Richmond Hill folk singer’s career rows along

Richmond Hill-based singer Jessica Rowboat recently relased her new album, “I Awoke,” and is performing Aug. 1 as part of the borough’s Lit Fest.
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Jessica Rowboat’s sound has been described as hauntingly beautiful. And her voice is gentle and fluid, like a rowboat gliding down a flowing river.

The young, dark-haired singer/songwriter strums her guitar to acoustic folk rock tunes that are uniquely her own, and has been making a name for herself within Queens’ music circles and beyond.

“The wheels are in motion and I’m stoked with my new album, ‘I Woke,’” Rowboat, 26, said. “It’s about being in love, but it’s also rooted in this urgency to have space for another person. It’s a very simple song. And it comes from an aching to be lost with someone, without conditions or constraints.”

The Richmond Hill-based musician is also looking forward to playing LIC Bar during an open mic event Aug. 1.

“It’s going to be just me and the guitar,” she said.

Rowboat, whose real name is Jessica Rozario-Ospino, described the struggles of writing and producing while living in New York.

“It kind of whacks you over the head every now and then,” she said. “You get disillusioned quite often. But my husband makes a mean cup of coffee and it whacks all that right back out the door. Not to mention this incredible group of friends and family I’ve somehow garnered. I’m grateful for all the ups and downs.”

The artist grew up in a close-knit family, surrounded by music. And as classical musicians, she said her parents and brother would forever influence her songs.

She was 8 when her family arrived in New York City from New Delhi, India, and she grew up in Jackson Heights’ lively immigrant community. While attending LaGuardia High School, her musical passion blossomed, then turned into a serious pursuit during college.

And it was Rowboat’s stint as one of the Top 5 Queens finalists, performing at The Greene Space’s 2014 Ultimate Battle of the Boroughs bands that helped propel her music forward. Although she didn’t win the battle, she said her experience was “awesome.”

While creating “I Woke,” Rowboat said she felt a part of a world that’s very reluctant to connect in a genuine way because of social media. “We do not connect feelings. We’re a generation that relies heavily on acronyms and images. We’re able to express ourselves with facades and filters that the generations before weren’t afforded. For better or worse, they were forced to be transparent,” she said. “I feel a part of that shift. This album is trying to remedy that disconnect. It’s my effort to be transparent, in hopes that it would speak to someone feeling detached or inadequate.”

Rowboat’s tunes range from the spiritual (“Mirrors”), to the mundane — in “Camera Song,” she sings about a Canon 7D camera that was stolen from her car — to the tragic. She wrote “Bodies” after reading about the suicide of a college student.

“I think it’s important to talk about the empty. To know there’s always a way around it,” she said. “It’s important to feel vulnerable, but it’s rarely allowed in the social media world we live in.”

Rowboat expects to have her album ready for an August release, which will be followed by an East Coast tour in the fall.

So, what’s the meaning behind her unusual name?

“Rowboat comes from this idea of separating and keeping things I wrote somewhere apart from myself. There are some irreparably dark places to draw from when writing, and it helps with that idea,” she said. “It’s a pretty vulnerable and startling feeling to write and play in an honest way. So, I keep those words and feelings in a rowboat, and share them from there.”

If You Go

Jessica Rowboat at Queens Lit Fest at LIC Bar

When: Saturday, Aug. 1

Where: 45-58 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City

Cost: Free

Contact: (718) 786-5400


Posted 12:00 am, July 24, 2015
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