Maggie Rose released her debut album Cut To Impress in 2013. It was considered one of the best country releases of the year, making Amazon’s list of the Best Music of 2013. The New York Times called it an album “full of astute aggrieved songwriting.” Maggie was gracious enough to call in and chat with us about the year she has had, her new single, “Looking Back Now,” and performing for the troops.
GC: Your love for music began at a very early age. Can you tell us about yourself and when you knew that music was what you wanted to do professionally?
MR: It became very apparent at an early age that music was what I wanted to do professionally. I loved music and was singing before I could speak. I grew up in a very encouraging household with a supportive family. Anytime my parents had friends over the house, I would perform. I attended Clemson University to study music. I spent a year and a half there. It was a great experience and I loved it. But, I stepped away from Clemson to go to Nashville, because moving to Nashville is a necessary step for anyone who is really serious about the pursuit of country music. The bar is the highest in Nashville; the songwriters are there, as well as everything an aspiring artist needs to hone their craft. I moved to Nashville when I was 19 years old. I had my business partner, Tom, with me every step of the way. I knocked on a lot of doors, networked, and cut my teeth. I met Tommy Mottola and he saw potential in me. He introduced me to James Stroud, who is the producer of my current album. It was a long, hard process, but it was also a lot of fun. I just had my six year anniversary of me moving to Nashville.
GC: Growing up you listened to the Beatles, Bonnie Raitt and played in a Springsteen cover band. What was it that drew you to the country genre? Was that the type of music you were always interested in?
MR: When I wrote and performed and did what came naturally to me, it was absolutely country. In fact, it wasn’t really a cover band at all. The B Street Band would back me and I would sing my favorite country tunes and eventually my own originals, not Springsteen songs. They gave me that platform to do the thing most writers find intimidating, which is performing your own songs. I was 16 years old and out on the road in a real live setting, playing music to a live audience. Performing with that band really gave me the opportunity to cut my teeth as a performer and songwriter.
GC: What came first for you writing or performing?
MR: Publicly, performing was easier, and came first. I wrote quite a bit, but never really shared any of my original material until I was 17 years old. I was shy in regards to sharing it and it is still a process for me. Being in Nashville, you are surrounded by talented people and the learning curve has been steep, but it was a really beautiful challenge because you get to know yourself. The concept of co-writing was so odd to me. It was not what we did in Maryland or at Clemson. You get in room with stranger and hope to find common ground. You are usually talking about pretty sensitive subject matter and end up spilling your guts to that person in the hopes that you can get a song. It is reassuring too, because even though you don’t know one another, you are relating on something that is really profound and poignant. Hopefully that will resonate with people when they hear the song and they will feel the same.
GC: 2013 was a huge year for you. Your debut album Cut To Impress was on “Best Of” lists and you were recognized by Mediabase as the 6th most played country female. That’s quite a reception.
MR: It has been an explosive year, but a gradual process. Every year advanced me a little farther than the next and I hope that trend continues. People I have met, places I have been and the things I have seen have been surreal. I don’t use that word lightly. You can never anticipate what the next level will be like until you experience it. I am learning every day.
GC: In 2013 you toured with Gary Allan and Sheryl Crow and played Stagecoach and CMA Fest. What are your touring plans for this year?
MR: We are going to be very busy. We will play a ton of fairs and festivals, go to lots of cities and meet a lot of people. The calendar is filling up. I have an awesome band and we love performing live. Our show is evolving all the time.
GC: Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
MR: It changes every week. Right now I am so excited about “Looking Back Now” being the new single it is probably that one. When I perform it I can see people’s excitement about it. There is another “Preachers Daughter,” which has a swampy, ominous tone with a strong narrative and arrangement. It is pretty powerful when I play it in the set.
GC: Was there anything that stood out as a highlight for you in 2013?
MR: There were a lot of great milestones last year, but the one at top of the list is travelling to the Middle East with my band and playing at an air base for our service men and women. It was an amazing opportunity and honor to travel across the world to perform for them, bring them a piece of home and entertain them for an evening. It was in August and it was 115 degrees and the service men and women in full uniform were not complaining. Even being so far away from their family, they love what they are doing. Some are even newly married, engaged or just had their first child. The perspective we got from that trip was mind blowing. I had never thought I would be flying to the Middle East because of my job. It is an honor that they invited me to be a part of that. It is a small contribution I can make to those who serve. It is not something that I would have ever thought would change my life as much as it did, but it did. I hope for this to be the first of many trips.
GC: Do you have a connection to the military?
MR: My granddad was in the Navy and he is still a huge advocate of Navy. I grew up in Potomac, Maryland, which is close to the Walter Reed Military Hospital. We got involved with the remarkable work they do there. They have some of the best technology for prosthetics and really pay attention, not only to the physical aspect of the recovery of the patients, but the emotional as well.
GC: Changing gears, your first two singles off of Cut To Impress, were top 30 hits. You have just released a third single titled “Looking Back Now.” Tell us a little about that song. It’s not every day you hear Sodium Pentothal drip in a song lyric.
MR: That song deals with some tricky subject matter. If you think about the older days, the stories in the songs were provocative, like “Looking Back Now” is. I fell in love with the song about five years ago. It was written by one of my favorite songwriters, [Lisa Carver]. She wrote it by herself and it was originally called “Whiskey and A Gun.” It was a tough decision for me to change the title, but I felt that the story was so important to hear. I didn’t want to distract from the story with the title given the political climate and all of the unfortunate things in the news. I wanted people to hear it through and not judge it. “Looking Back Now” is a complex song that focuses on the regret everyone shares after we make a huge mistake. The female character may be crazy, but she is also a sympathetic character who was pushed to her limits.
I have been singing it for a long time and it has been a fan favorite, so I am happy to have it out as a single. It’s really cool to sing that song and to watch people’s faces when I tell the story. Their reactions vary from mouths dropping open in disbelief to others saying ‘I’d do the same thing’ to which I am like ‘whoa let’s not take it that far.’ I get excited when I see people having a reaction to the song.
GC: Will there be a video for the song?
MR: Yes! We are in preproduction for the video. Next week I will shoot a performance video for song so that we can focus on the story it tells. Then, in the next few weeks, there will be a full blown video, like a mini movie.
GC: What are you listening to now?
MR: I love the Amos Lee album, Mountains of Sorrow Rivers of Song. It is just an awesome record with so many textures. He has such an unmistakable vocal ID when you hear him sing. It’s fantastic.
For more information on Maggie, please visit HERE.