Roz Bell
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Roz Bell


Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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"Hot New Talent Alert: Roz Bell"

If Justin Timberlake and Sting could have a baby his name would be Roz Bell, my first hot tip for 2007. With his infectious "rock 'n soul" sound and good looks to boot, Bell is the perfect package to storm the pop charts this year. His album "The First Sunbeams" will be released in March in Canada. No U.S. release date has been scheduled at this time. But this urban troubadour is signed to Universal so with a bit of luck he can be heard around the globe before you know it.

Hailing from Toronto, Bell started his songwriting career when he was ten years old. Initially, he wanted to be an MC, but he was later turned on by by the sweet pop and rock 'n roll from people like Bruce Springsteen, Hall & Oates and Bill Whither. "My whole goal is to sit in my bedroom and write my own 'Lean On Me,'" he says in a press release. With the help of producers James Robertson, Jeff Blue and mixer Neal Pogue, he finally has a chance to make a mark of his own with his debut album "The First Sunbeams."

Listen to Bell's lush pop tune "Papercut" that is a song that poignantly describes how men and women can differ. "The track is about a woman overreacting to something. Something the man sees as being as harmless and small as a papercut. But the man fears he might be losing her this time and is trying to change her mind," Bell tells "Musically, it's a throwback to Hall and Oates and that 80's "big chorus", R&B-influences pop/rock."


The First Sunbeams (to be released summer 2007)

1. Cali, Cry
2. Yesterday Man
3. The First Sunbeams (interlude)
4. Love In The Back
5. Papercut
6. I Used To Love Her
7. A Girl Named Crush
8. In The Bathroom
9. Jesus Janey
10. Feels Like Love
11. Fly On A Feelin' (interlude)
12. She's So Excitable
13. We'll Always Have The Rain
14. The Greatest Tragedy



If you can't quite pigeonhole Roz Bell's first single, "Yesterday Man," there's good reason.

There's a hint of The Police's reggae-rock in Roz's vocal delivery and the breakdown also reveals someone well-versed in hip-hop. The upbeat guitar strumming evokes a back porch sing-along, and the sad strains of the line "I'm so-oh lonely... when you leave me” could’ve been plucked from a classic country song.

It's the sum total of a wildly diverse set of influences all come together on Roz’s sweet debut album, The First Sunbeams. The album was produced almost entirely by James Robertson (Esthero, Skye Sweetnam), mixed by Neal Pogue (Outkast, Citizen Cope, Transplants) and features one song, "The Greatest Tragedy," shepherded by super-A&R man/producer Jeff Blue (he discovered Linkin Park and Macy Gray). It's an album made up of short, simple stories, the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl sort of timeless songs that are the foundation for contemporary music.

"I’m a fan of really direct songwriting," Roz says, excitement clear in his voice when he discusses old-time hits. "I love that style of writing. It’s very pop and it’s very simple, but done with the right angle it can be very smart can be very to the point."

Born Kevin Rosaire Bellemare and raised in Holland Landing, a small farming community an hour north of Toronto, Bell's parents schooled him on country classics. "My parents were obsessed with country music and played it constantly, almost 24 hours a day when I was a kid," Roz says. "George Jones, Alan Jackson, Hank Williams, Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride... I have one older brother and we grew up knowing the lyrics to every country song."

Still, like every good music-loving youngster, he had to find his own music. "As a kid I was into Rick Astley, Huey Lewis, Hall and Oates, '80s pop music and stuff like that,” Roz says. "And once I found hip-hop in '87-'88 I just abandoned everything else." Hip-hop's hold on Roz went deep. He started writing rap songs at age 13 before discovering thoughtful rock in high school.

"I was actually getting into The Lemonheads, Counting Crows, Blind Melon, things like that that happened at that time," says Roz. "I got a guitar in grade nine and started writing pop songs. And everyone that I knew in high school played music and sang. If I went to a party there were always acoustic guitars around. Everyone was playing guitars, everyone was singing."

The First Sunbeams is definitely a singing and guitar playing album. But also a whole lot more. The groovy funk of "Papercut" is surefire dance floor sunshine from a bygone era. "It’s definitely got that ‘80s pop-soul feel," says Roz. "I love Hall And Oates and I think 'Papercut' definitely has that kind of vibe. It’s got a big chorus and it’s also got that ‘80s kind of experimenting with production, more than just guitar, bass, and drums. So it’s definitely got a call back to that time for sure."

Spicy track "In The Bathroom" doesn't so much recall an era as it does a naughty restroom adventure. "The song is actually about playing dress-up with your significant other," he explains a bit sheepishly, revealing not-quite-bad, but good boy...who-can-be-bad side. "[It's] not finding a random. It’s 'let’s pretend we’re strangers for the night.' It’s playing naughty with your wife or your girlfriend."

"Feels Like Love" combines both that love of '80s pop with inter-personal entanglements. “I’d say it’s a modern day ‘Jessie’s Girl.’ Lyrically it’s totally from that stance." That Roz could so effortlessly recreate various eras in song is unsurprising. On top of the musical influences of his youth, Roz moved to downtown Toronto in the 1998. It was the height of what was a vibrant evolutionary time in the city's music scene. He lived near Esthero. Nelly Furtado was in town working on her first album. And K-OS was still underground, not yet an international hip-pop star.

"Toronto’s such a diverse city," says Roz. "And I think a lot of the artists that come out of Toronto, or Canada as a whole, really do blend elements well. I think it just melts a little better here." Roz soaked up that T-dot nightlife, working, playing and taking in all the music it had to offer. "We don’t separate things as much as people do in places like, say, America," he says. "Artists like Esthero and Nelly and Bedouin Soundclash and K-OS all have a fusion of different things and that’s definitely the way I see my music."

When Bell takes the winsome slide guitar flourishes of "I Used To Love Her," nestles them comfortably beside the smooth and string-heavy ballad "A Girl Named Crush" and the straight-up buttery slow jam "She's So Excitable". Layer Bell's Sting-affected vocals on top and it creates something altogether new.

"I think in making the transition from hip-hop to singer-songwriter, you kind of cross into that transition of reggae vibe somewhere along the line, and I think that’s where that influence on my singing style c