“I don’t really like being a particularly public person. These songs, in my mind, are all encompassing in their regard to my own, personal life,” Caroline Rose tells me when I ask the young singer/songwriter what she thinks is most important that fans and potential fans know about her and her music. Rose recently released America Religious, an album that boasts what she describes as “Gospel-meets-country-meets-blues-meets-alternative.” The album displays the songstress’ balance of somber intellectualism with a rollicking enthusiasm for sonically Southern debauchery. Rose always retains a certain level of elegance, but she also certainly knows how to write the kind of catchy tune that could soundtrack a bar fight from a chicken-wired stage. Caroline Rose’s music rings of an old soul, someone who is aware of all of the world’s existential atrocities, but also of someone who is well aware of all of its most existentially enjoyable pleasures…
… However, when I got a chance to talk with Ms. Rose she comes across as an ineffably endearing young woman, with an ever-present infectious laugh. She’s actually talking to me from “the happiest place on Earth”: “I’m actually in Disney World, of all places, which is nice and sunny and warm and I’m very happy to be here, instead of back home. I’m semi-, sort-of based out of Vermont. Jer, my partner, has lived there his entire life and that’s where my band is, so I’ve been back-and-forth living there for the last five years.” She describes Vermont for me as, “A special and magical place… except when the weather’s like this. My entire band has been texting me that it’s been like 20 degrees for the past two weeks.”
Rose tells me that 2013 was likely the busiest of her life: “From a business standpoint, it was a wildly productive year. From a personal standpoint, it’s been really stressful. It started with a few showcases at SXSW and we had sort of no fans at that point, but a few people started to notice us and would offer us additional opportunities.” This manifested itself in a series of largely hyper-intimate gigs.
“We did a few tiny house concerts and it ended up paying for the whole trip. Sirius promoted it and we ended up doing a cross country trip, doing a combination of these house shows and shows in real venues. There’s something really unique about playing those house shows and just playing in their living rooms. It’s pretty amazing because you get to eat with the people you’re playing for and stay at their houses and then they’ll kind of show you around town and you get an insider’s perspective of some town that you never would’ve stopped to notice, otherwise.”
These experiences on the road themselves are apparently a huge inspiration for Caroline and at the core of much of her aesthetic.
“A lot of the songs that I write are influenced by travelling. I do a lot of travelling. I mean, I’ve basically been living out of a car for a year and a half now. But I love travelling. I use it as a soul-fueling exercise. It gets me seeing new things and meeting new people. It gets my mind stimulated and gets me excited about life.”
But when it comes to the music that Ms. Rose finds most inspiring, she tells me that her most obvious influences are more by default than by design.
“I listen to a ton of different styles of music, but my own sound is very influenced by just always being on the road. I mean, you can travel with an acoustic guitar, as opposed to something that requires more electronic elements or samples. Guitar-based music is just so applicable to people who travel a lot. But I do love all of those great songwriters, like Neil Young, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, who are just still so great when the band is gone and all you have is the song. I want to write songs like that, that can stand alone.”
It’s not just these “classics” that Rose has a great love of. She also seriously digs a lot of contemporary Colombian artists, in addition to current hip-hop: “I love Kendrick Lamar. I mean, I consider him to just be the best songwriter currently out there.”
America Religious has already gotten a lot of positive critical feedback, which surprises and excites Rose, but which she also humbly admits might be due to her career still being in its baby stages.
“I never expected to get so much positive feedback. I don’t think we’ve gotten one bad review yet, although we’re still in the early stages. I’m still on like the first half-step of my career, so I’m sure as it continues there will be a little more of a balance from critics, but we’ve gotten a lot of really inspiring write-ups so far. Places like Paste, Relix, and Speakers in Code seem to have taken me in as their charity case [laughs].”
Although she acknowledges the freshness of her musical career, in our recent chat, Caroline Rose tells me she has a very hectic year ahead: “This year’s gonna be insanely busy. We’re working on another record that gets mastered next week. Things are moving really fast… probably faster than I would like, but, I mean, moving fast is good.”
Caroline Rose has two upcoming Philadelphia dates, dates that are actually quite different. On January 25th she’ll be supporting Americana supergroup Hard Working Americans at Union Transfer, and on February 27th she’ll be coming to headline upstairs at World Café Live for a far more intimate set. During our discussion, Caroline assures me that she is well aware in the differences of settings at her upcoming Philadelphia shows and tells me that the performances will not likely resemble each other to a great degree: “Those two shows are gonna be really different. They’ll each have a totally different vibe.” She tells me that the (February) headlining performance will include, “A bit of everything: songs from the new record, but also a bunch of older stuff.” And of her (January) set supporting Hard Working Americans, she says, “We’ll be playing the more hard-hitting stuff. We’ll play some new stuff and amp up some of the small stuff. We’re definitely expecting a whiskey-slinging crowd… which I love.”