Interview: Whitney Rose Does It Her Way on New ‘We Still Go to Rodeos’ Album
Texas singer-songwriter Whitney Rose has never been afraid to pave her own way through the country music landscape. With the release of her latest record, We Still Go to Rodeos, out Friday (April 24), she jumped at the chance to take new risks and try new things creatively.
Over the years, fans have been swept away by Rose's engaging sound, which mixes sleek classic country with funky '60s and '70s pop and soul. For this new chapter, she brought in producer Paul Kolderie, who is best known for his work with artists including rock bands Radiohead and the Pixies, to help bring her vision to life.
"He's such a nice guy, but he also has, like, a million insane stories about the artists that he's worked with," Rose tells The Boot. "I've heard some great stories about Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love and Radiohead."
Kolderie's unique perspective allowed Rose to expand and evolve her soundscape in a way that felt like a natural progression from what fans hear on her 2017 record Rule 62. Although still deeply rooted in country, this new batch of songs has a genre-defying edginess and definitive style, propelled by Rose's passionate vocals.
On the anthemic "In a Rut," for example, Rose taps into feelings of frustration and hopelessness. A shining example of her talents as a storyteller, meanwhile, is "Believe Me, Angela," in which Rose puts her own honest and realistic spin on confronting the "other woman" in a relationship.
As a writer, Rose knows how to create a scene that listeners can immediately picture and connect to, whether it be the frustration of a failing romance ("I'd Rather Be Alone") or a young girl navigating through a series of wrong turns and obstacles. The story song "Just Circumstance" was inspired by elements from the stories Rose heard while binging true crime television shows on tour.
"For so long, I was on the road and the only common denominator that I could find from crappy motel to crappy motel ... is that Forensic Files is always on at the same time," she says. "The narrator's voice has become my lullaby, and so anytime that I can't sleep now, I just put it and I'm out," she adds with a laugh.
We Still Go to Rodeos' groovy title track is a nod to both Rose's own roots and holding onto to what's important when times are tough. "It's very fitting for what we're going through now," she notes, alluding to the ongoing quarantine to help slow the spread of the novel coroanvirus (COVID-19).
"I was planning on going to some of my favorite rodeos in Houston and Austin. I just die going to them, I'm so happy. I love eating snow cones, candy apples and all that stuff," she shares. "To me, [the song] just implies that things might not be perfect, but there are these things that we still do. It's kind of like making hay and just taking everything good from a situation that might not be ideal."
Always moving forward, Rose's new album marks her independence in another big way: Prior to the release of We Still Go to Rodeos, she created her own label, MCG Recordings, in collaboration with her manager.
"This industry is changing a little bit every day," Rose muses. "When I had these tunes and I knew I was ready to make a record, I was in a position where I could do it without a label, and I just wanted to try it."
Being able to work independently and see the ins and outs of how the industry works as a whole has given Rose new insight into just how hard it can be to make it all work. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has forced her and other musicians to hunker down at home instead of spending time out on the road, she's itching to get back to the grind.
"Life is far from ideal when you're on the road touring. It's so easy to fall into the 'woe is me' mindset when you've had to drive 12 hours to get to a gig after a show the night before and you don't have time to go to your hotel because you barely had time to soundcheck," Rose admits. "But now," she continues with a laugh, "I would absolutely love to have five minutes to get ready before I show right now."
Although no one knows for sure when live will feel relatively normal again, Rose is using this time to focus on her art and build on personal connections.
"One thing that's comforting is that we're absolutely all in this together," she says thoughtfully. "I've spoken to friends that I haven't talked to in over a year, and that part of it has been nice. It makes you looking for the silver linings."
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