Allow me to reintroduce you to Rooney, the brainchild of Robert Schwartzman whom you may recognize from the 2001 film, “The Princess Diaries.” In its formative years, the band appeared as the first of many musical guests on the teen drama, The OC which is known for its iconic soundtrack. The band received notoriety for tracks like “When Did Your Heart Go Missing” and “I’m Shakin'” and are back after a six-year hiatus with a sound that has matured but stayed true to the core Rooney sound fans know and love.
We had the chance to catch up with Robert Schwartzman over the phone to ask him his thoughts on the ever-changing music industry, his aspirations with “Washed Away,” channeling creativity, and what we can expect from his upcoming show in DC. Check out the conversation below.
It’s been awhile since Rooney has released a record. Was it difficult to step back into an industry that has changed so much since you guys last released something?
I mean it is different. It is a different time in the industry and I’m still trying to understand it. I’m constantly trying to wrap my head around it, I mean, I think everybody is. It’s interesting, there’s kind of a unified feeling when everyone’s in the same boat. I think it kind of levels the playing field for artists because I think everyone has to kind of rethink how they’re gonna make a living-that’s the number one thing-we had to like put food on the table you know? And to do that you basically have to figure out what’s your audience, how does your business operate, or how are you gonna reach people? You know, cause records don’t sell anymore. It doesn’t seem like they sell, like you hear these stories of Adele or Taylor Swift but I don’t understand that. Like there’s gotta be some tomfoolery going on or something because even when you go look at those YouTube channels and there’s like a billion views-like I don’t even know if that’s real because there’s so much influence over those things today, I don’t know what’s real.
I think I’m struggling with that too I feel like everything is just a big marketing ploy half the time and it’s like what is genuine now?
It’s true. There’s no bitter feelings coming from me, I personally don’t feel any bitterness or anything. I’m super optimistic for the future and excited about it. No matter what, how confusing this industry is I’m still wide eyed about it. I still think the sky’s the limit in all this stuff. I just don’t understand it. There’s still a lot of things that remain the same which is I’m still gonna go in the studio and record, whether that studio is on my iPhone or in my actual studio depends on what kind of record I’m gonna make but I mean I still keep my own bar as high as I can for myself. I expect a lot out of my own work, I want the best out of it. So no matter if people buy my record or not I still wanna make the best record I can make. I still care about quality-I think we’re in a quantity business, but I care about quality.
What are you hoping to achieve with "Washed Away?" Do you feel like it’s a new chapter for the band?
Yeah, it’s like a new book. I think if it’s like a book series we’re into a whole new book. But I think that all along I just wanted to put a new record out and pick up where I left off and just enjoy it. I don’t feel like myself when I don’t have Rooney out there. It’s a part of me, it’s part of my identity and my life. I want to be talking about what I’m doing with Rooney I don’t want to not be doing that- I want to keep the Rooney flow. On what scale? I don’t know. We ran these Instagram ads with these little videos that I made on my iPhone-I shot them on my iPhone and edited them on my iPhone-there as DIY as you could possibly get. And I read some of the comments-they’re all positive and then there’s always like one sour apple and he was like “this is what I hate about mainstream, this is a mainstream indie band this is why I will not listen to this music, doing ads on Instagram? That’s not indie they have money behind them.” I was reading this post and I’m like you actually have it completely backwards because there’s no label, I’m the label, we have very limited funds-every dollar counts- and we’re hoping that every one of those ads is maybe gonna get people to go “oh cool I’m excited that Rooney has put a new record out.” We’re hanging by the thread of very small campaign financing. I think anyone out there in the world needs to know that every artist has to rethink how they do it because it’s hard to reach people. There’s so much clutter and so many things-every band wants to get a Spotify playlist or get on this radio station-everyone wants it. There’s a lot of bands as there always has been but it’s just slim pickins right now. But that doesn’t change anything, there’s no excuses. My only feeling is that I just wanna make really good music, I want people to be really excited, I wanna go play Rooney shows. I love playing under the Rooney name, they’ve been my songs all these years I’m very proud of them. I love what Rooney has achieved thus far in its career as a project and I just wanna keep building, keep slugging it until I’m an old man or something, I don’t know? I’ll probably make another solo record or something, I wanna work on more movie scores but I just love having the Rooney project. I love all the music and I love all the people who love the music, it makes people get psyched and I like that.
How do you channel your creativity into all of your different outlets? I know you recently worked on a movie.
I just have an interest in all of them. Because I’m interested in them I just push myself to do it. It’s like riding a bike or something, you take the training wheels off and you’ve just gotta find a balance. I think that if anyone has an interest in something and they want to learn it they just start taking the steps to learn it. I’ve always loved movies and it’s always been a part of my life, growing up and being around filmmakers in my family and being able to be on set and not having acted before, I got to taste that you know, try it and see what I liked about it. And I found my love of doing music and writing songs and performing, I obviously enjoy it because I've done it so much of my life. I don’t know, each one of them is very different-not all actors are musicians, not all musicians are directors, you know? They’re all different. I just happen to really, genuinely love it and mostly I just want to be creating something new-even if I’m just building a table. Whatever it is, to get to work on something, make something that wasn’t there and now is there and that’s what it is for me.
What can we expect from your show in DC?
The show is gonna be a really good time, I can say that. These shows have been really fun, we did three shows on the west coast on this tour and it’s been a blast. The crowd has been incredible. A lot of singing, a lot of high energy, a lot of just letting loose and letting go of the day. Listening to song after song of this wide range of albums that have come out over the last fourteen years. A lot of mixing and matching of all these albums and getting the crowd excited and getting them engaged and having a good time. It’s what I want out of a show-I want to be entertained and I want to be a part of it and that’s what I want people to feel.
Check out the video for the anthemic track, "My Heart Beats 4 U" from Rooney's new album, “Washed Away” below.