In February, Maggie Rose boarded the 12th annual Cayamo Cruise, which set sail from Tampa, Fla., and traveled through stops in Jamaica and Mexico. It was her first time aboard the ship, and the following week, she couldn't stop gushing about the experience -- only partially because of the beautiful weather.

"Usually this is the darkest, coldest month!" Rose told The Boot with a laugh during a recent interview. "It just worked out that we were in ... beautiful places."

The cruise boasted a more roots-focused lineup and crowd than Rose typically performs for, and she wasn't initially sure how she was going to fit in. "Admittedly, at the beginning of Cayamo, I had this feeling that was, in hindsight, totally not warranted," she confesses. "I felt like a bit of an outlier -- like, 'Oh, I shouldn't be here.' And it was totally not true. The week unfolded, and I fit exactly there."

In fact, Rose has been finding that her music can find a home in all sorts of different formats lately. Her 2018 album, Change the Whole Thing, chronicles a period of growth and expansion for the singer-songwriter. More than anything she has released in the past, the project feels at home in the Americana and roots realms, with elements of soul and pop as well as a country streak.

"This album has really revitalized my love of music," Rose explains. "It's introduced me to a fanbase that I didn't have before. It works in a lot of different formats, which I've always enjoyed -- versatility, and being able to not be confined to one genre. So it essentially feels like a renewal of sorts."

"This album has really revitalized my love of music."

It takes guts to carve out your own musical lane without subscribing to the conventions of any one particular genre. For Rose, the confidence to make music her own way came from the years she had already spent in Nashville, honing her sound.

"It's definitely been, you know, time passing. And me realizing that it's our responsibility as artists to go be vulnerable and pursue these challenges," she muses. "And with this record in particular, it wasn't like we had some master plan. We piecemealed it together."

Early on in the process of cobbling Change the Whole Thing's songs together bit by bit, she realized that she had to record it live, with a full band. "That became so apparent to all of us after the first session, where we'd just cut three songs. It was like, 'Holy s--t! This is what we have to do for the whole project," she recalls.

"I felt like it bridged the gap between what a recording sounds like and what people come to a live show and hear," Rose adds, explaining that the "a-ha! moment" made her realize that merging the two sounds fulfilled a desire she holds for her own favorite artists: "I think that's always so exciting, when I love an artist's recordings, and then I go see them live and I feel like it's realized in the same way," Rose continues. "It took away the separation between what people see in that setting and what they hear on recording."

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Many artists, Rose included, say that a song isn't truly fully written until it's played out in front of a live audience. In the case of Change the Whole Thing, however, the processes of readying the songs for recording and readying them for a live show happened simultaneously.

"We rehearsed so much with this band in this format. It was just how we did it, jamming on the songs and arranging them together. So by the time we had pressed the record, we had played it a couple of times," she explains. "We basically A&R'd the record in between sessions, singing new songs on the road and then going back in a couple months to finish the record."

The resulting music was born ready for live performances, and it appeals to a greater range of crowds than any of Rose's music has before. "People have sort of stopped asking the question of 'What is it?' and 'Where does it belong?' because it belongs in all kinds of places," she relates.

"My objective is to stay consistent, like we did on this record, in all future projects. To make music that will really live in all those places and reach out to all those different types of people. Don't try and be a slave to one audience -- do what's right for the song and right for the music," Rose goes on to say. "I think that's manifested in our touring schedule this year."

"Don't try and be a slave to one audience -- do what's right for the song and right for the music."

Following Cayamo, Rose will be bringing her music to a much different kind of crowd when she joins Kelly Clarkson on her Meaning of Life Tour in March. Although the fanbases couldn't be more different, Rose says she understands why both of them connect to her music.

"They are big fans of big vocals and diva moments, and I share in Kelly's love of soul and trying to sing your a-- off every night," she explains, adding that she's thrilled to have anything in common with the powerhouse vocalist.

"She's the queen! I'm not a 'Yaaas queen!' kind of person, but she really is," Rose says with a laugh. "What we share is that she's all over the map, as far as genre goes. She's pop, she's soul, she's R&B ... She puts her best foot forward in everything she does, and she's super unaffected, and she's candid. She walks the walk and supports what she believes in."

As an artist still finding her footing in a rapidly expanding musical realm, Rose is adjusting to performing for different kinds of crowds. However, during Cayamo, for example, she quickly learned that her audience wasn't interested in judging whether or not she deserved to be onstage. They were just there to enjoy the music.

"They're not there to try to tell whichever single you have that's going to the charts. They wanna hear your body of work," she says. "They wanna know why you wrote that song. They wanna connect with it."

As she goes on to perform for different sets of fans, that experience is giving Rose confidence that she doesn't need to worry about finding obvious ways to connect to new crowds.

"[I feel nervous] in certain situations where it's new for me," she says, "but then at the end of it, there's just validation. There's room for everybody."

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