Two days before embarking on an 18-city tour of the East Coast and Sweden, Rosie Flores is at the chiropractor's office getting an adjustment.
"The downside of touring is definitely the travel," Flores tells City Paper by phone while waiting for the doctor. "I'm getting older and I'm facing some physical challenges with my spine, so I spend a lot of time with chiropractors and physical therapists. I also spend time in the gym pumping iron and doing my stretches, and I try to eat right and take good care of my skin.
"I'm not 35 anymore, but when I'm on stage the music makes me feel like I'm 35, and I want my body to match how I feel when I'm up there performing."
Whatever she's doing is working. Flores, a triple-threat singer/songwriter/lead guitarist from Austin, has been playing and touring for decades. She formed her first band in high school, and in the 1970s formed the alt-country band Rosie and the Screamers. In the 1980s, she was part of the all-female cow-punk band Screaming Sirens. In 1995, she made a big splash with the rockabilly album Rockabilly Filly. Since then, she's been touring and cranking out records, and has become known as much for her lead-guitar work as for her vocals — if not more so.
But Flores doesn't want to be known as one thing or another. She sees herself as a musician working on all three corners of a triangle. As a little girl growing up in San Diego, she "fell in love with singing," which led to learning the guitar from her brother, which then took her down the path to songwriting.
"I bounce back and forth between the three," Flores says. "I'm in a jazz group [the Blue Moon Jazz Quartet] where I worked on just vocals. Then I took five years just learning how to be a better guitar-player. Honestly, I'm still working on lead guitar. I think I'm getting more accomplished, but I'm not there yet. I'm always aspiring to do better."
That leads to the third area, songwriting. Flores says she's spent the last four months working on writing new songs for her next record. "I really got away from writing. I've ignored that part of it for some time," she says. "I want to have more originals on the next album, so it's time to start working on that again.
"I've worked really hard on my guitar-playing over the years, and I think that's hurt my growth as a songwriter."
While that may be true, anyone who's seen Flores play her baby-blue Fender Strat wouldn't question the time and dedication she's put into the instrument. She was once named one of the 75 best female guitarists by the now-defunct Venus Zine. Also, anyone who's seen Flores play would question why she's on a list specific to female guitarists when, in fact, she's arguably one of the instrument's best artists, male or female. But Flores doesn't necessarily mind the distinction.
"It doesn't really bother me," she says. "If somebody compliments me, I just say, ‘Thank you.' But if somebody says something like, ‘You play pretty well for a girl,' that sometimes does come off like they don't think a woman can be play the guitar. But you know, I read in a book somewhere that the guitar was actually designed for a woman to play. Now, I don't know if that story is true, but just look at the guitar and how it's shaped and I sure tend to think it is."
Flores' Pittsburgh show will be her second time in the city this year. In January, she did a short set at the Altar Bar opening up for honky-tonker Dale Watson and rockabilly icon Rev. Horton Heat. But Flores says anyone who saw that show definitely needs to catch her headlining tour.
"Wait 'til you see me this time," Flores says emphatically. "I'll be here with my band, and they are amazing. I loved being on that tour earlier this year, but I only got to play for 20 minutes. It wasn't long enough.
"I heard some people say they were pissed off because they came to see me and it was too short. Well, this time will be different. The people can come out and find out what I do when I go to work."