Interview: Maggie Rose’s New Album ‘Have a Seat’ Offers Empathy, Gratitude in Spades
Maggie Rose's new album, Have a Seat, is a musical outstretching of arms.
"I think it's a very measured way of saying, 'This is where I am; this is who I am. I occupy this seat like only I can, just the way that you can only occupy your space that way,'" Rose muses of the title of her new album, out Friday (Aug. 20). "And it's the proverbial table that I think we all need to be making more room at, for more variety in music, in our culture."
Since signing her first record deal in 2009, Rose has time and again faced that age-old question: What kind of music do you make? She's worked with several label and management teams, and landed two singles in the country radio Top 40 in the early 2010s, but she's always had to contend with, she says, "labels saying, 'Hey, we love your music, but we don't know what to do with you.'"
"There's a calm about it after many years and many conversations trying to answer [those] questions," admits Rose, whose sound falls somewhere between soul, funk and country. "I take that now as I've done my job, I've really carved out a space for myself — it's all my own."
From its first notes — the opening of the song "What Are We Fighting For" — Have a Seat offers empathy, compassion, gratitude and love in spades across its 11 songs, while also giving Rose the space to prove, as she explains of the song "For Your Consideration," that she's earned her place at that aforementioned proverbial table and deserves your attention.
"[The inspiration for "For Your Consideration" was] a lot of different scenarios that I think are just about having empathy for one another, and compassion, and hearing each other out," Rose says. "That's the least we can do, and it's the most loving thing I think we can do. Even if we disagree with one another, it's just [about] mak[ing] each other feel heard."
Easier said than done, of course — especially when the other person in the equation is yourself. With humor and sarcasm, "Help Myself" tackles that inability to take our own advice while still thinking we have all of the answers for everyone else; "Saint," meanwhile, is a more somber take on the matter.
"It felt cathartic, actually; it was a relief," Rose says of recording those two, particularly vulnerable songs. "I think that it feels good to be known, and if you really want to be known, then you have to show everything that you are, [including] the parts that are flawed ... If we're pretending that that's not there or that we are perfect, I think that you burn out."
Rose and her band — percussionist and background vocalist Larry Florman, guitarist Alex Haddad and drummer Sarah Tomek, together known as Them Vibes — recorded Have a Seat at Muscle Shoals, Ala.'s legendary FAME Studios, with assistance from Swampers member David Hood and guitarist Will McFarlane, and with Alabama Shakes member Ben Tanner as producer. Rose wanted to "get out of Nashville — not in an insane way, but just really go do this project a couple hours outside of Nashville, off Music Row," and Muscle Shoals proved a perfect fit for her sound and style.
"It was a really immersive process," Rose says, "to not have to worry about any of the other bulls--t for a few days."
The sessions took place before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, so if a lyric sounds as though it was inspired by the current state of the world, it's pure coincidence. However, Rose notes, life since lockdown did influence the final tracklist and song sequence.
"We have to be gentler with people," says Rose, who worked with her distributor to find that balance from song to song, from the record's first to last notes. They aimed for celebratory, not preachy; Side A makes space for the listener, while Side B "starts to get funky and party, like we've gotten through some s--t," says Rose.
"Some of these songs — like, "You Got Today," there's a little anger in there ... and I didn't want to exacerbate what I was seeing happen during the pandemic. Everything just felt like it was put in a pressure cooker, and the rhetoric was getting more polarized and more hateful ... and there was so much suffering, and people were scared," Rose explains. "... And I was gonna have "What Are We Fighting For" as the final song ... but putting it at the beginning with this open-ended question I think just invites the listener in to this project, like it's more of a conversation now."