I try to live my life as honestly as I can. I try my best to be kind and loving to other people while I find my way to happiness and inner harmony. Feel and give as much love as I can, and always care about what really matters.

If you were to give words of advice to an aspiring musician, what would you tell them? 

Listen to your gut. There is a voice that tells you what the exact right thing for you is. But also be smart and take advice from people that are much smarter and more experienced than you. Be brave, risk and take every opportunity that comes your way. Be honest in your art, fight for the ideas you believe in, and be ready to compromise. Never think it will be easy. It takes a lot of sacrifice, but if you love what you do more than anything, then the sky’s the limit.

Do you have anything else on the horizon we can look out for?

I’m going to continue releasing music on a steady cadence, songs that I’ve been working so hard on with incredible collaborators. This summer, I am going to headline my first-ever tour in the US, play a couple of festivals in Europe, and open for Young The Giant and Milky Chance! It is going to be a busy summer, but it is everything I’ve ever dreamed of. And then hopefully by the end of the year, my debut album will be out!

For more from Rosa Linn, follow her socials: Instagram | TikTok

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