We had the good fortune of connecting with Ro Rowan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ro, how do you think about risk?
When deciding whether to take a risk or not I usually ask, “Am I moving in the direction I want to go?” If the answer is yes and the actual or perceived reward feels valuable enough or even vital, I have definitely been known to risk it all. When I find myself saying, “I would rather try and fail than not try at all,” I am clear I have my answer. I would, without question, not be where I am today without risk after risk after risk. Emotional risks, spiritual and mental risks, financial and eventually creative ones. The most significant risk I have taken in the last 15 years (which so nicely encompasses all the aforementioned) was to leave a career in fitness, travel across the country, and go back to school to pursue a dream of being a self-sustaining musician and composer. To date, it is one of the scariest, most challenging, expensive, tiring, and exciting risks I have ever taken.
As I continue to grow and evolve so does my relationship to risk. Old risks no longer frighten me. New ones do pop up. But the paralysis that might accompany these new ones no longer exists. Because I have learned that just on the other side of fear, loss, vulnerability, and a bruised ego is a treasure trove of reward.
In the midst of a pandemic, BLM, and a pivotal election, I am aware that this is where I need to take risks now. This being the year that I finally put out an album of my own music no longer feels like the meaningful risk. Instead, I feel a sense of responsibility (a welcomed one) to comment on what is happening. Whether it is integral to my music or a phone conversation with a friend, I must invest in moving the needle. I must risk making mistakes while I learn about my unconscious racism and while I practice being an anti-racist; I must risk backlash or judgment for advocating for equality; I must share my views on politics, economics, and culture. I must. As an artist I cannot be afraid to offend or upset. Because to say nothing makes me part of the problem.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My career is made up of a sort of hodgepodge skillset. I am primarily a cellist for studio sessions and live performances. About a third of my work is remote recording. Periodically, throughout the year, I compose, arrange, do sound design, and contract for sessions/gigs.
Was it easy to get where I am today? In some ways, yes. How I run my business feels similar to how I navigate life. In other ways, not easy at all. After stopping playing cello for years and finally returning to it, I felt tremendously behind the pack. This really messed with my mind and any sense of confidence. Basically, I had no confidence and instead had paralyzing performance anxiety and imposter syndrome. But what I did have was a desire to play, perform, and create. So, I suppose in an effort to make up for what I felt I lacked in skill I tried to make up for in everything that surrounded playing my instrument.
Remote recording is a good example. Part of my “brand” is that when someone receives an audio file from me it is ready to go. It can be dropped into a session without any additional editing or clean up. I have spent the last 10 years developing and improving my studio to home in on a great recording sound. I take considerable time comping takes to edit the best performance. I remove room noise and any unwanted sounds. Fade ins. Fade outs. I often will throw in a few extra stems of improvisation or textural elements that come up during the recording process. My intention is that whoever is receiving files from me feels like they got more than they expected. They should also be able to stay in their creative process without spending time cleaning up after me.
Whether it’s a collaboration with a friend, a work-for-hire on a student project, or a blockbuster film, I believe every project deserves the same amount of focus and thoughtfulness. Every gig and every interaction is an “audition.” People remember how they feel when working with someone as much as or more than the outcome of the project. Showing up on time, bringing positive energy, delivering what is asked for, delivering it on time, having fun: this all matters and is the aim of my brand, you could say. I believe in the long game: make meaningful connections; prioritize relationships; engage with professionalism, respect, and integrity; and do my best always.
When I was younger, I chased fame and fortune and it left me feeling empty and isolated. So, I would much rather enjoy what I do, how I do it, and with whom over the glimmer and lights.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Definitely Griffith Park and the observatory. Venice Beach is something that should be experienced at least once. The Huntington. Descanso Gardens. Mulholland Drive. Abandoned zoo in Griffith Park. Echo Park Lake. Moonlight Rollerway. There’s a secret beach in Malibu that I am hoping is still secret. Too many museums to list. Bradbury Building. Grand Central Market. Wacko. Alcove. Guerrilla Tacos. Mi Teresita Taco Truck. Palm’s Thai. Hugo’s.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Hands down, my biggest shoutout goes to my mom. She is unwavering, consistent, loving, and unconditionally supportive.
Ellie Pritts, Steven Latham, Cory Hansen