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Meet Country Music’s Most Unexpected New Darling

Maggie Rose re-introduced her sound, and Nashville’s listening

It’s true that in the world of country music most female artists find themselves in the middle of an age-old dilemma. The conceivable narrative of an industry that has, according to Maggie Rose, designated a “token” position for its female members is a familiar one to most in the business. So it’s a good thing that times are ‘a changing.

In the case of Maggie Rose and the debut of her double EP set, The Variety Show, the artist has never found herself in a better position to re-introduce her unique sound to Nashville’s thriving melting pot. It’s high time for anyone whose creative direction deviates, even slightly, from the pumped-up twang usually tailored for country radio.

“Nashville is bringing all sorts of people to collaborate here, like pop and electronic dance music, day breakers, and people who are anything but country really.” Country’s key elements can be easily heard in Rose’s EP, from lyrics packed with sway-worthy lulls and a melody you’ll find yourself humming, but don’t confuse it for anything that’s been done before. Actually, you might as well reserve this country star-to-be a spot in your pop and indie playlists too. Standout hits “Broken” and “Watch Me” strongly resemble a breed of folk music not normally meant for the mainstream. 

Back in 2013 when Rose debuted her first album, Cut to Impress, it was about more than just the music. “Everything that I wanted to say was everywhere outside of that box and it was just becoming a process that I wasn’t motivated to keep pursuing,” says Rose. “I knew that I connected with a lot of people who were fans of me and not of the genre and that gave me the confidence to kind of explore these things and reassess.” 

And reassess she did.

The artistic approach that Rose took with this new EP also embodies a contemporary spin on a classic record-making tradition. By recording her guitar player, classical violinist and base player separately—among other detail-specific methods—Rose took the production route, bringing in Nashville’s greatest undiscovered talents.

“There’s all sorts of artists in town who are pop or country or whatever that I think are helping this town evolve and making everyone rise to the occasion,” she says. “I think that if you kind of love country for the reasons that I love it you don’t just need to look to what is being played on the radio to find it.” Rose mentioned artists like Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton as examples of artists who have stayed true to a unique sound, distancing themselves from what most would call a pressure to make country music specifically for the radio. That’s not to say that Rose’s songs won’t make for the perfect top-down, volume-blasting summertime jams, though. Hearing her music on the radio is, as it has always been, a surreal experience.

Main image by Rob Norris