How Bass led Franc Moody's Rosetta Carr Right Back to Herself
Written by Serena Ferrari
Photographed by Leo Wyndham
Rosetta Carr lines the lips of her eyes in ice blue eyeliner. Plucking the words right out of my own brain, she looks up from the table mirror and says, “I am a warrior. That is not going to change.” The blue lines pop against her brown skin, loud but pretty. She continues, “If I stop for a second, and I think of just the last ten years of my life, what happened and where I was and where I am now, chapeau off to my own self.” She gestures with an invisible hat and chuckles before adding, “still going to be tough, but I am going to deal with it.”
Rosetta is the bassist for many London-based projects, but the most well-known is Franc Moody, a funk based band that has infected London with a new groove to move to. With their disco flair and collage of instruments, including an oboe solo in the beginning of their single ‘Night Flight’, Franc Moody fulfilled a void English listeners didn’t know existed: the need for really good live, dance music.
The first time I saw Franc Moody perform was at a private festival in Sussex. Because of its exclusive and contained nature, the summer evening was charged with a heated glow, and a sense of freedom— freedom to dance, freedom to be, freedom to meet and interact with strangers. After the show, groups of us all dispersed and re-converged until suddenly, I found myself sitting across from Rosetta in a dark corner of a horse barn, the night losing itself to daylight. We talked about the gig and I wondered from my hypersensitive American perspective, how it was for Rosetta to play for certain crowds, mainly white ones.
She remarked a few months later in her garden, “The thing is that I am aware of the color of my skin everyday. I don’t really need to be on stage to be aware of that. I feel it. Every time. I am not talking about intolerance or racism. You born black, you are going to know your entire life that you are born black and if you forget about it, other people are going to remind you of it. That is the truth and facts. [But] when I play I don’t really look. I am going to be honest, I don’t really look at the color of people who are looking at me. I am just looking at their faces, and I am happy to have smiling faces when I perform.”
Born in Milan, Italy, Rosetta was raised in the Italian countryside, an environment and culture that was not at all diversified. “I grew up being in a situation where I was maybe the only black person in the entire school... I remember once washing myself with bleach and having this huge fucking reaction over my eyes and over my arms. If I think about that now, I want to cry,” Rosetta confesses. “I am very ashamed of myself, but I didn’t have any knowledge and any idea what— I didn’t have the mind that I have now basically.”
That mind started to form when she went to school in Milan. “Going to study in Milan when I was a teenager was different because there were people from different nationalities, different colors, and different cultures as well, but still you always feel that you don’t fit in. I was still having, after years and years, people coming up to me saying ‘Oh my god, your Italian is great.’ And you know like, I am born there, of course it is great. ‘So is yours’, I started to reply.”
Rosetta’s father, an African-American from Manhattan was an absent figure in her life and Rosetta’s mother, a Ghanaian teenager, left her country for Italy when she became pregnant. At the age of six, her mother was arrested and Rosetta was put into foster care but, “before they put me in foster care, they put me with three or four different families, or maybe five. Just here and there, and a few of these families weren’t nice, a few of them were really lovely, but it was lasting like two months, and then they were moving me somewhere else. In the end, they put me in this foster care place that I don’t think it was an orphanage, but it was a place where they just put kids when they don’t know where to put them, managed by nuns and priests. We are talking about living in an apartment with twenty three, twenty five other girls, everybody with their own problems. People with mental issues.”
At the age of ten, Rosetta fled this semi-orphanage housing facility, only to be soon found by the services, placing her with her current adoptive family. “I do love them,” Rosetta begins, “I think that we are very different. We don’t understand each other fully, but if I have values nowadays, if I think and talk in a way, in a certain way, it is due to the people that took care of me when I most needed it. So I do love them. Even though I feel very far away from them.” Rosetta believes that a lot of the familial friction comes from the fact that she left when she was eighteen to move in with with her high-school sweetheart, who later became her fiancé. “I think everybody reacted in a bad way [to that]. But the thing that hurts my feelings is that I am in this musical world and no one in my family acknowledges that."
Yet, Rosetta admits her family was probably only thinking what was best for her. “My family thought that the best thing for me was to study and do other things.” Other things like settling down with her fiancé, marrying and having kids. Rosetta laughs at the thought of her possible other life. “If I was going to get married with that man, can you imagine? I would be at home now, maybe a couple of kids, not happy with my life, working full-time, breaking my back and having him cheat with my best friend at the same time. So, no, playing bass, getting married— no comparison.”
Rosetta has now been living in England for five years, but remembers sharply the struggle she endured when she first arrived. “When I came to England, I fell into a heavy, heavy depression. I mean I travelled from my bed to the sofa, back to my bed... it is quite a trauma [moving from] a life that you are used to, a place that you are used to, a tradition you are used to, to something completely different. Especially if you are coming from a traumatic situation or whatever you left behind you...One day, my friend, came over with a bass and said, ‘If you are not going to do anything, you might as well learn something.’” She giggles at the memory of her days teaching herself bass, or perhaps, the bass teaching her. “I didn’t even know that I needed an amp. I played for two months without an amp with the bass close to me like this [held to her stomach] just feeling it, the vibrations. Gave me the perfect energy that I needed.”
Four years later, she has exponentially risen as a star bassist in the London music scene. In December 2018, Franc Moody opened for Nile Rodgers & CHIC at the O2 Arena in London, and since then, she has been scouted by Ed O’Brien of Radiohead and Brian May of Queen for their individual solo projects. She is no doubt a hot commodity. “I have all the cards to play, you know. If you are a black woman that plays bass, this is a winning card in 2019 because everyone wants a piece of that. I don’t know for what reason... it is just how it works now. So I want to play with that, and use it for good.”
Rosetta’s story has inspired a tremendous faith in fate for me, however Rosetta believes another force was also at work. “I kind of like to think this is karma working in my way, because it wasn’t pleasant until a few years ago. It has been a lot of problems, lots of things to deal with and a lot of things I think I am going to deal with for the rest of my life. Because if you think of childhood traumas, it is something you keep working on and live with and keep working on. And I think everything was supposed to happen and I think I am just starting now to get my pay back. “
For most of her life, Rosetta was stripped of the things that can give one a sense of belonging. So many of us take for granted our families and communities who not only support us, but on a very basic level, inform us of who we are and why we are the way we are. Without that contextual springboard, how does one begin to understand one’s own self? It’s almost like trying to establish a room without any walls. But through all the trials and errors, all the friction and adversity, Rosetta found her rhythm.
“I remember the day that I said to my sister, ‘I’m gonna move.’ And she and her boyfriend were like, ‘what do you think you are going to find that you are not going to find in Italy?’ I would just love to show them myself and be like ‘that’s what I found.’ I found myself. I found something that makes me happy. Like I am playing music. Nothing better than that for me now.”
Keep up with Rosetta.