Q&A: Sally Rose Monnes of The Sally Rose Band talks family ties and music videos

Not many people can claim family ties to half their band, but singer Sally Rose Monnes of The Sally Rose Band can. That’s just one of the many things which makes this indie rock band, with “sweet southern grit,” unique.

After a stellar show closing out the Levitt AMP IX Art Park Concert Series Friday, November 6th, WTJU’s Chiara Brown was lucky enough to interview lead singer Sally Rose and learn all about her early beginnings in music, her dream collaborations and the band’s upcoming tour.


WTJU: You released your first album when you were 16. How old were you when you started playing music? Did you always know it was something you wanted to pursue seriously?     

Sally Rose Monnes:  I’ve been moving with rhythm and music since I was in the womb and my mother was part of the African Dance Troupe, Chihamba. When I was about eight years old I started writing songs in my leather journal. My mom would record them on her tape recorder after I get home from grade school. My pops bought me my first guitar when I was 11 years old. When I was 12, I started taking guitar lessons from Joe Madison at Blue Star music in Nelson County. Shortly after, I was playing local open mic nights and by 14 I was booking my own shows in small bars. I was hooked from the beginning.

WTJU: How did the band meet?

SRM: My mother, Catherine Monnes, plays cello, fiddle and sings in the band. Before the current lineup, the two of us played as a duet called Witchbaby. My brother-in-law, Benjamin, plays drums. When he and my sister returned from a year-long cross country trip before they got hitched, I asked him if he’d join the band. Sweet Pete Stallings is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We have a history spanning over 13 years. For six of them intermittently, we were lovers. We’ve always been musical soulmates. Pete is my favorite person to cowrite with. It’s a family affair. Some may say we’re crazy, but we’re rich with love and raw music.

WTJU: What is it like getting to play in a band with your mother?

SRM: It’s an incredibly special and complex relationship. We get to share something so rare and beautiful. It’s hard work for both of us, just as any relationship is. But there’s nothing as rewarding as rocking out onstage and turning to your right to see your mother beaming at you and kicking ass. I am proud and honored to get to play with my mom in a band. It’s plain and simple, she rocks.

WTJU: What does the song writing process usually look like for you?

SRM: When I was younger lyrics would always come first, then I’d put a melody to it and chords last. Over the past 14 years, my song writing style has become much more organic and fluid. I’ll be driving home on my dirt road and a guitar riff will get stuck in my head. Most of my songs come from real life experiences, struggles, matters of the heart or just concepts that allure me, like “Banshee” or “Ghosts”.

WTJU: If you could play a show with any artist who would it be?

SRM: That’s a hard question to answer. First of all, I have three bands. Each band would play with someone completely different. The SRB would probably have to play with the pixies or James Brown. The pixies because they’re one of my favorite bands and because they’re a huge influence on the rockier, edgier direction that we’ve delved into. James Brown because I grew up on his records and soul music speaks to me in a way that no other genre ever has. It’s honest and gritty.

WTJU: The Sally Rose Band has made a lot of music videos. What has that experience been like for you all? How do you come up with the concepts for the videos?

SRM: We’ve made quite a few music videos now. The first real music video we made was for “Bones” with Johnny St Ours. We released it on Halloween of 2012. It was such an honor to work with such a professional artist. Johnny’s been nominated for an Emmy Award before! The funny thing about that video is we had an entire script and cast planned out, but when his son started dancing in front of the camera with a toy skeleton, we threw all the rough draft ideas out the window. He was perfect and we ran with it.

Our recent music video release for “Pop My Balloon” was shot and directed by Rich Tarbell. Rich has become a very dear friend, inspiration, and somewhat of an artistic director for us. Although I picked props and people to be in the video, he was the brainchild for the entire concept. That was a truly remarkable project. Rich and I put in two practice runs, he wrote a script, we brought the troops in, and we shot the entire video in less than two hours. That’s just the way he rolls.

WTJU: What’s next for The Sally Rose band? 

SRM: We’re hitting the road and doing a string of “Gotta Be Gold” tours to get the record out there. I’ve been sending copies of the new album out every day to radio stations, magazines and newspapers in the cities we’re touring through. It’s been amazing getting all the press and radio play. We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves for a title track music video that will be released Christmas Day. County Wide Music has secret plans for when we’re ready to hit the studio again…crazy, right?


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