New York-based singer and songwriter Ariana and the Rose has a definitive grasp on harnessing emotion into music with deeply human resonance. Her most recent release, Constellations Part 1, is proof-positive of this fact, treading through a powerful alt-pop landscape with robust bravado. The vulnerable four-part EP shines a light on convoluted romantic connections, the intimacy of regret and ultimate victory in love. The treasures within this collection include a slowed down, somewhat haunting version of *NSYNC’s familiar hit “Bye Bye Bye” as well as several fresh melodies, all drizzled with Ariana’s impressive vocal clarity and lyricism. The standout track off the EP, “Honesty“, is a poignant take on honesty versus dishonesty in relationships, and the accompanying music video mirrors the sensitivity of this topic in a vulnerable yet empowering view of sharing female sensuality.

We had the opportunity to chat with Ariana about her creative process, the complex beauty of the female gaze and her honest impression of the music industry for women right now. Take a look!

First off, the stunning “Honesty”. What’s the story behind this track?

I wrote “Honesty” with two amazing Swedish songwriters on a really cold day in Stockholm. The song always sounds like this dark environment to me. We were all just talking about the grey areas of relationships and the things people do and feel ashamed of. I thought it was interesting to explore this “taboo” idea that sometimes honesty is not the best policy.

What does your writing and recording process usually look like? Is it always pretty similar or does it vary?

It definitely varies these days. I play piano and recently, I’ve been sitting and writing songs there and then bringing it into the studio. Sometimes I’ll be working with a producer and we start with the sonic vibe of a song and play with synths and different appreciators. I try to be open to whatever way feels like it’s sparking everyone’s creativity if I’m in a session. Sometimes songs start as poems and then I set them to music when it feels organic. I like keeping it different and interesting.

What was the writing and recording process like for “Honesty”?

We were in one of the coolest studios I’ve ever been in in Stockholm. It was this beautiful wooden, cabin-like place that felt so Swedish and cozy. It was winter at the time, so it was dark by 2pm, which definitely influenced the mood. The song just kind of flowed out of us really organically. The melody came first and the lyrics just wrapped themselves around it – it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.

What about the music video. How did this come together and what is the main concept behind this stunning visual?

I created all the visuals for this EP with an amazing creative director named Scarlet Moreno. We’ve been friends and have worked together for a really long time, so we have a shorthand and are always looking to push our creativity and each other with every thing we make. The whole creative team on this shoot was female, which was very special. We wanted to flip the idea of the female gaze and have women being sexy for women but in the context of how you usually see it with a male. So often when we talk about the female gaze the “sex” of it is softened. Women can objectify women and also appreciate them and be interested in what is going on in their mind all at the same time, we wanted to create something that showed all of those layers. The song is about this taboo topic and we wanted the video to explore something visually taboo as well.

How do you feel about the music industry right now, for women?

That’s definitely the question on people’s minds right now. I think when things are truly equal, we won’t be separating women in music from men, it will just be people in the music industry, however you identify. There’s definitely less spots for women in all areas, on the charts, at festivals, on the radio. We just have to keep showing up and making amazing stuff and being relentless. Things only change when you keep at it over a long period of time and I think women, no matter their background or their genre of music, feel committed and unified in fighting that fight.

Any thoughts on the #metoo movement?

I think a movement like this was overdue and holding people accountable for their actions is the only way to incite change. Women have been silenced for so long and are angry. There is still such a long way to go; this issue affects women so differently, everyone’s experience is unique depending on your race and how you identify. Trans women have a different fight than black women have a different fight than white women. What’s important is that we are unified and listening each other and asking “what has your experience been?”. The more people feel safe to speak up, the more will change.

Is there any media you’re consuming right now, either music or otherwise, that you feel is “on point” for women at the moment in time?

I think television is very “on point” for women right now. Women are being represented and not only the leads in shows but are writing the shows. TV and streaming is a direct line into people’s homes and can have an enormous impact on how people learn about things they otherwise would never encounter. Shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Fleabag, Euphoria, GLOW… the list is long. These are female-led casts showing that not only are there important stories to tell, but that people are interested in watching them.

What’s next for you?

I’m in the process of writing Constellations Phase 2. I have a lot of music I’ve been writing over the last six months and outside of playing a few festivals and shows am taking the rest of the year to finish this music and push myself to make it the best it can be. I’m excited to share it next year when it’s finished. I’ve loved making something in two parts, getting to learn from the first EP and immediately implement it into the second one has been really artistically fulfilling.

Finally, any parting advice or words of wisdom for women or girls, either in music or just everyone?

Oh man, I don’t know that I’m qualified to give advice! …Make things you love. And then go find people who love and believe in what you’ve made. Everything else is just noise.

Thanks, Ariana!