It’s not surprising that Whitney Rose and Raul Malo hit it off so well. Both deliver music that defies the eight million rules of genre defining, only to wind up in the all-encompassing Country bin, but regardless, Prince Edward Island’s Rose and Miami’s Malo are still fighting the good fight, Rose with her band – which arrives in New York City Saturday for a gig at Rockwood Music Hall – and Malo with The Mavericks.
“I always have a bit of a hard time explaining to people what kind of music it is that I write and perform, and I know that Raul struggles with it as well,” Rose admits. “I’ve read him quoted as saying ‘you can ask ten different people what they think The Mavericks’ music is and you’re gonna get ten different answers.’
“It’s a really unfortunate part of music that everyone feels the need to categorize and classify, instead of just enjoying or not enjoying whatever is put forth,” she continues. “But I think Raul and I hit it off right away because we’re both kind of old souls and that makes us kindred spirits in that way. We draw from so many different influences. Like we both love the Rat Pack, and we both love Hank Williams and Merle Haggard. I think it’s really limiting that when you put your record on iTunes, you need to choose a genre. So my record is on there as Country, and I would totally agree with you that it’s not straight-up country, especially when you look at what’s being played on mainstream country radio these days.”
There are country tunes on Rose’s stellar second album, Heartbreaker of the Year, and even a cover of Hank Williams’ “There’s a Tear in my Beer,” but there’s a feel of classic pop throughout, with a modern twist that makes all eight originals accessible to a younger generation. As for the other cover on the album, a duet of “Be My Baby” with Malo, well, that’s just timeless, isn’t it? And that’s almost what it feels like listening to Rose, as she has a voice and ease with her phrasing that sounds like she’s being doing this for decades. The Canadian songstress isn’t trying to go scale running; she lets the songs breathe, and Rose gives a lot of credit to Malo, who produced the album, for that.
“He is, in my opinion, one of the best vocalists of our time,” Rose said of Malo. “So when we recorded the record, I had two tours with Raul and his band, The Mavericks, under my belt and I’ve essentially been studying Raul since the moment we met. (Laughs) He’s just so good at what he does, and he’s simply amazing. He’s been doing this for a number of years, and so I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from him.”
Rose has not just learned her lessons well, but quickly, as she admits that she’s only been writing songs for a fraction of the time that most of her peers have.
“I write songs that are personal to me, but I also really like to draw from other people’s experiences, and that’s one of my favorite parts about writing,” Rose said. “As a writer, I’m mostly dealing with human experience. I’m much more of a writer in that regard than I am a political writer. I like to talk and write about people. So that has been one of the most enjoyable things about writing music because I haven’t really been writing for that long. I’ve been singing for my entire life, but I just started writing music six years ago.”
Forget heartbreaker of the year; Ms. Rose may just be the 2015 phenom of the year. But in fairness, she has had good music in her ears from an early age.
“I grew up in a pretty small town on Prince Edward Island with my mom and my grandparents, and my grandparents were very much country folk, so I was exposed to Hank Williams before I was really exposed to children’s music,” she said. “So I come by it fairly honestly.”
And once it was time to record a couple cover songs for the album, “Be My Baby” was a quick one to get in the bank, but the country cover she wanted took a little longer. So she went back to her childhood to end the album with a peculiar, but perfect, choice.
“I suggested “Tear in my Beer,” Rose said. “It was for my grandparents a little bit because it’s one of the first songs they tell me that I ever sang all the way through as a toddler. I really loved that tune when I was little, for whatever reason, which is completely inappropriate (Laughs), but I loved it.
“Then Raul started playing it in this lullaby way on my acoustic guitar, and I thought it was so beautiful,” she continues. “And it ended up being so appropriate because it took this lullaby approach and it’s so attached to my childhood. So it was one of those weird things in life that just work out.”
Whitney Rose plays Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on Saturday, September 26. For more info, click here.