For Armenian singer songwriter Rosa Linn, the last year and a half has been a whirlwind.
Following a breakout run of performances in early 2022 representing Armenia during vaunted international song contest Eurovision, Linn’s single “Snap” went viral, leading to a recording contract with Columbia Records last August.
A month later, Linn, 23, moved to America, leaving her family and friends to work in Los Angeles with songwriter and producer Rick Nowels on her debut EP Lay Your Hands Upon My Heart (now available for online streaming via Nvak Collective/Columbia).
This summer, Linn opened for English singer Ed Sheeran in massive outdoor stadiums, dropped her new EP and just wrapped a run of dates alongside alt rockers Young the Giant and Milky Chance, making her debut at American festivals like Lollapalooza.
“It all started when Tamar Kaprelian decided to do a songwriting camp in Armenia for kids who have less opportunities than elsewhere in the world. And that’s how we met,” explained Linn backstage at Lollapalooza. “She said, ‘I want to sign you to a publishing deal. I want to get you out and start a career for you.’ And we’ve been working for four years. It’s been amazing,” she continued, recalling the origins of her partnership with Nvak Collective, a socially conscious incubator and label. “I’m not sure I’ve had time to process it.”
At the heart of “Snap” lies the relatable tale of adjusting after a serious relationship. Fans around the globe have had a visceral reaction to the track, which doubles down on the importance of mental health, driving the hit single beyond one billion streams.
Nowels has worked with artists like Madonna, Celine Dion and Adele, co-writing “If I Were You” with Stevie Nicks for her 1985 album Rock a Little. Working with Linn on her debut EP, the pair put a contemporary spin upon the Nicks deep cut.
I spoke with Rosa Linn backstage at Lollapalooza about Eurovision, working with Nowels on the new Lay Your Hands Upon My Heart EP, covering Stevie Nicks and growing as a songwriter. A transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity follows below.
Jim Ryan: I was looking at a timeline earlier and literally almost one year ago, you signed a recording contract. And now you’re here at Lollapalooza. I have to imagine it’s been a crazy year. What’s it been like trying to process everything?
Rosa Linn: I’m not sure I’ve had time to process it. Because it was really crazy.
I signed in August with Columbia. I moved to in L.A. in September and started working on new music. I was writing every single day up until starting the tour. I released a couple of songs and then started touring with Ed Sheeran. I’m touring with Young the Giant, released an EP and am gonna release a couple of singles.
I feel like it’s a never ending cycle of touring, studio, touring, studio – but those two things are literally my favorite things on the planet. So, I never get tired of it.
Ryan: How was the Young the Giant tour?
Linn: It’s been great. It’s been a little bit of an experiment. I tried doing it acoustic after having the full band out with Ed Sheeran. But I’m back rocking and rolling now. It was like, “OK. Done with the experiments. We’ve gotta bring the rock and roll back!”
Ryan: So you wind up doing Eurovision last year. I’m not sure everyone here fully grasps what a big deal that is elsewhere in the world. What was that process like for you?
Linn: It’s crazy. Eurovision is such a huge thing in Europe. I’ve been watching it since I was 8 with my family.
Funnily enough, I would tell my mom every time on the grand finale day when we would watch it on TV, “Mom, I’m gonna be on that stage one day.”
I didn’t even really start making music then – I just kind of had this feeling. I couldn’t even describe it. And she would laugh at me. But now she’s laughing even more.
Ryan: I think with “Snap” there’s such a relatable element to that song and that story. I think virtually anyone can relate to it in some way. What’s it been like opening up like that and seeing the very visceral way people respond to that song?
Linn: It’s amazing. For a creative person – and it doesn’t matter if you create music or whatever you do – it’s really heartwarming to see that someone actually feels the same feeling as you did. It helps me to see that I wasn’t the only one to go through that.
It’s also just amazing when you sing your song for people and they just appreciate it. You appreciate it even more.
Ryan: I know that you worked pretty closely with Rick Nowels on the new EP. What was it like working with him and how did those songs come together?
Linn: I’ve been writing a lot before meeting Rick. And I appreciate every single session that I’ve done and every single person that I’ve met and gotten to work with. But he really changed my whole experience in L.A. We became friends. I’m so honored to say that we’re friends now.
I think the reason why I really connected with him is that he wasn’t just working to write a song and release it and then bye-bye. We would go have dinners. I finally found a friend in L.A. – which was a very hard thing to do for me. So, it’s a bond that I think is going to last for a long time.
He’s just different. He’s a legend. I feel like I’m still learning like a sponge every day I’m in his studio.
Ryan: Covering Stevie Nicks… Obviously, Rick has a very personal connection to that song. Is “If I Were You” a song that you connected with too?
Linn: I was obsessed – I’m still obsessed – with that song. It’s one of my favorite songs ever.
I obviously knew Stevie and Fleetwood Mac. But when I learned that I was gonna meet Rick, I was like, “Oh my god, I’ve gotta do my homework.” So, I opened his “Written By Rick Nowels” Spotify. And, of course, I knew all of the Lana Del Rey stuff. It was hard to find something that I had not heard on that playlist. But I just randomly played “If I Were You.” And the first thing that hit me was, “Oh my god, what are these drums?” And I just got obsessed with that song.
I told him for four days straight, “Rick, I think this song is amazing.” I didn’t even think of doing a cover. I was just an admirer. And then one day we were having lunch and he said, “Do you want to record it?” I was like, “Can I?” “May I?” (Laughing)
That’s honestly in my top three favorite songs I’ve ever heard myself on.
Ryan: Opening for Ed Sheeran in stadiums, performing at a massive festival like Lollapalooza – all of it has happened so fast. What do you feel like you’ve learned along the way throughout this process?
Linn: Sometimes you’ve got to work super hard to win people over. And sometimes it just happens so easily. It was super easy during the Ed Sheeran tour. Festivals can be more challenging.
It’s also funny. “Snap” is either the last song that I’m doing or something in the middle. And the faces that I see… People just all of the sudden are like, “Oh!” “Oh, I know this song!” And their attitude and their engagement completely change.
It’s a fun feeling. But it’s something really important to learn: that one day you’re a rock star and the other day you’ve got to work super, super hard to be a rock star.
Ryan: How have all of these experiences impacted you? Do you feel like you’ve grown as a songwriter as a result?
Linn: Oh, definitely. I’ve grown as a writer and as a performer – and I think in general as a person.
I’m 23. And I’m so far away from home. Every day, I meet new people – it’s just new people. I don’t have my family with me or my friends with me. So, it’s a challenge every day as it is. Because you just meet strangers. And it just made me grow as a person and kind of understand me more. When you have people that love you all of the time, you don’t even bother to think about what’s going on inside you, you know?
It’s challenging – but I love it. I’m getting to do my favorite thing.