Rosen's roots, rock, reggae

Bryan Rosen and the WhatNow stopped by Infinitea on their tour through the Kootenays. - Phil McLachlan
Bryan Rosen and the WhatNow stopped by Infinitea on their tour through the Kootenays.
— image credit: Phil McLachlan

By Phil McLachlan

Bryan Rosen and the WhatNow soothed the souls of everyone at Infinitea on Friday the 13th, with their unique reggae sound.

The group started in 2008, and at the time they were joined by Shred Kelly guitarist, Ty West. Touring Western Canada, the group produced several albums.

The WhatNow have been regularly performing in Fernie for the past five years, as a part of their annual tour through the Kootenay’s. Fernie is always a highlight for this group.

“Fernie’s one of the better ones for the Kootenays,” said Rosen. “I do find there’s people that remember us that are still living here. It’s sometimes hard with these transient towns to find a stable fan base when you return places. But Fernie’s got a soft spot for us I think.”

Rosen has been well-integrated into the singer-songwriter genre for a long time, and has written a large variety of music. His introduction into reggae was through a traditional artist, but not in a conventional way.

While living in a van for a couple of years with a Bob Marley CD stuck in his player, Rosen adopted many of the themes of reggae and incorporated it into his singer-songwriter style.

“Some of my songwriting turned into reggae,” said Rosen. “When I moved to Nelson from Canmore 10 years ago, that was the material I had to start a band with.”

Rosen found Nelson to be a very reggae-friendly town, and this niche took off for him and his band members.

In the past eight years several band members have left and moved on due to other obligations or circumstances. In the beginning, Rosen and his band went all-out, doing their best to grow their own name and increase their audience. After a few speed bumps, the pace of the group has changed.

“We’re not going too hard with it,” said Rosen. “We’re just trying to keep writing songs, and going out and playing whenever we can, which is fun.”

Bryan Rosen and the WhatNow have released two albums, touring extensively after the first and sitting down upon returning home to record their second. With knowledge gained throughout the journeys involved with the first, Rosen believes the second more accurately portrays their group as a whole.

Rosen tries to have as much fun as he can on stage, and he feels the audience can tell if you’re not enjoying yourself. This was not always the case. First starting out, as with any artist, Rosen was very self critical and found it hard to relax. With experience, this comes easier now, and it is evident when you watch the band that there isn’t a place they would rather be.

“I’ve played with a lot of other people and they taught me a lot about music,” said Rosen. “Being on stage as many times as I’ve been on stage, it just turns into your skin. So it no longer feels like you’re on stage, it feels like you’re home.”

Rosen’s goal for the future is to simply keep making quality music, which shares a message. One message in particular that Rosen focuses on portraying is the importance of nature, and our responsibility to take care of it. Other inspiration comes from listening to the news, and using his music to share his view on how we as a generation are acting, and the direction we should be heading.

“I try and sing important message songs and make a connection, lyrically... When I pass, I want to have a legacy of anything that came to me as a song that I thought was worthy.”

The future is everchanging and Rosen realises this. However, whatever happens, he has faith that he will always be playing music.

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