Rozzi Talks Finding Her Voice, "Uphill Battle" & Collaboration With DanceOn

Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images
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In 2013, Rozzi Crane hit the musical lottery. The singer, then a student at the University of Southern California, became the first artist signed to Adam Levine's label, 222 Records. Soon, she was touring with Maroon 5, recording a song for The Hunger Games soundtrack, and dubbed an "artist of the month" by Elvis Duran. Then, in 2016, there was a shift. Following a gnawing feeling that Rozzi described in a letter to the press as proof "something wasn't right," she and Levine parted ways. She embarked on a new journey — one that led to her single "Uphill Battle."
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Today, Rozzi is happier than ever with herself and her new music. In a collaboration with Madonna's digital-first programmer for dance entertainment, DanceOn, Rozzi's "Uphill Battle" gets new life, thanks to incredible choreography by Blake McGrath and a solo performance by Taylor Sieve. Rozzi spoke to Refinery29 about the song, its latest video interpretation, and what's next for her.
What inspired "Uphill Battle"?
"The short version of ‘Uphill Battle’ is that I had written a lot of songs about the relationship that I was in, that were more or less complaining about all the things that my boyfriend at the time had done. I was like, 'Maybe I should write a song that points to the maybe small things that I did, you know, that contributed to the problems in our relationship.' [Laughs] It was like turning it on myself instead of always pointing at him, haha.
"In a bigger picture sense... I kind of always felt, like I think a lot of people feel, frustrated with certain parts of my personality.... There are blessings that are sometimes a curse. I just feel generally annoyed with myself sometimes, wishing that I could be somebody else. I think everybody’s life always looks simpler to you from the outside than your own. So I wrote the song really trying to take those things that felt like weakness and make them feel like strengths for myself."
"It turns out everybody feels like that, and people now come up to me and talk to me about the things that they think are uphill battles in their lives. It makes me feel a lot less alone."
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Why work with DanceOn for this video?
"I love dance. I grew up dancing, but singing quickly took over. I was starting to see some people doing their own dances to 'Uphill Battle' online and I really, really liked it. It inspired me, seeing these talented people expressing the emotion of the song in their own way. So I thought, I love that art form and I would love to see the interpretation of my song by some really incredible dancers and choreographers. DanceOn was the go-to. They just do that stuff so well. They have a great track record of making really cool music videos. I wanted it to be their vision, and their take on the song. They’re great artists."
Did you talk to choreographer Blake McGrath about the video?
"I always have a million ideas, but I wanted them to do their thing. Like this isn’t my music video, this is a collaboration. This is what [Blake] does and he is so brilliant at it. I was like, ‘You do you.'
"The one thing I was adamant about was that I wanted it to be a single dancer rather than a couple. Yes, there’s elements of the song that has to do with a relationship, but it really is about a struggle with yourself and facing yourself and looking inward. You don’t want to make it about a guy, you know? I wanted it to be about the girl."
What was your reaction to seeing the completed video for the first time?
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"I was really moved. Taylor [Sieve], the dancer, I’ve never met her and it was pretty moving to see this really wonderful artist just express everything I felt when I wrote the song in a totally new way. I completely related to everything that she was putting into her performance."
You parted ways with Levine in 2016. What is the most challenging and rewarding aspect of the path you're on right now?
"Both signing with Adam and parting with Adam were two of the most life-changing moments in my life. Career-changing moments I should say. I would say the most challenging part was picking myself up after the disappointment of it not working out. I’ve had this dream and vision my whole life. At six-years-old I knew what I wanted to be, and in so many ways working with Adam was like a fairytale. The people in my life were like ‘It happened! I can’t believe you’re doing what you said.' The tour was so magical and crazy — to be 21 and at Madison Square Garden was crazy. But to have that fall apart was very heartbreaking.
"I was really devastated and it was really challenging to start again and listen to the little voice inside my head. You know when you have that little voice inside your head that tells you what you need to do, but you're afraid to do it? It was kind of like that. So that was really hard.
"The most rewarding part was that I found my identity. I am just so proud of my music, this song included, I’m just so proud that I spent so many hours just working and making music until I eventually wrote songs that I felt represented me. Now I know myself in a way that I didn’t before and that is invaluable. No matter what happens in my career, I have that forever. I’m sure I’ll continue to grow and change but I have a sense of who I am and what I want to say. That never would’ve happened if I hadn’t gotten dropped."
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Do you have any advice for young women in the music industry?
"Don’t worry so much about what other people are telling you to do. Take opportunities. Say yes to stuff. Learn. But at the end of the day it’s about knowing yourself and making music that you love. I have honestly felt a difference playing music that feels like me [versus] music that is from the outside.
"I was a teenager around some really powerful older men. And that was a hard position. It was hard sometimes to stand your ground. It just gets more and more clear, you know, that nobody knows you better than you do the older you get. Listen to yourself."
Check out DanceOn's video for "Uphill Battle" (choreographed by Blake McGrath Choreography/Artist Request and directed by Ryan Parma) below.
This interview has been edited for style and length.
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