Interview: Maggie Rose

Maggie Rose has been a favorite artist of mine for a long time. I first met Maggie at CMA Festival in 2013. When I started digging into her music during my stay at home time I found many of her lyrics to take on new meanings. There really is no FOMO right now as the world has come to stop. Lyrics like, “The world wasn’t broken in a day. It ain’t going to stay this way forever. You ain’t got to change the whole thing; you just have to leave it a little better” and words about having “More dreams than dollars” seem prolific during this pandemic as people are really trying to deal with a situation that is challenging everyone across the globe. Music has been one item that we have had access to during this crisis and her music really brought me joy during this time.

The documentary, “Change the Whole Thing” was created to document the process she used to record her album with her close friends. For Rose, it was the best way for her to convey the journey she’s been on since releasing her freshman album Cut to Impress in 2013. Watching the documentary really provided insight into the daunting task the singer took on to make the project happen in a full band live recording setting. It was eye opening to watch the music come to life and I highly recommend taking time to watch the movie.

I caught up with Maggie at her home in Tennessee to talk about making new music, fan connection, touring with Joan Jett, New Orleans, and charities she is supporting during the pandemic.

Are you in Nashville quarantining?

We are here in our house in East Nashville and I feel like we have been here more in the last month consecutively than since we got the house in 2018. We moved in the week you saw me at Bonnaroo. It’s not normal for musicians by any means to not be on the road. There’s a lot of beauty to it and we can help and entertain people in certain ways by being creative about it and that makes us feel better about it.

I feel like your song “Can’t Miss Something” feels appropriate right now.

I hadn’t even thought about that. We used that as a bonus track but you mentioning that gives good perspective.

You have done your own shows on Instagram the past few weeks but also participated in Magic Giant’s Quarantine Concert Series. Are there other things you are doing to stay connected to certain organizations?

The concerts we have been doing on Facebook and YouTube and Instagram have helped an artist that I had helped vocally produce his record, Dylan Hartigan. He just put his first single out, “My Island”, so we did a joint promotion for him. He is a young artist and I’m sure this isn’t how he imagined his first single release to be, but we are making the best of it where we can. We met him when we were on tour with Kelly Clarkson. He met her during his time on The Voice. Bobby Holland produced his record as well. We are all trying to band together and give him the support for the release he deserves. 

Another campaign that I support is called MY HERO BOX, is starting to gain some traction. It is about spreading the message of reclaiming the medical supplies doctors need. We got all these artists to do a PSA to ask people to look through their house and find those items the people on the frontlines need and send them back in to a medical distributor we are working with in New York. You can also make long term donations.

We want to just bring some music to people on Friday evenings with everything going on to brighten their days.

Do you have a can’t live without quarantine item at your house?

It is turning into a handful of things, this cast-iron pan I got for Christmas is seeing so much action. My acoustic guitar has been a life saver. I am practicing piano again which is something I haven’t been able to dig into because it requires patience and large chunks of time and it’s starting to open back up to me. Audible, listening to different books has been great. I am still going through my rainy-day to-do items.

You just went on tour with Joan Jett who is legendary. Do you have any highlights from that tour and did she offer you any advice?

It’s not very PG. She said something very amazing to me. She is a tiny human but her presence his huge. When I finally met her, she took a picture with me when my leg of the tour was ending. We hadn’t talked much up to that point. She said “Pussies Unite” really loud and my facial expression was completely transparent. That was Joan Jett’s very R-Rated send off for me. She was so cool and the Wilson Sisters were fantastic. They sounded wonderful. They packed out these stadiums. It was impressive to see the loyal fan bases they created and retained and they are continuing to build on. It was so much fun.

Why did you decide to release the Deluxe Edition to the “Change the Whole Thing” album?

We had all this content with the way we recorded the album and we wanted to give people a peek into that process. That was important to me. You can enjoy the music without knowing the back story but it’s also more meaningful knowing it is a bunch of friends coming together to make the record. It was an independent machine. It was because we wanted to. It was lightning in a bottle in a lot of ways when we started it. I think we were smart to pursue the recording that way even though it had its obvious challenges but it is just a beautiful moment in my life I wanted to let people in on.

I totally changed the way I looked at the record after watching the documentary. I was amazed you were able to bring all those people together and you changed the way you were doing business and the way you do everything really. I thought that was super interesting, the career progression that got you to that point.

Thank you. That album continues to categorize the moves we have made after that. We just finished a third album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Ben Tanner and other members of Alabama Shakes along with Emily King’s band. They sing with Brittany Howard as well, and people from my own band as well. I think King’s band substantiated my confidence in them as collaborators and myself. When we found someone to expand that sound with in Ben, I think we had to go for it. And to do an album in that room is a bucket list thing for us. It is a room that is a location of so many treasured recordings that I love and that made me want to sing in the first place. I didn’t think it would lead me to there but it made sense.

That room seems to be special in a lot of ways. Are you going to do a documentary for the Muscle Shoals session? Did you record it?

We have some footage and we recorded one session in particular to document a bit more. This was a deeper dive as far as production goes, being more conceptualized with it. We didn’t want to have cameras going all at once. It was more intimate. I don’t think it will be of the level of a documentary.

You have also been writing with Marcus King and he lives in your neighborhood. I love Marcus. 

He is fantastic. We wrote a song on this record and he played on that song and also played on a few others. He sang and played on the song we wrote together.

You mentioned your iron skillet. You did a chef collaboration with Chef Garrett for the Opry. Do you have a dream cooking collaboration?

Massimo Bottura, the Italian chef, because he seems like the happiest person ever and he is a culinary Rockstar. I have had some really awesome opportunities to meet some very gifted chefs. Music and food preparation go hand in hand. It is about nourishing the audience. It is supposed to be enjoyable and take a lot of vulnerability to put your music out or your food on a plate. I think that’s why these cool events are coming up like Live in the Vineyard. We did Bourbon and Beyond. I got to meet chef Brooke Williamson who just won a big competition. They are very inspirational people to me. I enjoy cooking and have had to hone my skills for sure. 

A lot of festivals are combining music and food like BottleRock and Bourbon and Beyond. I love it. I think it is super interesting to see the chefs and musicians cook together. I am happy they are doing it. I ask all the chefs who their Rockstar collaboration cooking is.

I love that. We have a few chefs in St. Louis we have become close with Qui Tran of Nudo House and Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group. I am doing a virtual wine tasting on Thursday with my buddies Jim & Laura Regusci at Regusci Winery who have a beautiful vineyard. I am going to sing some songs with some wine tasting.  

You grew up singing in church. How did singing in church and playing shows when you were younger prepare you for where you are today?

I always wish I had more exposure at an early age. Church was my only outlet. My family was enthusiastic and supportive. To be where I am now, more as a soulful artist, it is difficult to draw to the past of how I got here but we pushed through and it happened organically. The support from my family continuously is unrelenting and remains that way.

How did you originally meet Them Vibes?

I met them when they were part of another band called HER and Kings County. I was on a cruise and Brother Love’s now wife has been my drummer for nine years. They met on this Blake Shelton Country cruise. HER and Kings County dissolved and Alex and Larry formed Them Vibes and we started writing together. Sarah and Larry didn’t date right off the bat. She didn’t know that was her future husband. It took like a year and a half for all those things to percolate. We all became friends and collaborators. Some of us ended up marrying each other. That was six years ago and the writing sessions became more frequent and it was organic because we were friends and part of a mutual admiration society so it made sense we would start writing together.

You put on your Instagram you were recently in New Orleans. I live in New Orleans part time. Do you have any favorite spots in New Orleans?

I am so in love with New Orleans. I don’t want to use Alanis Morissette wrong, but ironic, I have been dying my whole life to go there and it was the last major trip I took before life shut down. My last fun trip was New Orleans. We went to Gautreau’s that was delicious. Bourbon Street is dangerous in a good way. I couldn’t live in New Orleans part time. I loved the Garden District. The souvenir that I took home was a plaster wall mount of a unicorn cat that we got in the Garden District. We call him Unicat. Frankie and Johnny’s, we got crawfish the last day. Some of us had an interesting flight home because we ate crawfish and beer. We squeezed every last drop of fun out of the trip. There was a bar with a rotating bar in the middle of the room.

The Carousel Bar in the Monteleone hotel.

I loved it. The whole energy, and it was the week after Mardi Gras and I thought it would be a little bit sleepy but it was anything but. My favorite weekend ever. It is my husband’s favorite city. I honestly feel we got lucky because so many cases of the Coronavirus were diagnosed there because of Mardi Gras. We decided to go the week after.

We returned from New Orleans and the tornado hit Nashville that Monday. Then I had to go to LA and had to come back early due to the lockdown. 

Were you directly affected by the tornado?

Extremely close. It was my neighborhood. We are so lucky we got spared but a couple blocks away houses were leveled. My favorite venue where I play often, the Basement East, that was leveled. Our close friend the sound guy who works there had to go down to the basement. Luckily nobody was hurt. It has been pretty magnificent to see everyone rally around the cause helping with repairs. A lot of these musicians that are out of work are going to the houses and helping with the demo and getting Nashville back on its feet which has been pretty cool. It has been a couple of depressing weeks. The first week people didn’t know which way was up and it was absolute disorientation all the way around. I think after that wore off, people snapped back into this level of productivity and support that is indicative of East Nashville.

You spoke out about the gender imbalance with women in country music last year. Your new music doesn’t really have a genre. It is Bluesy, Soul, Rock; it is everything. Do you feel like there is a better situation for women in other genres of music? Is there a reason you have made a departure from traditional Country music?

It is a multi-faceted answer. The sonic shift wasn’t necessarily made as a marketing move. It was the natural progression of where the music was going. There were definitely political frustrations when I was in Country radio because the inequality is so apparent that those that say there is not are willfully ignorant. That made me pissed off and made me look to other outlets to be creative. That being said, while I am not in Country and not releasing music to Country radio, I don’t really feel like that when I see something that is absolute bullshit it is not my war to fight. I think these are my friends and these are my peers. I’m not trying to get on Country radio but they are. I know that animal very well. I speak up to it occasionally when I see program directors saying stupid shit they shouldn’t be saying.

Are you still playing the Opry? I know you have played the Opry dozens of times?

Yes. That is my favorite place to play because of the community. They walk the walk to represent Nashville music, Americana music, Country new and old, people who are established, people who are releasing their first singles. I don’t think there is a platform like that that has run as long as that and done as many shows anywhere else. To be embraced by them is so invaluable. They are the reason you saw me at Bonnaroo in 2018.

The Opry at Bonnaroo has become my favorite thing at a festival all summer. It was such an unexpected idea and it became so special.

It is so cool. The year we played they had just extremely high caliber talent. It was an honor. People come from all over the world to Bonnaroo. To not get the long-standing tradition coming out of Nashville would be a missed opportunity.

What is your quarantine playlist?

We have a quarantine playlist. The first week it was more funny things like The Police “Don’t Stand Too Close to Me” and “All by Myself,” the Celine Dion version. Kenny Rogers and Bill Withers are on there. We have been adding a lot too that. We have been listening to the new Phish albums late at night on Fridays after our concerts, listened to it twice in a row. That’s my husband’s doing but I enjoyed it.

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