The wisest response when learning Rosa Pullman is performing nearby is: GO.
Onstage, Pullman’s uncommonly transparent; with her big, dusky voice and unfiltered demeanor, she takes listeners on cathartic journeys, often carrying them on rubbery grooves. She’s part of the Murderers’ Row of “killer songwriters” at Sunday’s Halloween-themed Night of Murder, Mayhem & Misfortune at Old Oak Cellars.
“I spent a lot of years in my room crying and playing music,” she recalls with a laugh. “It is very emotional for me, which is partly why it took me a while to do it in front of people. It’s such an intense thing that just seems to be part of my soul. I’m an only child. I grew up feeling like an outsider but wanting to connect to people. [Music’s] this incredibly beautiful way to be together.
“It’s not intentional,” she says of the openness that inspires people to tell her “that they feel like they can feel what I’m feeling. It just seems to happen.”
The upstate New York native followed her 2011 cosmic folk EP “Dusty Road” with a fruitful collaboration with Mitch Grainger, the Lovers; they called it quits four years ago. This summer Pullman leaned into soul with her solo full-length “From the Halo to the Boulevard,” which showcases her vocal range and open spirit with hypnotic tracks like “Walk On,” “Kingfisher” and the gospel-y “Ready for You.”
“The big ending to [the Lovers] was super intense on many levels. And now it’s just been like, who am I, really? What inspires me, what do I want to write about, what do I feel like I should be doing as a solo artist now?”
In recent years she’s been living with those and other, evolving questions while holed up in Nashville and Maine. Brief tours to Norway also have her contemplating Europe, although she loves her family and creative community here in LA; she’s currently ensconced at her cousin Maesa’s Echo Park home. At a recent performance at the Wine & Song series in South Pasadena, several new songs, including the poignant “Ash and Pine,” suggested Pullman’s approaching answers: “I’ll beg for mercy/ And I begged for brothers who protect and are kind/ Because heaven knows we can make it hard on ourselves/ As we sift through the stories in our minds.”
For the next month and a half she’ll be recording with producer (and cousin-in-law) Jason Hiller. But first, she plans to write new songs for Sunday’s show.
“I don’t really deal with much murder and mayhem,” she says, laughing, “but I do have one song I co-wrote years ago with a high school friend called ‘The Baby Drank My Whiskey and I Shot Him in the Head.’ I’m definitely part comedian. It’s good medicine to be able to frickin’ laugh.”
A Night of Murder, Mayhem & Misfortune: Rosa Pullman joins Britta Lee Shain, Leeann Skoda, Marty Axelrod and host Ed Tree at Old Oak Cellars, 2620 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 6-9:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27. Costumes or mourning attire encouraged. Tickets: $20 at eventbrite.com/e/a-night-of-murder-mayhem-misfortune-tickets-70912674719. rosapullman.bandcamp.com