This coming Wednesday, September 29th, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection will finally see the re-opening of our favorite listening room(s), World Café Live. And while the official “Re-Opening Party” will be in The Lounge with SnackTime and Deborah Bond, I would argue that the best party in the University City venue (or anywhere in Philthy) that night will be downstairs, in The Music Hall, which will be headlined by ultra-bluesy, Nashville-based, Americana singer/songwriter Maggie Rose.
Last month Maggie Rose released her third LP, Have A Seat, which was produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes and which I’m currently contending to be the album of the year. Boasting a plethora of already-anthems (“For Your Consideration,” “The Best In Me,” and “Help Myself”), the album combines Maggie’s love of ‘60s and ‘70s rock, soul, and that music that made her city famous. Maggie’s been on the road and touring Have A Seat since Mid-July, but she recently took some time to chat with me about her new album, and how it was shaped by the pandemic, in addition to her longstanding dream of playing World Café (no small honor from someone who has been onstage at The Grand Ole Opry more than 80 times…)
Izzy Cihak: I know you’re based out of Nashville, which is home to many of our favorite artists (as of recently, Madi Diaz, Bella White, Leah Blevins…) What are your thoughts on the music and arts scene there at the moment?
Maggie Rose: I think it’s so cool that Madi, Bella, and Leah are some of your favorite artists because they create genre-bending, lyrically rich music on their own terms. I think that’s kind of my mission, too. I am proud to be a part of the scene here because there is so much talent and innovation all around me, and people genuinely support one another in this community. I feel that every day. The boom we’re experiencing in Nashville has introduced such a beautiful diversification that has contributed to the emergence of many new sounds. Gone are the days of having to follow one template or model in order to make and release music. I’m watching some of the tiniest machines make the biggest noise.
Izzy: You recently released your third studio album, Have A Seat. Have you had any favorite reactions to it so far, whether from critics, fans, or audiences?
Maggie: It was cool to see the music video for “For Your Consideration” premiere on a giant screen in Times Square. The surrealism of witnessing that in a wildly crowded, iconic spot after being stuck at home for over a year was almost too much. Tears were shed. Also, seeing this music on the Americana charts feels so welcoming. I felt like the new kid in school when I played my first AmericanaFest in 2019 and I feel like I’ve found my lane and my home.
Izzy: How do you feel like the album compares to previous releases? I understand it was inspired by a lot of the sociopolitical issues this country has been dealing with recently.
Maggie: I had the album practically finished before the pandemic began and then the pandemic hit and the tour was canceled overnight with no prospects of returning to the road in sight. For a while it was painful to listen to this album because I felt I might never get a chance to release it in a way that honored the music. We were all put in a pressure cooker and the prominent themes of communication and empathy became more relevant as time went on. When I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I took the new context of what we had all been through and resequenced the album, and I fell more deeply in love with the music all over again.
Izzy: I’ve been trying to avoid asking artists about their musical influences and, instead, ask them about some of their favorite albums. So, what have been some of your favorite albums as of recently, whether things you grew up loving or more recent things you’ve found yourself obsessed with?
Maggie: I have a podcast called “Salute The Songbird” where I speak to amazing women in the industry and that has been an absolute gift because my “research” is just listening to badass records and reading stellar memoirs from my songbirds before we speak. I love Lucie Silvas’ new music. Carole King’s Tapestry has always been a favorite. Allison Russell is killing it. Amythyst Kiah’s new Wary + Strange is phenomenal. And then there is Aaron Lee Tasjan’s Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!
Izzy: You’ve been touring the album for about two months now already. How have the dates gone so far? Have there been any stand-out highlights?
Maggie: It’s a wild world out there as you know but I am just so thrilled to be able to play live music again with people I cherish. We have found this new sense of gratitude and I recognize that in the crowds as well. There seems to be a camaraderie among them and that’s a beautiful thing. However, I’m just trying to be as gentle with myself and others as we go through this because there is a lot of anxiety out there. We are just keeping an open mind as every day brings new developments so we can protect ourselves and our audience. We are living in the moment with each show and I think that makes us give it our all each time.
Izzy: You’re going to be playing the re-opening of our very own World Café Live. What can be expected of the show, both in terms of setlist and just the general vibe of the night?
Maggie: We’re going to bring it! Even before the touring industry was threatened, I have always wanted to play the one and only World Café so it feels pretty epic to be granted the chance to do that in such a big way. You’ll see a lot of energy and a lot of love on that stage for sure. We’ll play the new record but we’ll have some more surprises in there, too.
Izzy: Okay, to end on a lighter note, I have a two-part question. You’ve always had really fabulous style, so I have to ask what that draws inspiration from? Do you have any particularly significant style icons?
Maggie: Why, thank you! I think style can be your armor and part of the art form. I’m not afraid of a little theater and I believe confidence is key. It’s also supplementary to the music. I love Bianca Jagger’s style and Stevie Nicks. I also love the mod era of Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick, so I borrow inspiration from all of them and make it my own by injecting a contemporary feel. I’m not particularly fickle or trendy because I’ve learned what works for me.
Izzy: And, on a related note, is there anything you’d love to see your fans come out to these shows wearing? I feel like people don’t get dressed up so much for concerts anymore, but I really think that they should, haha.
Maggie: Hell yeah they should! I’m really looking forward to Hulaween because there is a monster mash theme, and I can see people getting excited about their costumes already on social media. I want my audience to wear something that makes them want to dance. So, if that means something sexy or something comfortable then do it. We have some really great merchandise that I think everyone would look great in! Haha!