Caitlin Rose

When you’re a touring musician, you have to accept that some nights are going to be worse than others. Such was the case for Caitlin Rose and her band when they showed up in Vancouver on Oct. 8 on tour with Americana icon, Justin Townes Earle, at the Rio Theatre.


Visibly worn from travelling, Rose is makeup-less, donning a pair of blue jeans and some tattered TOMS shoes. She speaks in a soft, low voice and her big eyes seem as though they’re about to fill up with tears at any moment. Leaving behind a pedal-steel guitarist at the border, the southern belle has been in the country for just a few hours and already “The Great White North” hasn’t been great to her.

The petite songstress is answering to an angered show-promoter, her band, and a crew of ION magazine staff demanding of her time, as she frenziedly runs around the Broadway Street theatre.

“We’re kind of haphazard and stressed right now,” Rose says. “It’s a visa thing. He probably could have gotten in but it was just the risk of having someone be deported in the middle of a tour run. I think he was stressed, and I don’t want anyone to be stressed.”

A tall, lanky, gristly man firmly tells her she has less than 20 minutes to interview and photo-shoot before soundcheck, and he’s already pissed that one-fifth of the band is missing. Rose couldn’t be more gracious about the immediate stress of the situation, but the tension is exhausting. And it’s wearing on her.

“I’ve been travelling for two years now. We signed a deal with Names a while ago, and then I started going over there a lot,” she says of the European record label. “Then I think the record got released here in September, and now there’s a re-release so we’re doing a couple more tours on that and then we’re chilling for a minute.”

While Rose might seem overwhelmed and as if she’s about to break into almost-certain tears, she maintains that touring is second-nature to her.

“The only overwhelming part is watching two years of your life go by and not really remembering where you were,” she says in her lilting southern accent. “I don’t feel overwhelmed. When you’re on the move, you’re on the move and when you’re home you just have to take it for what it is.”

Like all things music, she seems to come by it naturally. Being the offspring of country singer-songwriter Liz Rose—whose writing can be credited to penning several of country-pop star Taylor Swift’s songs—and Johnny B Rose, VP for sales and Marketing at Capitol Records Nashville, it seems Rose was born into talent.

But she doesn’t quite see it that way.

“My parents work in the mainstream, Nashville Music Row kind of field,” she says, rejecting any idea that her success in part to them. “I would say I avoided country music until I was about 17. It’s a newer thing for me.”

Her initial musical induction was singing and writing in the Nashville indie band Save Macaulay—often mislabelled as a punk band. The misinformed idea that she was in a “punk band” makes the country starlet chuckle.

“It wasn’t a real punk band,” Rose interjects, laughing. “We just called it a punk band so we could open for other punk bands in Nashville that I liked. It was more of an anti-folk thing, which is based in country and folk for the most part.”

The band’s limited catalogue of songs draw a likeness to anti-folk heroes The Moldy Peaches—like “One Speed Confessional,” a quick-paced acoustic ditty with quirky lyrics about stalking crushes.

It’s been about six years since her days in Save Macaulay, and the 24-year-old singer recently released her second album, Own Side Now, on Sept. 27 in North America. The 11-track record is a sombre and genuine approach to traditional American music, with an abundance of pedal-steel guitar slides, simple chord progressions and minimal, rhythmic percussion. There’s no mistaking that the songs on Own Side Now are starkly neater and more polished than on her previous solo EP Dead Flowers.

Rose humbly agrees that her songwriting has tightened up over the course of the album.

“It’s more… not a pop-style thing, but more of a structured song idea. When I used to write, it was a little more haphazard, more fun. I think I started to get a little more concentrated with my writing,” she reveals, noting that she writes the bulk of her songs alone.

“I do a little writing with Jeremy and Spencer on the road,” she admits. “We’ve been on tour for so long now, though, we haven’t finished anything because we get so distracted.”

Speaking of distractions, an increasingly ticked show promoter looms around Rose, putting pressure on her to wrap up the interview and photo shoot. The singing sweetheart apologetically spits out, “If the show sucks, the next one will be better!” and runs off to “do a little cleaning up.”

When Rose hits the stage in a leather mini-dress and black heels later in the evening, she is stoic—unlike the frazzled girl in the tour-van duds just an hour earlier. The southern chanteuse has got a set of pipes so loud and country-clear that one would hardly assume that her lungs have an infamous love affair with nicotine, even as she deftly croons through “Shanghai Cigarettes”. Her perfected western purr and heartbreaking lyrics suggest that her several comparisons to a certain coalminer’s daughter are well-deserved.

Rose ends with an emotional version of “For The Rabbits” to an entranced audience, proving that she’s the kind of chick that can captivate a room with her voice—no steel guitar needed.

Words: Kristi Alexandra  Photography: Jan Snarski

Leave a comment

ION Magazine 170-422 Richards Street Vancouver BC Canada V6B 2Z4
© Copyright ION Publishing Group 2013