In 2002, the Osbourne clan changed reality television forever with their eponymous MTV series, which introduced veteran rocker Ozzy Osbourne to an entirely new audience and turned his wife Sharon and their two equally mouthy and gregarious children, Kelly and Jack, into overnight stars. But there was one family member, the “quiet Osbourne,” who surprisingly chose to remain behind the scenes (and, in nine brief uncredited appearances, actually have her face blurred out): Ozzy and Sharon’s first-born, daughter Aimée.
To be honest, if it weren’t for Aimée’s strong physical resemblance to her parents, it would be quite easy to believe that she was switched at birth. Conducting a rare interview via Zoom with Yahoo Entertainment/SiriusXM Volume, she exudes a certain serenity and stateliness, choosing her words carefully and speaking in clipped, dulcet tones. When she sings, under the stage name ARO, she’s definitely less quiet, emitting an operatic wail that proves she is definitely her father’s daughter. But once again, the resemblance ends there: ARO’s debut album, Vacare Adamaré, rocks hard in its own way, but it is absolutely not a metal record. Instead the LP, which comes out Oct. 30, evokes the epic electronic/orchestral synthscapes of acts like Annie Lennox, Sinead O’Connor, Garbage, Bjork, Kate Bush, Evanescence, Cocteau Twins, Portishead, and Lana Del Rey.
Aimée, who was 18 when The Osbournes premiered and is now 37, released her first ARO single “Raining Gold” five years ago, racking up 2.6 million YouTube hits. But it has taken until now for her to finally step squarely into the spotlight with a fully realized album. She is well aware that could have taken a shortcut to success by capitalizing on her family’s notoriety and connections (Kelly Osbourne, who is just one year younger than Aimée, released two studio albums during the MTV series’ heyday, in 2002 and 2005). However, in the Q&A below — actually conducted while she’s in lockdown with Sharon and Ozzy, with whom she has always been privately close — Aimée explains why she opted not to take the easy route, and why she still has zero regrets.
Yahoo Entertainment: You seem very different from the rest of your Osbournes, whose reputation — at least from what we’ve seen on TV — is wild, boisterous, and totally over-the-top. Were you always the odd person out in your family, like an introvert in a sea of extroverts?
Aimée Osbourne: Yes. In fact, it was funny: About five years ago, my parents and I got sent this interview that my father and my siblings and I did for Joan Rivers’s talk show. I think maybe I was 6 or 7 years old at the time. It's adorable because we're all so small and we’re dressed like little dolls, but it's interesting to see that each personality within the family was very much established, very early on. And it hasn't really changed that much. … My parents always said I was a real old soul, even as a baby. They say that I would look at them very disconcertingly, kind of like, “Um, you two need to get it together.” Like, I had these very serious expressions on my face. I kind of think we're born with these pasts and it’s already established inside of us, and the environment tends to pull that in many different directions as you go through life. But yeah, I always had a pretty strong, clear sense of who I was.
The Osbournes was a phenomenon that I think no one really saw coming. And you chose not to take part. I'm curious how that worked, because you were still a teenager then. Were you living in the house, but avoiding the camera crews? Were you holed up in your off-limits bedroom with the door shut?
Yes, it started off that sort of way. And then I moved out, because it was just a bit too chaotic for me. It wasn't an easy time. In retrospect, I think my parents would have liked to have maybe done things a little differently. Reality TV shows at that point weren't really like they are now; it was all very new and uncharted territory, so there was a hell of a lot of chaos around. The way that's all done now is much more streamlined. It was definitely challenging and kind of scary at the time. But it was never something that I ever regretted not doing. I know some people find that kind of curious — because why wouldn't someone that was young want to be super-famous and all over the place and start this whole cultural trend of reality TV? But just for who I am and how I was, even then it was never something that would have worked in my favor.
When The Osbournes started to become this huge phenomenon that outperformed what anyone might've expected, were you worried? I don’t necessarily mean in a regretful way, like, “Oh no, I should have signed up for this!” I mean more like, “Oh no, now I'll never be able to get away from this shadow of the Osbourne name!”
Well, there were definitely moments when I think all of us were like, “This is almost too much.” No one was anticipating quite the level of exposure and interest that it got. But I'm not really someone that thrives off a lot of attention like that anyway. So, the more successful it got, the more grateful I was that I’d decided not to do it.
Were you embarrassed at all? The representation of your family on the show was pretty out-there and wacky, and not always positive.
Honestly, I was more concerned because it was a level of fame and exposure that attracts a lot of bad-news people who are kind of like parasites. I remember going over to visit my family's house [after moving out] and seeing a bunch of cling-ons that literally no one really even knew, but were just at the house because it looked great on camera. My siblings were super-young, and when you are that young, you make friends really quick. They had false friends all of a sudden showing up. It was kind of an explosion. Growing up in a famous environment with someone that was already super-established and well-known, my private life and my family life was always super-sacred to me. So then the idea of exploding it even more, just to me personally, felt way too risky.
So, here’s the big question: If your album is successful, are you ready now for the level of fame that that could bring?
I will say, I am 100 percent ready and prepared to continue to make music and perform and discuss anything creative. But as far as my personal life goes, I will never be willing or ready to expose that — because I feel once you do, you can never really get that back. That’s something that's just important to me, and it’s a boundary for me.
I know Vacare Adamaré has been a long time in the making. Why did it take so long?
Hmmm, how do I say this politically correctly? I ended up, unfortunately, getting in business with some people who perhaps didn't have the cleanest of intentions and made certain assumptions based on my family. I ended up getting in some legal situations and just kind of being taken for a bit of a ride, unfortunately. But in retrospect, I learned some really valuable lessons and it just made it even more clear to me exactly what I want, and how to turn those difficult situations into empowering lessons. Those things were really valuable to me. But it definitely wasn't a smooth path.
When you say assumptions were made based on your family, what do you mean by that?
I think people assumed that it was an easy payday — you know, that I must have access to limitless funds, and so therefore they had a right to easily dip into that. It delayed things, and it made things really messy— um, let’s just put it that way. But it has definitely helped me become very good at being able to tell if someone's interested in any capacity with my project for the right reasons. I've got a pretty clear understanding now of those signs more upfront. … But it was pretty tough for a while, to the point where I was like, “Maybe this is just not what I should be doing. Maybe it's difficult for a reason.”
Your mother is a very experienced music manager with a reputation for being tough. I know she doesn't manage you per se, but did you turn to her for advice when you were going through these problems?
Yes and no. It’s a different kind of approach from her. She comes from a generation where management was handled a little differently from how it is today. Also, the genre of music that I make isn't something that she was necessarily super-familiar with. I mean, there were all these common-sense questions that I of course would turn to her for, but as far as the nuances of everything that I was trying to do and the way I was trying to do it, we are very different in that way. That's why it was healthier for both of us to be supportive and there for each other, but not directly involved business-wise with each other.
Is there any bittersweetness to the fact that you have been waiting so long to put out an album, and now it's coming out at a time when promoting it in the normal way isn’t possible, due to COVID?
You know, if I allowed myself to go there and get carried away with how frustrating that could feel, I probably could go down a dark hole with that. But I think about how many hundreds of thousands of people have been so much more significantly affected by this horrendous year. And I feel like I've somehow managed to make it work, and I'm super-grateful for that. It's been quite incredible for me creatively, what I can kind of pull from this whole experience with this year. I'm looking forward to seeing how that turns out, with the writing that's coming up.
I know you're close to your parents, even if you keep your relationship with them private. How have you kept in touch during the pandemic? Have you been able to see them while we're all in isolation?
I actually have been staying with them throughout! It's quality time. There have been a couple of scary moments where any time you have a slight temperature or you don't feel 100 percent, and your mind goes to the worst place. There's been a couple of times where it's been like, “Oh my God, what if I'm sick?” But I think everyone has gone through that during this year at some point.
And your father's health is OK?
Yeah, he's doing really well. He got an incredible physiotherapist and he has really just come leaps and bounds. He swims an hour a day and does his physio an hour a day, and he's a very regimented, disciplined person. So that's very inspiring.
Back the subject of the type of music you do, many people might expect, given your lineage, that you would be a metal artist. But that’s not the case. When you were trying to get your music career off the ground, did you experience a lot of people in the business trying to push you more in a metal/hard rock direction?
You know, it's interesting, but they didn't. It was more of a “we don't really know where you belong” thing. … I very much had my own sense of what I wanted to do, which wasn't [metal] and wasn’t mainstream either. A lot of the time, especially for female artists, when you’re not a slam dunk, when they can't figure you out, when they can't in their minds see exactly what the five-year plan is music- or image-wise, then they see it as “too risky.” It’s not something that they can easily mold to fit their own image of what they believe would be successful for you. So, I think I just was neither here nor there for a lot of different labels I was meeting with at the time. In retrospect, I think going the indie route for me, for my sound and the way I like to do things, was definitely the best option for me.
How did you develop your sound? Who were your influences?
For me it was the Eurythmics, Annie Lennox, Shakespears Sister, the Cure, Kate Bush, Massive Attack, Tricky. I loved music that was very atmospheric, kind of raw, kind of moody, kind of minimal but impactful. What those artists all had in common for me was that when you hear that music, it would create this sense of being slightly creeped-out and super-curious and transported into this really amazing world emotionally. It's not necessarily that they told amazing stories with their lyrics from beginning to end; it was more interpretive and abstract. I really responded to the way that made me feel, how it opened my mind up in a lot of ways.
What does your dad think about your music? I think there's some small amount of common ground there, in that he's known as the “Prince of Darkness,” and there is a darkness and melancholy to your own sound.
He's always really super-supportive. He’s always got so much going on, as far as his own work and his own writing; he's forever listening to music and painting and writing poetry or lyrics or toplines. He's very dedicated and committed to what he does, so he's not necessarily got loads of time during the day to sit there and listen to every latest thing that I've done. But he's always super-supportive, and he has commented on a couple of the tracks that he really liked on the album. He's the perfect combination of being supportive, but not overly involved to where it can feel a bit suffocating.
I'm curious if either of your parents ever advised you not to go into music at all, because it can be a hard life —not just because the business is hard in general, but because it can be hard when you’re a second-generation musician beholden to certain expectations. I’ve done interviews with people like Dhani Harrison, the son of George Harrison, and Louise Goffin, the daughter of Carole King, and they’ve said that their parents warned them and even suggested that they consider a different career.
Absolutely. When you're a super-sensitive, creative person, the world can be a little bit more raw. But I think for me, I learned to turn that sensitivity into a strength; I know my boundaries, and I know when I need to take a step back. I think for my parents, knowing that I was a sensitive and creative person, they were concerned that I wouldn’t develop enough of knowing when to say no. So I think in a way, the amount of time that it's taken me to finally get this album out, that helped that part of me develop more, whereas if I had released this album five years ago, I probably wouldn't have been as strong and as confident within myself. Everything happens for a reason. I like to think that that was kind of the positive part of all of that journey. But yeah, they were definitely concerned initially, especially when I was young and I started to show interest, that it would all just be way too much. Because even when you're not super-sensitive, the music industry, the film industry, all those kinds of industries, put so much pressure on people.
You have obviously made a concerted effort to make a name for yourself as ARO, but there are probably many people who think you should have just billed yourself as Aimée Osbourne and appeared on your family’s TV show and worked all the Osbourne angles. Frankly, things could have been much easier for you.
Well, I grew up in a world with direct access to fame and a really blessed lifestyle, and it's been a wonderful gift; I've really focused on never taking that for granted, because I know where I come from is not the norm. But I think my motivation behind this music was never to be famous or super-wealthy or super-powerful. It was genuinely because I love to write. I love music. I'm super-inspired by it. It's just something that came really natural to me. And the idea of trying to attach any of those other motives onto that felt like it would have taken away from being super-authentic, which I have always really valued. The closest I think I've ever come was when my management said, “You should put your full name under your bio, so when people search for ‘ARO,’ they get to the right page.” I was like, “Oh, are you sure?” [laughs] And so, putting “Aimée Osbourne” underneath my Instagram bio is as close as I've come! I should probably loosen up a bit on that stuff, but for me it was always about putting out the right, purest intentions. Because I believe when you do that, then the music and your messages reaches the right people in the right way.
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The above interview is taken from Aimée Osbourne’s appearance on the SiriusXM show “Volume West.” Full audio of that conversation is available on demand via the SiriusXM app.