Rosalie Cunningham: The Soundtrack Of My Life

Rosalie Cunningham
(Image credit: Rob Blackham)

Having started out as a teenager with Ipso Facto in the late noughties, singer-songwriter Rosalie Cunningham emerged as the guiding force of Purson. The band’s billowy psych-prog sustained itself for two essential studio albums before Cunningham called time in 2017. 

She’s since embarked on a grippingly eclectic solo career. Her latest album Two Piece Puzzle is rich, dark, playful and wonderfully adventurous. We really wouldn’t expect anything less. 

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The first music I Remember hearing

I was exposed to a lot of cool music growing up, because my dad was a musician. But the first song I remember, when I was about three or four, was Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Grows) by Edison Lighthouse. I don’t know if it’s because the character in the song had a similar name to me, but something just sort of stuck.


The first song I performed live

My first proper gig was an underage rock night when I was thirteen. We did a short set, mostly covers, and a couple of very primitive songs that I’d tried to write. We opened with 20th Century Boy by T.Rex. The guys in the band were quite a bit older than me and were into punk, so we also played Ever Fallen In Love by Buzzcocks and something by The Misfits.


The singer

Different styles mean different favourites for me. As a frontman and singer, Freddie Mercury was just the best. When it comes to rock/soul, I’d say Steve Marriott. And for female vocalists it has to be Sandy Denny. She’s got such a rich voice, but I also love the vulnerability of it.


The songwriter

Lennon and McCartney are way above everyone else on the top tier, then it’s Bowie. He was so idiosyncratic and wrote so many great classics. He’s definitely a massive influence on me. Even if you strip him right back to just an acoustic guitar and vocal, the songs are still just as good.


The guitar hero

Mick Ronson’s signature sound had so much attitude, it was so badass. I think it’s just the best guitar sound there is. Musically, as an arranger, he was ridiculously intelligent too, which a lot of lead guitarists aren’t really known for. He was incredibly humble and understated in that sense. But when you listen to anything he was involved with, it’s quite clear he was a genius.


The greatest album of all time

My favourite Beatles album changes quite regularly, but I think Abbey Road, as a sort of final statement, is a masterpiece. It stands separate from the others. It’s so far ahead of its time, but it’s also completely timeless. My dad used to do music journalism for the live industry, and I actually met Paul McCartney backstage on his American tour in 2004, when I was fourteen. I freaked the fuck out, I couldn’t speak at all. I sat next to him eating lunch, for about an hour.


The best record I've made

I’m proud of all the Purson stuff and my first solo album, but I have to say the new one [Two Piece Puzzle], don’t I? The best is always the latest. 


The worst record I've made

Ipso Facto was my first sort of proper professional band. We never actually did an album, though, just a bunch of singles. And none of them were very good. It’s charming in a way, but it’s like having an old diary from when you were a teenager out on display on the internet. It’s so embarrassing. I was far too young to be in the public eye.


The most underrated band ever

Stackridge made some incredible albums in the seventies, particularly The Man In The Bowler Hat, which was produced by George Martin. If you like theatrical, psychedelic prog, it’s genius. I’d rate it above a lot of Genesis’s stuff. I had absolutely no idea that Stackridge were uncool, so maybe that’s why they’re underrated.


The best live album

In terms of heavy rock bands, I love Deep Purple the most, probably because of the organ sound. They were really on fire with Made In Japan. That noise coming out of the speakers is like going on a ride. It blows your head off. It’s just kind of outrageous.


My guilty pleasure

I have a soft spot for musicals. I’ll stick on the Grease soundtrack and sing along with all the different parts, which drives Rosco [Wilson, her partner] absolutely mad, because he hates it.


My Saturday night party song

Rosco and I haven’t been going out much lately, but we stay in and have party nights indoors. We always put on Down In Mexico by The Coasters and that’s when the party starts. It gets us dancing around the living room.


The song that makes me cry

Howlin’ Rain’s Strange Thunder is a really moving song. The subject matter is about suicide anyway, but it’s actually the way that the song progresses, musically, that causes this tidal wave of emotion by the end. It gets me every time. There’s also an Elvis one, If I Can Dream, that really moves me whenever I hear it.


The song I want played at my funeral

I’d have to go for Gotta Get Up by Harry Nilsson, because the lyrics – taken in that context against a sort of upbeat melody – would be a nice little black comedy moment to end on.

Rosalie Cunningham's Two-Piece Puzzle is out now via Esoteric Antenna/ Cherry Red.

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.