[Interview] Whitney Rose
Whitney Rose learned authentic country music on Canada’s Prince Edward Island
Whitney Rose’s journey from Prince Edward Island to Austin, Texas, that began more than a dozen years ago, took her back to Canada recently.
This visit was different, however. She returned as a buzzworthy country singer headlining her first tour in support of “Heartbreaker of the Year,” the 2015 album produced by Raul Malo of the Mavericks. But it’s likely she stopped by her grandparents’ bar in Charlottetown to sing a few songs just like she did growing up.
“We’re going up to my family’s cottage to spend some time with them before we play a show,” says Rose. “I’m very excited.”
It’s an exciting time to be Whitney Rose and some of the credit goes to Malo and the Mavericks. In addition to producing her record, Malo gave Rose an opening spot on two tours with his band and shared lessons learned during his career.
“It would take five lifetimes to thank them (Mavericks) for everything they’ve done for me,” she says. “I loved their music but I have never seen them live. Seeing their show just completely changed my life; it’s not a show, it’s a spectacle.
“I would call Raul one of my closest friends and he’s become a mentor as well. I always maintained that music school … it’s great to learn how to play your instrument and all that, but half the course should be, ‘This is how you don’t go crazy in a van for 12 hours. This is how you live in close proximity with your bandmates and don’t kill them. This is how you eat healthy when options are limited.’ ”
Dining options might be the only ones that are limited these days. A natural nomad – Rose attended five colleges before landing in Toronto after leaving “a farm in the middle of nowhere” – she’s thrilled with the move to Austin late last year. In addition to putting together her tour band of Texans, she has scored a weekly gig at the legendary Continental Club.
“There are people who come every Thursday – that’s when I play when I’m not on the road,” Rose says. “Steve (Wertheimer), the owner, is amazing, he’s done so much for me. It’s a special community to be part of. I really lucked out.”
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s best if you’re both. Being prepared also helps. You never know when the phone might ring.
“I signed with an American booking agent in June,” Rose says. “One Saturday morning, I’m home doing laundry and I got a call asking if I would like to open for Dwight Yoakam. And can I be at the venue in an hour? ‘Yes, I can!’
“It was completely insane … I had my bandmates canceling gigs to do this. After the set, Dwight came out to meet me. He was quite complimentary and I basically just stood there with my jaw on the floor. I could hardly speak. He probably thinks I’m mute.”
Probably not, since he heard her sing. But as excited as Rose is about her career these days, she’s maintained the equilibrium learned in the remote outpost of her youth.
“I think it’s important not to take yourself too seriously,” she says. Then adds, “Until you have to.”
The time has arrived when people are taking Whitney Rose seriously.
Watch her perform “Lasso” from her album “Heartbreaker of the Year”.
This story originally appeared in The Enquirer in August, 2016
Whitney Rose’s Rule 62: Takes the work, not yourself, seriously
Being serious and taking yourself seriously are different things, and not everyone can pull off that quinella. Whitney Rose, however, has managed the balancing act pretty well.
The Canadian singer-songwriter, who released her self-titled debut five years ago, has produced two full-length albums and a six-song EP in the past two years. Rose will showcase songs from her latest record, “Rule 62,” during her third visit to the Southgate House Revival in the past 14 months.
Rule 62 is Rose shorthand to remind herself to search for harmony between ambition and self-awareness, and to live with humor and humility. In other words, she doesn’t take herself too seriously. The work, though, is a different story.
“Sometimes something is announced or an opportunity comes up that is posted on social media, and you see comments like, ‘Oh, she’s so lucky.’ That really, really grinds my gears,” says Rose, evoking the traditional Prince Edward Island epitath of her youth.
“It’s like, “No, I didn’t win a drawing, I worked my (butt) off and that led to this opportunity. For that I am grateful.’ But I’m not going to say I’m lucky and I would appreciate it if you didn’t either.”
It’s been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and Rose has done the prep work. She has recorded more than 20 original songs since moving to Austin in 2015. Those tunes caught the ear of the Mavericks’ Raul Malo, who helped shepherd the projects.
“I’ve been writing so much since I moved that I actually had to ax quite a few songs,” she says. “To be honest, I have enough material to release another album if we see fit.”
Singing came before writing for Rose, who crafts tunes with the tools learned on stages that included her grandparents’ bar on PEI and a Toronto joint that was the center of an artistic community.
“Everything that I have put out so far has been a marriage of my two biggest influences, which are classic country and ’60s’ girl group stuff,” she says.
The video for “Better to My Baby” from “Rule 62” is likely to pique the interest of industry types who would love to market Rose as a crossover in the Nancy Sinatra-Dusty Springfield mold. She admits the thought has entered her mind.
“Maybe I should divorce the two and a make a record that’s full-on country or one that’s a full-on pop, soul, rock kind of thing,” she says. “But I’m not going to sacrifice what I think is better just to make something that might be easier to categorize because I don’t think that’s important.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do in the future, and this (decision) might come to haunt me at some point.”
After spelling out the mission statement, then the disclaimer, Rose laughs, an endearing quality that perfectly illustrates Rule 62. She’s serious about her work, which is in service to the song. But she also realizes that saying never to something can be a fool’s errand if circumstances change.
Only one thing is certain about the future. When opportunity presents itself, she will be prepared, not lucky.
This story originally appears in The Enquirer in October, 2017
2017 - Listen
Ask people what distinguishes Country music from other genres and most will probably say it’s the stories the songs tell. Some of the best storytellers in Country are women. Singer-songwriters like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton have long given voice to the stories women live. Following in the footsteps of these strong-willed performers is Whitney Rose. With her latest release, “Rule 62”, she leaves no doubt that she’s just as powerful a storyteller as the women she grew up listening to.
Bill Thompson caught up with Whitney Rose as she was preparing to hit the road in support of “Rule 62”. Listen in as they discuss songwriting, opening for Marty Stuart, and overcoming stage fright.