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“Have a Seat” with Songbird Maggie Rose

As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 17 – Fall 2021
The Bells & Whistles

Potomac, Maryland, native Maggie Rose has been making music in some way for as long as she can remember. From singing around her house as a toddler to joining a Bruce Springsteen tribute band as a teen, to moving to Nashville all by herself, to now working and recording in the legendary likes of FAME Studios and the Opry.

NOTE: This article originally appeared on our Fall 2021 edition which can be seen at the link above. 

We chatted with Rose and during her interview, she breaks down her album, Have a Seat, which dropped on August 20. She tells us about her collaborations on the album, recording at FAME, her guitar preferences, and her podcast Salute the Songbird.

Have a Seat is filled to the brim with collaborations. “I had members of Them Vibes, who tours with me, play down there as well with me. We had Alex Haddad on guitar, Larry Forman on percussion and vocals, and Sarah Tomek on drums—just like this amazing eclectic group of musicians, young and old. David Hood from the Swampers, and Will McFarlane, who used to play with Bonnie Raitt. That’s always been one of my favorite guitar tones. Then, of course, Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes producing. He is from Florence, AL, so he was able to pull in some amazing members of the Alabama Shakes and Brittany Howard’s band. Shanay Johnson and Rhetta Simone, who sing with Emily King and Brittany Howard, sang background vocals. It was just so cool. Lloyd Buchanan on keys and Ben Alleman on keys. I was just really happy to have such a collaborative effort put forth for this record and such great musicians.”

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Rose and her collaborators had big plans to promote the album, but these were abruptly cut off with the onslaught of the pandemic. “Of course, we had a whole touring schedule to go promote this stuff, and it was canceled overnight. So now we’re back out and reassimilating to touring life—it feels just right. I’m happy that we waited to have this music correlated with the reopening of everything because it’s a celebration. A lot of it was written about political intentions. And then I felt like we were put in a pressure cooker over the pandemic, and all of those themes that I wrote about before I began them, felt even more relevant. So, it feels like the right moment after everything.”

woman laying on back on white background

Not only did Rose collaborate with other artists on the recording of her tracks, she also collaborated on some songwriting. “I wrote with Alex Haddad and Larry Florman of Them Vibes a lot. I wrote with Melissa Fuller and Jason Afable on a couple of songs. Joe Ginsburg and Megan Redmond are incredible. I wrote “For Your Consideration” with them; I wrote “What Makes You Tick” with Marcus King. One song called “Saint” was the song that my publisher sent me that four of my friends wrote. I haven’t cut an outside song in years, but that’s what I do every day when I’m back in Nashville is to try to help artists find their voice. It just felt like an honor to find a song that interested me so much that then let me take it and interpret it and share it with my listeners. Hopefully, they all feel the way I felt when I heard it for the first time.”

When asked what song on the album speaks to her the most, Rose says, “That is a tough question. I think the song that encapsulates the theme of this record really well is “For Your Consideration” because it’s about listening, sitting down with someone else, not having to agree, but having the empathy to listen to them and give them the space to be heard. I think that’s the overarching theme for this record. And just finally, as we gather back together, let’s have fun and passion for each other and just go at it all gently with one another. And I think people are so hungry for live music again, you know, so that in the beginning of this tour, it’s like people are dying for that connection. And that’s when the music becomes real.”

Have a Seat was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Rose has performed there before, and she notes that the vibe is really something special. “It was a trip in 2018 where we performed at this event called Music Row to Muscle Shoals that Halley Phillips puts together, which is Sam Phillips’ granddaughter. The whole band just came alive, and we were performing there, and I felt like, okay, maybe I need to get out of Nashville and just take some of the magic that’s in this room because it really is a time capsule. It’s kind of like stepping on the stage at the Opry where you know everyone that’s gone before you inside here. So you want to also do your best.”

Recording at FAME really changes the feel of the performance, according to Maggie. “I think the vibe is just obviously the legendary room that puts you on your game. But then for me getting out of Nashville, having lived there for a long time and making lots of albums on music row, it was nice to just have a trip where we woke up, we went to the studio, stayed there as late as we could, and we went to bed at our Airbnb and did it all over again. It was a completely immersive experience, and, you know, I wasn’t distracted by what I had to do at my house or anything. I just got to be in the record for days at a time when we would go down there to record these songs and arches. And that’s really cool. It felt like just full escape into the projects for a little bit at a time, which I think the music really demanded of us.”

Rose compares the vibe of FAME to that of the Opry. She has performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, over 80 times. “I think it’s 83. I usually keep counting on this because it’s such a cool opportunity, and I don’t take it for granted. Even with my music being kind of more funky and soulful, the Opry seems to reflect what’s going on in our community of country and Americana in a way that I don’t think you’re seeing for trade on terrestrial radio by any means. So I think they do a really good job of showcasing what it is that Nashville has to offer, to a degree, that belongs on the Opry stage that might not be your traditional idea of what belongs on the Opry stage.”

maggie rose have a seat album cover

We asked Rose what important things there are to know about being an artist going to Nashville for the first time. “I think what you have to learn is that everyone is so talented; there’s such an abundance of wisdom to be mined around you. Humility is probably something that every young artist should possess, especially when they’re going into the collaborative atmosphere. I’m not saying don’t have an ego; I’m just saying be humble, be kind to yourself, be appreciative of others, and just try and learn. Just listening actually makes you better when you’re the one who has to say something eventually.”

Rose touched on trends about being female in Nashville and shared some female artists she’s loving right now, including Shannon McNally, Nicole Atkins, Elizabeth Cook, Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, Natalie Hemby, and Jillette Johnson. “There’s so many talented women who are instrumentalists that are really fun to watch. I think some of these all-female bands that you’re seeing dropped the all-female moniker. We don’t even need to mention that anymore.”

Rose has had music in her life for quite some time. “I was super young when I started singing, like before I could talk. I didn’t have any other musical family members to kind of collaborate with or write with, but I definitely had a lot of appreciative fans. My family would encourage me to sing every day, all the time. When I was 15, I got linked up with a Bruce Springsteen tribute street band—up until then, I was just singing in a church choir. I was known as the singer of the community but not the songwriter. With the “B Street Band,” that’s when I really started to realize that the power of performing was playing at bars for people who were getting off work and trying to get away from the rigors of life.”

It was during her time with this band that she learned some important lessons about music. “I was like, okay, it’s not just about being a good singer. This is about feelings that we’re trying to evoke. I started incorporating originals into my set. I’d kind of sneak them in and see if people noticed, then that’s eventually what got me to move to Nashville. I got my first guitar when I was 17 and moved to Nashville when I was 19, getting this baptism by fire because everyone there is so good at what they do.”

We asked Rose about her preference for guitars, and at the moment, she’s a huge Gibson fan. “I have the Hummingbird—it has a Sitka spruce top, and I love it. It handles really nicely. I used to have a big white J-200. I play that one often and write songs on that at home.” She doesn’t play electric yet, but she’s looking forward to learning.

When on the lookout for a new guitar, Rose looks for some of the following: “I’ve played Taylors, but with the guitar tone of the Gibsons that I’ve played, I like that they have more body; they’re warm, and they’re not super bright. I just think it goes better with my voice.” As far as strings, Rose also has a preference. “I have D’Addario and Jim Dunlop strings. I like the lighter gauge too, even on a Gibson.”

Rose also hosts a podcast called Salute the Songbird. It’s in its second season now, with about 13 episodes per season. On whether or not she often hears common themes from the guests on her podcast, Rose had a lot to say. “Yes. Nancy Wilson from Heart is another incredible guitar player that I had on the show, and she’s always been someone that I’ve looked up to. I’d love to play guitar half as good as she can. She’s been in the industry for a while and has written some of the most iconic guitar riffs ever. She was on the show. And then, we also had new artists like Jillette Johnson on the show, and they are wildly different from each other. All of my guests share a commitment to music. That’s so beautiful that we put ourselves through a little bit of departure, but there’s also so much joy because it’s a vocation for everyone that I talk to. And I think the thesis statement, if I had to really simplify it, would be, if this isn’t exactly what you want to do, and there’s no plan B, then this is what you should be doing. We make music because we love it.”

To finish off our interview, we asked Rose if she had any advice for young artists in the music industry. “I would say don’t try and chase someone else’s idea of what being an artist is; chase your own. [When I was getting into the industry], I’d ask myself just the simple questions of who do you want to be and what makes you original and authentic? What do you want to say? So I had to kind of backpedal a little bit in my career to get back to that authenticity of who I was just because I was kind of following a template. A big machine with those questions pushed behind me, and I got ahead of myself. I think you only have one chance to make a first impression, and you want that impression to be who you are. Those are the artists that I want to watch—the ones who know themselves.”

~By Tara Low and Cece Gair

Cece Gair

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