One of the hottest young acts on the Americana scene is Whitney Rose. The Canadian native who currently resides in Austin has performed at the last three Americana Music Festivals, increasing in venue and audience size with each subsequent appearance. AXS caught up with Whitney Rose at Americanafest, just minutes after she finished a short set at the annual Outlaws and Gunslingers Luncheon at American Legion Post 82 to talk about the festival and her new album.
AXS: Great show just now! How did it feel on stage?
Whitney Rose: Thanks! It was our first full band set of Americanafest, so it's a little nerve racking but my band is awesome.
AXS: This is your third Americanafest in a row. What keeps bringing you back?
WR: I love hanging out in Nashville and there's a cool magic that comes in when Americanafest is here. It's a meeting of friends I don't get to see too often, so it's like a reunion as well. It's also fun to watch your friends play and see how they've grown.
AXS: You mentioned things being different in Nashville and it doesn't get much different than a big professional stage in an American Legion Hall!
WR: It's pretty damn cool! I love old halls like this. I grew up in one. My grandparents ran a union hall, which would be the equivalent of a Legion. So it's nostalgic to see dart boards and cheap beer. It's great.
AXS: In the past few years, you moved from Canada to Texas. How did that move influence your music?
WR: The great thing about living in Austin, which I've done the last two years, is that you can go out any night of the week and see a world class show. In seeing that, you learn. And if you're not learning every day, you're committing a crime.
I released my first album while living in Toronto and many people don't know this but there's a strong music scene in Toronto, a strong roots scene in Queen West. I don't think I would have been ready to go to Austin if I hadn't spent those formative years in that scene.
AXS: Your forthcoming new album is titled Rule 62. What is Rule 62?
WR: It's a motto for AA, Alcoholics Anonymous. And when it first got started, they were trying to roll it out and make it familiar, so they asked each chapter to submit one rule and these were the laws everyone had to abide to. And they got 61 rules that were really petty, like “the coffee has to be made this way” and “cookies can only bake for 12 minutes.” So they sent out a mail that said “there's only one rule. It's Rule 62: Don't Take Yourself So Damn Seriously.” I heard that story when I was making the album and immediately decided that was my title.
AXS: You teamed up with Raul Malo from The Mavericks again this album. Why did you decide to bring him back?
WR: Well, he's really desperate for work, so I wanted to do him a favor. -laugh-
AXS: He's a starving artist!
WR: Definitely! I love working with him. He's one of my best friends in the world now. Every time I'm around him, it's a learning experience. He's obviously an incredible vocalist, but the way he leads his band is top notch. It doesn't get better. It's also really damn fun. He's one of the funniest people I've ever met. So you know your songs are going to be handled well, you're going to laugh, and you're going to learn a lot. Why not?
AXS: You just released a single, 'Can't Stop Shakin', which may be the first rockabilly dance song about a panic attack!
WR:-laugh- I'm glad you picked up on the panic attack! It's a little anthem I would sing to myself when I feel anxious. I suffer from anxiety, a lot of artists I know do. A year ago it started to get to me a lot when I started playing larger stages, so I'd sing the line “can't stop shaking” to myself and it would calm me down. So I was telling Raul this and he wanted me to flesh it out for the album. So I said “give me a couple of days” and Raul said, “you've got 20 minutes!” So I wrote it in 20 minutes. And there was a lot of political upheaval going on in America as I made the album and that fed it too.
AXS: You have Kenny Vaughn from Marty Stuart's band playing on that song. That's rockabilly royalty!
WR: I've gotten to hang out with Kenny a lot when I was opening for Marty. So it felt like having your cousins in your house when your record is being made. It felt familiar and wonderful and I was so grateful.
AXS: There's a wide range of influences on this album, from classic country to rockabilly to '60s female vocalists. Who were your early influences?
WR: This album is a result of who my influences are. I'm told the first two songs I song all the way through were “Tear in My Beer” by Hank Williams and “Don't Close Your Eyes” by Keith Whitley. So I was this three-year-old singing songs about infidelity. Then in first grade, I heard a Sixties girl group, I think it was The Ronettes. It could have been The Chiffons. It was love at first listen, just like it was with Keith Whitley. My mom had me young, so she introduced me to a lot of popular music like Whitney Houston. Everything I write is fed by those. It's also that I'm not the biggest fan of where country has gone, stylistically. I don't like 95% of what I hear when I turn on country radio. And I understand music evolves and has to go somewhere, but I just want to leave my little contribution to that world.
If you missed Whitney Rose at the Outlaws and Gunslingers Luncheon, you have another chance to see her, at her Official Showcase Saturday, Sept. 16 at Mercy Lounge.