ROSAWAY on making flutes cool again: “there is almost no gear for the flute, but maybe that’ll change thanks to Lizzo”

French duo ROSAWAY may draw on influences from Justice to Tedeschi-Trucks, but both members are musical heavy hitters. Vocalist and flautist Rachel Ombredane studied classical music and musicology at Paris’s renowned Sorbonne university, writing a thesis on post-World War II women French singers, while Stéphane Avellaneda is an internationally touring blues drummer whose tenure in New Orleans led him to play with B.B. King and members of The Meters.

The duo use Audix microphones for their live performances; Ombredane employs an OM7 on her vocal and an ADX-10FLP on her flute, while Avellaneda uses the D6 on his kick drum and floor tom.

Tell us a little bit about your musical backgrounds and how you formed the group…

Rachel: I studied flute at conservatory and did a degree in musicology at the Sorbonne.

Stéph: I studied classical music for just a few years. Then I went back to modern drumming and studied a lot of jazz in France and Switzerland. I was also in a special music program in high school, where we had regular studies plus about 13 hours per week of music.

How did you meet?

Rachel: We actually had met five years before at a musician wedding in the U.S. Stéph was living in New Orleans and I was still in Paris. After something like four years we said, “We should start a band!" and a year later we recorded our first songs.

Stéph: Yeah, it took a year because we were both busy working with different artists and not even in the same country.

Rachel: When we released our first three songs, we immediately were asked to start booking shows. We didn’t think it would go that fast!

Stéph: It was an interesting beginning of our story. Like Rachel said, we had released just three songs and planned on taking a year to get things going. Then we got 10 shows booked just from people calling us. You don’t play a show with just three songs, right? So, we just started writing and arranging like maniacs at my parents’ house. It was: go on the road, play our set, come back home, write some more songs, then go out again.

You don’t play a show with just three songs, right? So we just started writing!

Tell us about your musical influences…

Rachel: We get this question a lot, and don’t really know how to answer it. I came from a classical background but in 2023 it’s hard to identify influences with a genre because I listen to everything. I’m listening to a lot of new jazz lately, and a lot of American pop. I used to listen to a lot of old French songs, which I did my degree about.

Stéph: I come from a totally different scene because my dad is a blues guitar player. I grew up listening to Johnny Lang and Robben Ford and all those guys. I started playing at eight and was onstage at age 12.

Rachel: Blues is not a huge thing in France. When I met Stéph I was like, “you play what?”

Stéph, what drew you to New Orleans?

That’s a crazy story. I was on tour with Ana Popović. We did a big festival in Colorado. It was a double bill with members of the Neville family. Charlie Wooten was on bass. The band was insane. The day after the festival we went tubing on the Colorado River. I was talking to Charlie, and he said, “I didn’t realise you liked New Orleans that much.” Are you kidding? For a drummer, that’s the place! He lives there and invited me to come dog sit and stay in his house while he was on tour.

So I go, and the first night I’m there, Charlie invites me to this club called the Maple Leaf. I’d just driven seven hours and I was tired. But I went, and the band was amazing. Walter Washington on guitar, George Porter Jr. from The Meters on bass. I paid like three bucks to get in.

I was feeling like something was missing in my musical life: I wanted to understand what I was playing & why.

Rachel, tell us more about your musicology studies at the Sorbonne.

Rachel: Yes, it was for what you’d call a master’s degree in the U.S. So, here in France, you can do the conservatory without going to university. I was there and was feeling like something was missing in my education and my musical life. I wanted to understand what I was playing and why.

When you’re studying classical, you just practise and play. Sometimes there’s little context or culture about what you’re playing, which is a shame. I don’t know about other countries, but that’s how it is in France. So, I went to the Sorbonne to study what I was playing. There, I meant so many different types of musicians, not just classical. And of different ages. At conservatory, you’re all the same age.

My thesis advisor was the top specialist in France about Stevie Wonder’s voice, which is very specific. She’s translated in 50 languages on this topic. I just fell in love with her; she changed my life. I decided to do my research about women in music, especially those performing post-World War II French songs beginning around 1945.

There were so many women making music at that time, but we mainly remember the men. But I also learned a lot about popular music from the U.S., thanks to my advisor. I even did some research on Lady Gaga, investigating what women in music have to do to make it happen.

What early French women singers would you like people to know about?

Rachel: Juliette Gréco is a great example of having a career in that period. She only recently died in 2020. She was friends with Jean-Paul Sartre and had a notable affair with Miles Davis.

It was no problem in France to be a mixed-race couple, but when they got to New York, he couldn’t go to her hotel because he was black. But they were quite the musical couple, and people today should listen to her.

There is almost no gear for the flute, but maybe that’ll change thanks to the recent visibility Lizzo gave it.

How did Audix mics come into the picture?

Rachel: First of all, there is almost no gear for the flute, but maybe that’ll change thanks to the recent visibility Lizzo gave it. I did a lot of research on mics. I thought, “I want to be a rockstar, and if I want to be a rockstar, I need a flute mic.” I wanted to be as cool as a guitar player, but with the flute. Of course, the mic needed to be really small. A friend of mine told me I should check out the Audix ADX-10, and now I’m so glad to be in the Audix family. For my vocals, I use the OM7.

How did Audix come upon your radar among all the bigger mic brands out there?

Rachel: Beyond a friend telling me about it, I knew about the brand because a lot of sound engineers at shows we were playing were using Audix.

Stéph: Also, I was using a D6 on my kick drum, which I got because the sound guy at a show we played at Supersonic in Paris told me to try it. It was small and sounded great and you could do anything with it. So, it was the whole combination of people talking online and to us in person. It’s now the only mic I use. You can place it literally anywhere in front of the kick and it just works.

Do you use any other Audix mics on your drums?

Stéph: I would like to, as soon as I can make the investment. The investment when you start a new project is huge! We’re touring the States beginning in January 2023, so working with the main guys at Audix is going to be great. With distribution in Europe, things can take a lot of time.

Rachel: Here in France, we are in the old world! [Laughs.]

If I want to be a rockstar, I need a flute mic.

Rachel, what do you like about your OM7 on vocals?

Rachel: The first thing about why I chose this particular OM model is because I’m singing very close to Stef, who’s playing drums. I used to have another mic and I couldn’t hear my voice – just the snare in my ears. Audix asked me what kind of voice I have, and coming from classical singing, I think I have a pretty powerful one. So, they recommended the OM7.

Stéph: It’s a metal mic!

Rachel: Like I said, I really want to be a rockstar! So, for the same reason the OM7 is good at rejecting the drums next to me, I sing with it right on my mouth, so I can feel it. It’s just the perfect mic for my voice.

So, the ADX-10 attaches to the flute?

Rachel: Yes, on the head joint. In classical music, the flute is an instrument you listen to from far away, and it sounds far away. What Audix did such a great job about is making it sound close, without too much breath noise, which is distracting. The flute is an instrument designed to be heard from a distance in the acoustics of a symphony hall or an old Italian church. My ADX-10 means I can play it onstage with a rock drummer.

Stéph, what do you like about the D6?

Stéph: It just gives you back what you give it. If you put it inside the kick, it’s got the punch, everything you need. If you have a closed kick drum head, you’re going to hear and feel the vibration of the head. You don’t have to tweak anything. You just place it, plug it in, and you have the sound you’re looking for.

Rachel: Stef came from blues and roots rock. He never tunes his drums! The first time I played with him I asked why he didn’t tune them, and he said, “Why should I?”

Stéph: If you have good drums and good mics, you don’t need to spend hours tweaking everything. I did some [videos] for a big music store in Germany, and I had the D6 and two overheads, and that was it. It sounded so good, and I was like, “That’s the mic I need!” I now use the D6 on floor toms as well.

Rachel: He’s probably going to want me to try it on vocals pretty soon! [Laughs.]

Why would you recommend Audix to other musicians?

Rachel: All in all, the Audix mics we chose have turned out to be the Goldilocks fit for my voice, our instruments, and our onstage circumstances.

Audix mics have turned out to be the Goldilocks fit for my voice, our instruments and onstage.