ARTIST FEATURE: MAGGIE ROSE — 2021 IN REVIEW

Maggie Rose Performing at her Have a seat album release show

An album release this last August and a fall tour stretching across the US for several months would be a full year’s work for most artists—especially with the cautious re-opening of the world in 2021. However, this is just part of what Nashville soul and Americana artist Maggie Rose has accomplished this year. In a year where many of us found challenges mustering creative energy, Rose has used nearly every moment to add her mark to the musical world. 

For a proper start, we need to go all the way back to January 5th when she launched her Salute the Songbird podcast.  With over 30 episodes so far in the series, Rose has hosted a remarkable mix of rising and prominent artists while carrying out the podcast’s mission of, “host[ing] candid conversations with her female musical heroes about their lives in and out of music, challenging the status quo, and changing the game for those coming up behind them.”  Past guests have included Ruby Amanfu, Martina McBride, Micky Guyton, Valarie June, Brandi Carlile, Yola, and many more. 

At the same time she was growing her new podcast, Rose started giving us early cuts from her then recently-announced album, Have a Seat.  While it is common practice to release several singles working up to an album release, Rose partnered with photographer/videographer Ford Fairchild as director and Jared Rauso/Bolo Brothers on production to create a music video trilogy that showcases her from different perspectives.  Featuring the singles “What Are We Fighting For,” “Have a Seat,” and “For Your Consideration,” the videos were all exceptionally shot, with “Have a Seat” being added to our companion rock blog’s (East of 8th) YouTube playlist

We’ve compiled the video trilogy into a playlist for easy viewing:


Maggie Rose’s Have a Seat Album

Maggie Rose Have A Seat Album Art

At first listen, Have a Seat might sound like a strange fit for an artist who has played over 80 times on the iconic stage of country music, The Grand Ole Opry.  Strong influences of soul, rock, and even some pop are featured throughout. However, that’s just your brain being nearsighted and forgetting about the fusion of genres that make up the history of country and Americana music.  Go into any self-respecting, traditional honky-tonk and numbers from Ray Charles and Percy Sledge will be included in the rotation.  Likewise, artists too numerous to mention, both past and present, have injected blues rock swagger into the tome of country music.  Perhaps, upon further reflection one might wonder why we don’t have more albums like Have a Seat being created by current artists playing the Opry.  However, these musings may be moot. We don’t have to label a record’s sound to appreciate it.

The record is loaded with classic soul sounds thanks to its finely pedigreed support.  Production was handled by Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes at the iconic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL; instrumentation gets a boost thanks to bassist David Hood of the Swampers (session musicians who played with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Etta James); and guitarist Will McFarlane who has recorded with Bonnie Raitt and Levon Helm, among others.

The album’s theme is clear.  Rose is challenging the conflict and intolerance that she has felt growing in society in recent years.  Straight to the point, she asks in the album’s highlight single, “What Are We Fighting For?”  Her message is one of tolerance, discourse, and understanding.  One might not think of this as a controversial idea.  However, in the social media age, this may be a bold concept.  Just as Rose proudly lets her sound stand out by embracing her soulful side, she doesn’t shy away from sharing her feelings on the need for conversation in our world.  While we often (and rightly so) applaud artists for taking a stand, what makes Have a Seat work so well is that we often don’t know the issue that’s causing the divide.  It’s not a group of songs that sets out to slay the demons in our society; rather it aims to unite us to find a way to work through any problem we might face.  The album, and “What Are We Fighting For” in particular, makes you think of the role of a mediator: no matter the dispute, we can work it out through good faith discussion.

Later in the album, “For Your Consideration” builds on this theme and gives the listener enough room to apply it to more personal struggles.  On one hand, Rose’s call for swapping perspectives and understanding the sacrifices of others could easily apply to any issue, no matter how weighty.  However, it equally works as a ballad about a one-sided relationship, wishing the other person offered shared respect.  The track both starts and ends minimally, allowing the ache in Rose’s vocals to shine through while the middle swells with an R&B groove.

The album also helps itself by never becoming preachy. Rose never claims to have all the answers. Instead, she’s willing to admit that she may be wrong about things—that she may be part of the problem.  A slow-dance bass groove and drumbeat introduces us to another gem off the album, “Saint.” As the song transitions from lyrical confessional to an anthem of self-acceptance, Rose gives us a stirring vocal performance while the addition of background singers makes it feel like it’s echoing in the rafters on the wings of a gospel choir. 

The soul-rock vibes are thick, but the album is not without some tracks that embrace a more ‘traditional’ country side.  The quick-moving, “Do It,” may have flourishes of organ and pack plenty of horns, but the guitar riffs and her lyrical presentation have country roots. Likewise, “Best in Me,” is a straight up throwback ballad that takes us to the days when Trisha Yearwood or LeAnn Rimes dominated the airwaves with their dual hit, “How Do I Live.”

Have a Seat is an album worth several spins in order to appreciate all of the influences merged into Rose’s sound. If you’re not an ‘album person,’ the tracks cover enough sonic and emotional space to find a song for any mood or playlist.  This makes it a record well worth exploration by fans of soul, rock, country, Americana…or just good music for that matter.  


Maggie Rose’s Have a Seat Tour

Brooklyn Bowl Nashville show with Maggie Rose

As live music returned in the latter half of 2021, Rose set out across the country bringing the new album to life. Mother Church Pew was lucky enough to catch one of the early stops at the Have a Seat album release party at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl. 

Rose is an artist who dazzles in the spotlight of a live show.  It’s difficult to explain how hearing live versions of hits from the album— “Do It,” “What Are We Fighting For,” “For Your Consideration,” and more—is so different.  The easiest way to describe it is that you just feel more.  That’s not a slight at all on Rose’s recorded performances.  Instead, it’s a grasp at quantifying the spark she has on stage. 

Some of that comes from the dynamic energy of her longtime live band and collaborators, Them Vibes.  You only have to spend about 10 seconds around the band’s iconic Brother Love to get sucked in.  Rose and the band not only seemed to know each other’s moves; they’re also seasoned touring vets who know how to put on a show. 

However, there’s also a legitimacy in Rose’s performance both as a singer and a songwriter.  You can employ a lot of technical magic to make an album like Have a Seat work.  However, the excellent sound at the Brooklyn Bowl can be a double-edged sword.  It can make real singers sound better and expose studio-hidden shortcomings.  At her album release party, there was no doubt that Rose was the real deal as her voice poured tons of emotion into every track. Although I had respected the recording of “What Are We Fighting For” before that night, I was completely hooked on the vocals after hearing the live performance.

But it’s still more than that.  At the Brooklyn Bowl show you could tell that Rose felt each word she was singing.  Those were her songs. She was proud of them and excited to share them with us. Her energy wasn’t lost on the audience as the crowd moved closer to the stage and people watching from the venue’s upper seating were drawn to the floor to be more engaged in the show. 

Maggie Rose and Them Vibes Live

I started by saying that the show brought the album to life and that is still the best way to describe it.  At the Nashville Brooklyn Bowl it felt like we were getting both the raw feelings behind the music and the refined result of Rose’s work.  

Maggie Rose at The Brooklyn Bowl Nashville

New Music and Looking Forward

Unfortunately Rose recently had to make the difficult decision to end the Have a Seat Tour early over her concern for everyone in light of increased COVID cases.  However, Rose has continued to create in 2021.  Her most recent release is her haunting cover of Carole King’s, “I Feel The Earth Move.”

She still has two stops scheduled at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in 2022 that we hope will safely go on.  Meanwhile, her Salute the Songbird podcast continues growing both in its content and audience.  Rose may have put together an impressive 2021, but it’s likely to be yet another stepping stone in her expanding presence across the Americana, country, soul, and pop scenes.

Connect with Maggie Rose:

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