Rebel Rouser - "I was in a really dark place earlier this year & I felt I needed to make a statement like 'woah, hold on, don’t count me out just cause I’m struggling'." - Stereo Stickman

Rebel Rouser “I was in a really dark place earlier this year & I felt I needed to make a statement like ‘woah, hold on, don’t count me out just cause I’m struggling’.”


Noting two new albums and tens of thousands of streams on the brilliantly impactful single Open Door, it was a joy to interview artist and rapper Rebel Rouser. We talk everything from inspiration to the creative process, ambition, influences, and plenty more. Here’s how it went.

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Hi Rebel – a real pleasure to talk music with you, thanks for the opportunity. To introduce things, where in the US are you based, and when did you first start writing songs?    

Hello – pleasure to talk with you. I travel a lot but the home base is Missouri. 

I think I always kinda wrote songs throughout my life, since I was a kid I always plucked on guitars or messed around on pianos, but I really took it seriously when I was 16.

Given the expressive vocals and guitar sound, are you musically trained, and do you produce everything yourself?   

Unfortunately no, I’m not musically trained. I think I somehow gained an ear for what I like music-wise and just somehow taught myself how to play instruments over time. 

As for production, I do produce everything myself – I’ve always made it a point for me to make sure I can make whatever is in my head without having to rely on others, not that there is anything wrong with working with producers, I just feel for me it works best if it’s all me.

The clarity of your sound is beautifully refreshing, it highlights the poetic imagery and stripped-back qualities of the guitar and voice. What was the creative process like for Open Door, and how did it feel to pour so much of your personal truth into it?  

Thank you, first of all – that’s very kind of you to say. I think for Open Door I just had those starting guitar notes and I felt like just rapping, it kinda turned into a bit of an introspective therapy session, so to speak. 

For the second half I just felt it needed something big and ambitious and that’s the second half I settled on. I think I made about 4 versions before I decided on the one that’s there now.  

“Talking about personal shortcomings and my failures I feel is the best way for people to relate and for me to get something off my chest, it’s kind of a win-win.”

The artistic overall connects well – the softer opening half and the contrasting weight and multi-layered embrace of the latter. Who or what first inspired you to make music in this way, and what is one of the most artistic musical representations of certain stories or themes, in your opinion?   

You know I think listening to a lot of indie rock and alt rock growing up, mixed with hip hop, it kinda made me appreciate the rapping side of things and the grand rock ballads.

A lot of Open Door was definitely inspired by the Smashing Pumpkins, I really loved them growing up and you can hear a lot of that inspiration in my music and In Open Door especially.  

I think there’s a lot of great musical representations, the list is so long, but some of my favourite ones go from Igor to Swimming, by Mac, or even Siamese Dream, by Smashing Pumpkins, just to name a few. Naming one would be too tough.

You’ve reached an impressive number of listeners with Open Door, how does an expanding audience impact your creative process, and how do you maintain such authenticity amidst growing popularity and knowing what an audience wants?  

That’s a tough one. To be honest I’ve been guilty in the past of making songs for a certain demographic or genre, like oh I have to make a party song or a pop song, but Open Doors‘ success really made me realise that as long as I’m true to myself and I am just unapologetically me, that’s what’s most intriguing to people.

You’ve released two albums this year – is this level of work-flow typical for you, and how did you separate the two collections of songs, by theme, mood, style, or something else?   

Two albums in one year is pretty wild when I think about it, I’ve always made a bunch of music but didn’t really release a lot of it. I think this year I just felt I had something to say again, and it just happened to be sooner than later. 

I made Hiraeth in a dark place and wanted to make a rock album and the turn around was pretty fast, so I had that pretty much done. I’m still here Sit Down kinda happened on a whim and I noticed it sounded drastically different from the last album, so I just decided it was time.  

Why the album title I’m Still Here Sit Down, and what does this project represent for you?

I was in a really dark place earlier this year and I felt I needed to make a statement like ‘woah, hold on – don’t count me out just cause I’m struggling’.  It represents to me my versatility and that regardless of what I’m going through to not count myself out, cause I’m still here trying, progressing and working, so the title just felt fitting to me.

My Paintings Found a Place is a stunning example of the depth and poetry of your style. How did this track come to be?  

Well for that song I had finished paintings and I wanted to expand on that idea, I think it’s cool to think of songs like pieces of art in a gallery, which is why I had that theme sprinkled throughout the record. 

I was in a dark room just messing around on the guitar and something just clicked. I think that might be one of my favourite songs on the album.

How important is live performance, and what does that entail – solo acoustic, backing track, full band?

I think live performance is super important, there’s nothing like a real tightly knit band just jamming out with people. If I’m ever on tour it’s gonna be a full band, all the bells and whistles, I think the more the better for live shows.

What’s your biggest ambition as an artist?  

Really I just want to reach as many people as possible, but there has always been this thing in my head that I want a number 1 album – that’s probably the biggest ambition in terms of having to reach a goal.

If you could sit down for a chat with anyone at all, past or present, who would you choose, and what would you ask them about?  

You know this answer changes for me all the time but for right now I’d love to sit with Jon Brion – one of my favourite composers – and just pick his brain about the Eternal Sunshine soundtrack or working with Mac for Swimming. I think that would be a really dope conversation.

Is there anything else we should know?  

Think I covered pretty much everything. Just wanna say thank you for taking the time to ask these questions and doing some research on me.  Keep listening – I got more music on the way and I hope everyone enjoys. All love.

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Find Rebel Rouser on Instagram & Twitter.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

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