It’s been a whirlwind year for classic country singer Whitney Rose, and things seem poised to intensify even more in 2016. After initially releasing her current album, the Raul Malo-produced Heartbreaker of the Year, on the Toronto boutique label Cameron House Records, Rose and her team began concentrating their efforts south of the border.
It led to a positive reception both in Nashville and Austin—where she now spends most of her time—along with a new deal just recently announced with Six Shooter Records. That added clout is sure to help Rose continue bridging the gap between New Country and Americana audiences that have supported her to this point, along with building her reputation as one of country music’s new breed of strong female voices.
For Rose, a native of the Maritimes, things are beginning to feel like the culmination of a lifelong dream hatched when she was first exposed to a steady diet of George Jones, Patsy Cline and Connie Francis as a child. It all started to come together after Rose was tapped to support Malo’s band The Mavericks on their 2014 Canadian tour, and he agreed to lend a hand on her next project.
The stars aligned when Malo was able to commit to sessions at Toronto’s Revolution Recording, where Rose and a hand-picked band including members of the Mavericks, along with top Toronto session stars Nicol Robertson (guitar) and Burke Carroll (pedal steel), laid down Heartbreaker of the Year’s 10 tracks over the course of four days.
Since then, Rose has received praise from Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and American Songwriter, and will be making her debut in Los Angeles in February. She took some time before her ongoing weekly gig at Austin’s Continental Club to reflect on all of this activity.
How has Austin been treating you so far?
Austin has been unbelievably kind thus far. It didn’t hurt that a friend put me in touch with some of the best musicians in the city before I even got there, and those fine musicians are now my backing band, and good friends. But both the musician community and audiences have been so welcoming. They have made me feel very at home, to the point that I probably gush about it too much.
What are some of your goals for the year ahead?
I will be on tour most of February and March, with those dates to be announced very soon, and simultaneously writing material for a new record. I have quite a bit of material presently but I am going to attempt some co-writing for this one. I’ve never really done that before so that will be a new adventure. The best part of 2016 though will be making the new record in Austin.
What song in your catalogue means the most to you and why?
Probably “East Coast Woman Blues” from my first release [2012’s Whitney Rose]. I often jokingly refer to it as my “socioeconomic ballad,” but having witnessed the decline in agricultural employment on Canada’s east coast first hand, it really does make me quite sad. No family should be broken up for long periods of time by people being forced to go to western Canada in order to pay a mortgage. Multi-generational farming is dying and it’s leaving a lot of people with that particular skill set with very few options.
What has been your most memorable touring experience so far?
Performing my Pop’s favorite song, “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, at Cavendish Beach Music Festival on Prince Edward Island. He was in the hospital but his sister showed him video of my band performing it and it meant a lot to him, so it meant a lot to me. He passed away that night.
What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned on how to survive as an indie artist, and what advice would you give?
The biggest thing I have learned has been to recognize every opportunity. And once you’ve recognized an opportunity, seize it and take everything you can from it. Opportunity comes in many forms; my personal favorite is finding opportunities to learn. I’ve been fortunate to have toured and recorded with established acts and learning from them has been the best thing to come from those opportunities—from how to put on a good show to how to survive while on the road for weeks at a time.
One of my favorite examples of that comes from when I was on tour with The Proclaimers. I noticed one day that everyone in the band always ate their meals alone. They were a pretty big crew and everyone got their own individual table in restaurants or wherever we were eating. A little while into the tour I asked one of the band members about it, and it was a band rule to eat alone so they wouldn’t kill each other. They all got along great, and wanted to keep it that way I guess! Alone time on the road can be hard to come by, and now I always eat alone when I need a little break.