5 Questions: Al Rose


Al Rose is a mesmerizing, challenging, insightful and ultimately delightful songwriter with a unique command of wordplay combined with considerable musical acumen that is captured on his 7th and latest disc, Spin Spin Dizzy (2016). His albums have received critical praise along with extensive airplay on AAA and Americana stations throughout the US and Europe. The Chicago-based performer has played coast-to-coast and has toured in Europe and Japan. He captivates audiences whether he’s solo live or accompanied by any number of his band, The Transcendos, in any configuration. This drives the songs each night, but the songs have always been what drive the musicians. Al and his wife, Rhonda Welbel own and run Kopi Cafe (5317 N. Clark St. Chicago), now in its 27th year in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.

Learn more about Al at his website.


1. What’s been keeping you up at night?

A potent cocktail of irrational and rational anxieties. Probably 88% irrational and 12% rational. Not every night. As early as 4:30am or as late as 7:30am. The printer at work; My mom’s dwindling money; replaying a situation that doesn’t warrant replay. It starts low key and works its way to an avocado stomach pit. The Republican clusterfuck greedy lying hypocrisy, complicity and climate change ignorance and inactivity? That shit keeps me awake and on edge during the DAY.


2. What’s the coolest thing you have seen or heard lately?

Over the past week, I’ve watched the documentary bios of Nina Simone (“What Happened, Miss Simone”), John Coltrane (“Chasing Trane”), and Bob Weir (“The Other One”). Losing myself in the history, the music, inspirations, pains and glories had me riveted. I love me a well made doc.

3. What’s the most exciting thing you are working on now?

In the big picture of what I do, the pendulum swings, sways and shimmies around and between songwriting, recording and gigs. I’m usually doing some gigs somewhere, but right now I’m most excited about some new songs I’m working on. The process of writing a song is fascinating, frustrating, mysterious and really fun.

Sometimes, but never always, it comes in a burst from behind and you have to be ready for it and recognize it with a pen in your hand. How many songs have I missed because I was distracted or lazy or too stupid to notice a sharp line drive hit right at me? Like a decent shortstop or an excellent second baseman, you can’t afford to let many get by or you will be benched and you DO NOT WANT THE MUSE TO SIT YOU DOWN ON THE BENCH.


Sometimes the song comes fully formed before you even have one line written. Sometimes a rhythm or melody or word(s) infect you in a relentless manner for weeks or months or years and you can’t for the life of you figure out what it means and where it goes until you STOP THINKING about it and, only then, it makes sense what it means and where it goes.

I like it best when I’ve broken through and hit the part where the song is taking shape. I’m still not sure where it’s going but something interesting or fun is forming in the clay.  Then it’s like a puzzle in multi-dimensions and dynamics and I take out my box of tools and experience and try my best to construct a ditty worthy of multiple sings.

4. If you could add anyone alive or dead to your team who would it be?

Over the years of bands and albums and gigs and videos, I’ve met and worked with a great group of creative people. I embrace their input while they honor my vision. Regarding my working team, I suppose I have somewhat reality based fantasies.  On the other hand…I think it would be good to have Abraham Lincoln as my personal attorney. Ain’t no judge in the county gonna convict me with Abraham Lincoln by my side.

5. When the movie of your life is made, what will it be called?

“Gravity Of Crow: The Musical”