We spoke with Whitney Rose about her new record, the challenges of releasing music in the middle of a pandemic, and where she finds her inspiration.

A native of Prince Edward Island, Canada who now calls Austin home, Whitney Rose is a seasoned vet of the country music world. For her fourth record, We Still Go to Rodeos, Whitney doubled down on her commitment to finding a fresh, innovative sound, while ultimately staying true to herself on this album that she not only wrote herself but released on her own label.

Striking Out on Her Own

We Still Go To Rodeos is Whitney’s fourth album, but it’s the first that she has put out on her own label, MCG Records. Even for a seasoned artist like herself, the process of releasing an album entirely on her own, without the help of big corporate teams gave Whitney new insights into the industry. She elaborated, “It was really educational for me, seeing what actually goes into putting out a record. It kind of allowed me to see what I thought the important aspects of putting out a record, be it where I think money should be spent. Because before that I wouldn’t have had an opinion, but now I do. Even if this is the only record that I ever put out on my own label, I’m much more educated as to how I can bring a lot more to the table when discussing these things.”

Photo courtesy of Whitney Rose

That freedom has also come with its own perks. Whitney owns all of the music on We Still Go To Rodeos, a rarity in the business, and has the power to make her own decisions about promoting the album. She said she felt especially grateful for that privilege in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Where other artists may have to follow the lead of record company execs when choosing to release or postpone new music in light of the current uncertainty Whitney is in the driver’s seat. “I didn’t have to fight anyone to make a decision. At the end of the day I just decided, why not give people new music now, and hopefully just let it marinate and then tour the hell out of it as soon as it’s safe for everyone. So that was the decision that I made.”

New Creative Collaborations 

Paul Kolderie, a producer who has worked with Radiohead, Pixies, and Uncle Tupelo reached out to Whitney about possibly working together and, while his resume is impressive, he might not be the first producer someone would think of for a country record. Admittedly, Whitney herself wasn’t even sure what to expect when first meeting with him, but when they finally got together she said, “He was awesome and so cool. I told him about the songs that I’ve been writing and he just had some really cool insight about production style. I took him down to Austin to try out a couple of tunes. I loved how it went, so then he came down and he did the rest.” 

10 Questions With Whitney Rose

It was a rewarding and dynamic relationship, which is evident in the record’s fresh, self-assured sound, and one that Whitney has been lucky to have throughout her career. She joked, “I feel like such a lucky person because, and this is not to sound all Pollyanna or whatever, but I’ve never had a negative experience in the studio. And I feel so fortunate to say that because I’ve heard some horror stories.”

Crafting Her Own Melody

Every artist has their own idea of the perfect songwriting environment. For Whitney, where she is is less important than whether or not she is alone. She told me about one of her most prolific writing sprees in solitude, “I basically holed myself up in a shitty motel in Memphis and I wrote three or four songs a day for about a week.” She also went on to discuss that while she is interested in testing out the co-writing world, “solitude is what [she] craves most when writing.” 

Photo courtesy of Whitney Rose

For inspiration, Whitney draws from all sources. I asked about one of the record’s standout songs, Just Circumstance, which was inspired by the episodes of Forensic Files Whitney likes to watch while on tour, but the song’s roots go even deeper than that. She elaborated, “At the same time I was watching Orange is the New Black, which got me really interested more in the criminal justice side of things, particularly for women, so that sparked a new interest. I was on the internet reading about personal stories of women incarcerated, so that probably had a big role in that song. Probably even subconsciously.” 

New Influences 

Whitney has gone on the record to say that she is not interested in making the same album twice, and if We Still Go to Rodeos is any indication there is no doubt that she has a talent for finding intriguing new tones without losing sight of her own identity. We Still Go to Rodeos has a particularly rockier tinge than her previous records, but Whitney didn’t draw from any specific rock n’ roll influences. “I think the reason why a lot of these songs came out the way that they did was because I tour so much and I played the same show 200 times a year sometimes, and I was in a place where I needed a little extra energy. I needed more energy and I just wanted things to be a little lighter musically, even if the lyrics were a little darker. I just wanted something that I could let loose to.” 

Photo courtesy of Whitney Rose

That energy comes through loud and clear on the album, especially with I’m in a Rut, a Keith Richardesque tune that feels eerily well suited to our current quarantined lifestyles. I asked which songs she is particularly excited to play in front of an audience once concerts resume, and You’d Blame Me for the Rain, Home With You, and Better Man all made the list. Whitney went on to say, “Every single time that I’ve released a record, I’m lucky because there are, ‘fan favorites’. But it’s never my favorite ever.”

Finding a Place to Call Home

Whitney originally came to Austin, the city she now calls home, for a two-month residency, but ultimately decided to make it her permanent residence because as she puts it, “I had never felt that feeling of home before.” The weather didn’t hurt either. “I grew up in Canada and I was always that weird kid who when we went on field trips to go skiing or skating with my class, when I was really little I would just lay on the ground and stomp my feet and bang my hands and fall and cry…I’m not a big fan of the cold.” 

Photo courtesy of Whitney Rose

While at home, Whitney has turned to music just like so many of us. Some of the artists she has on repeat include, John Prine, Tom Petty, and Jesse Daniels, but the iconic Lucinda Williams holds the top spot. Whitney said she, “probably listened to [it] four times, and that came out three days ago.”

For all of the latest news and updates on Whitney head over to whitneyrosemusic.com and follow her on social media: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Youtube

About the Author: Liz Gassman
Liz Gassman
Liz Gassman is an editorial assistant at Little, Brown currently living in New York. She spends most of her time reading, listening to music, and enjoying the city’s parks. She is perpetually working on crafting the perfect “walking around town” playlist. Connect with Liz on Twitter: @liz_gassman