Home Live For Live Music Maggie Rose Talks ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, Don Hart, Gamehendge, &...

Maggie Rose Talks ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, Don Hart, Gamehendge, & Her Triumphant Ham Sandwich [Interview]

14
IMG 1604
IMG 1604

When Live For Live Music caught up with Nashville singer-songwriter Maggie Rose at a bar on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on the eve of the arrival of her fourth album, No One Gets Out Alive, the arduous process of bringing the LP to the world was finally finished.

A nationally televised performance on TODAY the day prior had marked her final pre-release promotional obligation. She had spent the leisurely hours before we met up wandering the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After years of hard work with no guaranteed payoff, this moment of calm felt victorious.

The album was due to arrive at midnight on one of the most influential imprints in mainstream country music, Big Loud Records, an ending that would have sounded preposterous when Rose first started sketching out its songs amid the emotional strife of 2020. At that time, Rose was an un-signed indie artist two albums into a conscious shift away from the Music Row establishment that gave her career an early start. Her sound was no longer “country,” per se, and her artistic ambitions were pointing in new directions.

Her forays into other musical worlds—like the jam band circuit she now frequents as both a performer and a fan—had opened doors to new collaborators, new audiences, new spaces to explore. Unforeseen connections fostered by the strange times had helped push No One Gets Out Alive even further afield from her country beginnings, both in sound (Rose likes to describe it as “Adele meets Wilco”) and production scope (the album was recorded with a “dream team” band in Nashville with help from a 64-piece orchestra in Macedonia). By the time the album was completed in early 2023, it seemed to mirror the successful reinvention Rose’s had undergone throughout the process of its creation.

When it finally came time to shop the independently completed album to labels, it was clear to Maggie Rose that her latest chapter had drifted further than ever from where her story began. No One Gets Out Alive was something big and bold and sincere—it was unapologetically her more so than it was any one kind of music. As it turned out, that’s exactly what caught Big Loud’s attention. With this statement-making LP, she reached the finish line she had hoped to cross when she first steered away from mainstream country music. She had found her own voice. The fact that the mainstream country world she once left behind was searching for just that when she arrived was simply icing on the cake.

Rose is a singer and songwriter with wide-ranging influences—from soul legends to country greats to Laurel Canyon songbirds to jam bands—but on this night she was taking cue from a different sort of notable figure: former U.S. president Harry Truman. “What I’m gonna do tonight is be like Harry Truman on election night [1948],” she explained with a sly grin. “Eat a ham sandwich and drink a glass of buttermilk and go to bed before the election results come out. Except I’m having a tequila shot with you, not buttermilk.”

Over the course of several drinks spanning several hours in several venues (including a private investment banker party that we crashed and were promptly asked to leave), Maggie Rose shared her ham sandwich moment with Live For Live Music, delving into the themes explored on the new album, the pivotal collaborators at its core, her indoctrination into “an upper echelon of Phishdom,” and more. Then, she went back to her room and turned in before No One Gets Out Alive, her passion project many years in the making, finally entered the world.

Listen to No One Gets Out Alive while you read highlights from our conversation with Maggie Rose below, edited for length and clarity.

Maggie Rose – No One Gets Out Alive (Full Album)


On the initial goals for No One Gets Out Alive came together:

Maggie Rose: The album was mastered and done and sequenced in January of last year. When we put this album together, it was very much not outcome-oriented. I didn’t have a label at the time, no one was like, ‘You need to deliver this album now.’ It was just something that I had to do because that’s what we do.”

On the vulnerable themes addressed on the album:

Maggie Rose: This [record] is me feeling from that time, and I’m not just talking about the fact that the industry suffered. The pandemic caused so many other factions to occur. It just put all this pressure on relationships that I thought would last forever and they just couldn’t sustain that pressure.

With touring being compromised, and the industry not having recovered after the pandemic, [the music] was definitely thematically consistent with the more somber take, more introspection, me kind of taking stock of everything that I do have, and gratitude for that, but also knowing that I was at a stage in my life and career where I was gonna move forward without things that I needed or previously had, or relationships that I thought would last forever that kind of fell apart—and realizing that I was ok. That there was still so much beauty and catharsis to be had.

There was a shift in tone. [Before], I felt like I had to always kind of be this powerful, soul-rock singer, energy show. On this record theres still a ton of energy and I think it’s very dynamic, but I definitely allow myself to be sad, and be angry, and also try and be grateful, and also try and reflect with clarity on moments in the industry or in my career where I was done wrong or people were ageist or undermining my own voice, and forgiving myself for allowing that to happen. And also knowing that there weren’t any bad actors, it’s just in music and in life we can treat each other in a pretty disposable way, and this was me getting reacquainted with myself and reclaiming that voice and giving myself and everyone around me some grace and moving forward a little lighter.

On the studio band for the album:

Maggie Rose: We dreamed of the best band we could put together.

Live For Live Music: You dreamed well! Sadler Vaden (guitar) and Chad Gamble (drums) from Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit, Peter Levin (Gregg Allman, Trouble No More) on organ, Zac Cockrell from Alabama Shakes on bassm Kaitlyn Connor (keys) and Kyle Lewis (guitar) from your own band, plus audio engineer Bobby Holland and producer Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes), both of whom you’ve worked with before.

And that’s not even touching on all the fantastic songwriting partners credited on the album like Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony (Miley Cyrus, Rihanna), Natalie Hemby (The Highwomen), Chris Gelbuda (Meghan Trainor, David Shaw), Pat McLaughlin (John Prine), Cliff Audretch (Hootie & The Blowfish), Henry Brill (Joy Oladokun), Charlotte Sands (JORDY), Jon Santana (Sid Tipton), Sunny Sweeney, Kaitlyn Connor, and Kyle Lewis.

Maggie Rose: I wanted to work with [Have A Seat producer] Ben Tanner again. … I wanted to take these personal songs to someone that I knew and loved. It was kind of a whole room of producers in a really collaborative space and people could lend their ideas and feel comfortable. Make it the best thing, for each song. I think that’s why it kind of transcends genre, because there’s a lot of spontaneity… how can we best serve this song and not worry about trying to make it sound a certain way?

So many people poured a lot of hard work into the project before there was any guarantee for what it would yield, and that’s why I think it ended up being great. I feel like I benefited so much from their willingness to invest with me and see the vision without any guarantee of reward.

On the “cinematic” quality of the album:

Live For Live Music: The songs on the record have a cinematic, lofty feel. These are songs that would work with just a voice and piano but they’re rendered so vividly on the album. Was it a conscious decision to go “big” with the sound or did the songs just lend themselves to that?

Maggie Rose: I would love to say that I had conceived of all of this before, but I didn’t. These were personal songs. Even ‘No One Gets Out Alive’ was almost like a folk song when I initially wrote it. Then, it got to a point in production where it felt like I got to this threshold of being vulnerable, and the people around me were like, “These songs are about swinging for the fences, they’re about being dramatic and theatrical,” and I was shying away.

Even the overture ending of “No One Gets Out Alive”, Ben Tanner was like, “What are you scared of? You need to go for it, and you deserve to go for it. That’s what you’re asking of people in this song. Bring the drama. Step into the role.” And it’s such a moment in the live show now. That outro is my favorite part of the song.

It’s like with that “Adele meets Wilco” thing. Like you said, all of these could just be guitar and vocals and that would be nice, but then they unfold into this big thing. I think of (Wilco’s) “Impossible Germany”, and it just unfolds into this big, loud arrangement and guitar solos and modulation and all this stuff. … That controlled chaos. The songs in their original forms are more about the melody and the sentiment. And then I had to rely on this amazing people to adorn them.

On how she connected with composer/Phish collaborator Don Hart:

Maggie Rose: Don tweeted at me. He was listening to WMOT, which is a station in Nashville, and “What Are We Fighting For” from Have a Seat [was playing], and Don was like, “I love this song, Maggie Rose,” and I admittedly was like, “Oh, how nice.” And [Rose’s husband/manager Austin Marshall] was like, “Do you know who that is?!” He’s done all these different projects with Trey Anastasio and Phish. I’m so happy he flagged that. He knew who it was because Trey had just done The Beacon Jams [with string sections arranged by Don] during that timeframe, and we watched every time.

Live For Live Music: That was right around when Phish’s Sigma Oasis came out, right? Don’s string arrangements were all over that album. 

Maggie Rose: We were listening to that a lot. … I was trying to teach myself how to play the piano and the song “Shade” was my favorite. … Around that time, [Osiris Media co-founder] RJ Bee reaches out because he is doing this Past Present Live! podcast.

Live For Live Music: That’s right, I remember your “Shade” cover for that podcast. And that led to you doing your own podcast, Salute the Songbird, on Osiris.

Maggie Rose: Then, [Phish songwriter/Osiris Media co-founder] Tom Marshall reaches out and says, “I’m working with Don on a project,” and they have this idea for a song, “Two Arms to Hold Onto“. He just gave me a Finale track [with the melody] and I wrote the rest of it with Chris Gelbuda, another Phish fan and a great songwriter, and Don arranged the strings.

Then, Don and I went to a show at The Basement East [in Nashville] together, and I was starting to write all these songs for the record. Don came back to my house with some friends. I was playing him some of these work tapes and demos, and I could already see his mind whirring. … I told Don, I don’t know how I’m gonna afford it, how I’m gonna make it make sense [doing it independently at this point] but I really want you to help me with this project.

As soon as I got the [studio] band together, I told Don, and I’m not kidding when I say he did not miss a minute of any tracking session. He was there sitting in the control room the entire time. Sometimes his wife would join. They are family. He just was so observant, and reserved his opinion about most everything, other than encouraging me. I could tell he was just putting the whole thing together in his mind.

On enlisting a 64-piece Macedonian orchestra:

Maggie Rose: Ben Tanner was like, “You know, with someone like Don who’s so capable at arranging and notating music, we could implement this orchestra—it’s called the FAMES orchestra project. They’re out of Macedonia.”

This is one of the silver linings of the pandemic: they became an ensemble that would work remotely for different projects—albums, film scores—and for two songs we used a 64-piece orchestra. So, we had this old school sort of Ray Charles “Georgia on my Mind” over-the-topness. [My husband Austin] and I woke up one day at 6:00 a.m., or whatever time it was because they’re ahead of us, and watched this livestreaming platform while this ensemble was playing to my record, and Don was working with the conductor over stream in real-time.

It was just tears streaming down my face, ’cause I was like, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would have that big of an orchestra on any song, let alone two, and then we had an incredible string ensemble on most of the rest of the songs that we recorded in Nashville. That was 12 people.

On being underestimated:

Live For Live Music: I definitely feel the vulnerability and sincerity you spoke about in these songs, but you also deliver them with this defiant edge. A song like “Underestimate Me” is obviously born out of someone doubting you, but your reaction is less like “I’m hurt by that” and more like “I dare you.”

Maggie Rose: That’s another one I wrote with Chris Gelbuda and Henry Brill—two of my good friends, people that have watched my career and know me personally and know how skewed the perception can be sometimes. [Being underestimated] is a trick up your sleeve. If people’s bar is lower than you deserve it to be, then it’s just gonna make you that much more impressive when you just be yourself.

That was the best part of the [Salute the Songbird] podcast—it definitely substantiated that feeling. Every podcast I would end with, “What’s your favorite part about being a woman in the industry?” And it was always some version of that: being underestimated, being sold short, and knowing that I’m so much more. It happens to everybody. We’re all guilty of it, we’ve all been victims of it.

On getting comfortable in the jam band scene:

Live For Live Music: I know you’re a Phish fan. You were already starting to dip into the jam audience before the pandemic, but you’ve definitely ramped up in that space.

Maggie Rose: I needed that urgency. [Jam fans] are the best, most enthusiastic, supportive people. Once I figured it out that I was accepted, it was like, “I see you.” … Andy Frasco said the same thing to me. He’s like, “I never considered myself a ‘jam band,’” but I think that Frasco and I both have that idea of inclusivity, and get in where you fit in. … Knowing that I had this community… there was this love that we felt surrounded by. It made me brave to evolve the sound and to try new things because I knew I had this open-minded community around me.

Related: Is The Beyoncé Country Album Actually Country? [Review/Stream]

I don’t think genre is insignificant, but I think that there is a way that it can all coexist, and that I think comes with the quality of music—that’s what pop music is, it might all sound different but if it’s reaching a lot of people and connecting, that should be the factor that makes it “popular,” not the aesthetic, not the production, not the glitziness of it. I think the jam band world has inclusivity down, and that’s what makes it such an appealing space to try and be creative and experimental in. There’s so much humanity in it.

On landing at a major country label:

Maggie Rose: Being in Nashville for 16 years has served me in so many ways because I’ve forged these friendships with all these talented people. My publisher, Katie Fagan, met with Nate Yetton, who had been hired to diversify the roster at Big Loud. They had musical ambitions a little bit more broad than just country. … “Critically acclaimed music” is what they said.

Katie told Nate, “If you’re looking for female singers, Maggie Rose has a record that’s done.” I didn’t even go to the first meeting because, full transparency, Big Loud was not where I imagined this would end up. They’re very commercially successful but it’s more, like, mainstream country, so Austin took this meeting with Nate. I was like, “Let me know how it goes. Always take the meeting, right? Who knows whats gonna happen?” And then I went home and two hours go by, three hours go by, Austin’s still not home, and I’m like, “Where are you? Are you okay?” They had listened to the album so many times…

[My hesitation] wasn’t because I didn’t respect what Big Loud was doing. It’s kind of because after all these years, I was like, ‘There’s nothing for me on Music Row. There’s no home that I’m gonna end up on.” … But they got it, and they allowed me to see myself more clearly.

On catching Phish’s Gamehendge New Year’s Show at Madison Square Garden:

Maggie Rose: We watched all the streams leading up to New Year’s Eve. I could see [Austin] getting giddier each night knowing that these songs had been left out and that Gamehendge was imminent. We were texting [No One Gets Out Alive collaborator Chris] Gelbuda and he was like, “No f—ing way, it’s not gonna happen, if it happens I hate you forever.” And then, the text that I have from him that night was like, “Burn in hell” [laughs].

Austin was teaching me all the characters. I feel like that [Claire Danes] meme with the pythagorean theorem twirling around my head. But it was amazing for me to see and learn about this long, long, long play that Phish had put into action since ’83, before I was born. I felt like I had been indoctrinated into an upper echelon of Phishdom.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Maggie Rose (@iammaggierose)

On the journey from teenage country stardom to No One Gets Out Alive:

Maggie Rose: It’s been the most interesting journey. I wish there had been some more expeditious parts to it. I was thrown into the music industry when I was 19 [by former Sony Music CEO Tommy Mottola], which makes me lucky in so many ways because it catalyzed my career, made me drop out of Clemson and move to Nashville, but then I was kind of put into this ensemble of characters that were super powerful and they had had so many hits under their belt. It was like, “This is how we do things,” and then after we do it this way you can call the shots.”

It sort of undermined me finding my own voice or maybe fast-tracked me to releasing music prematurely before I knew who I was. I would have rather been somebody who moved to Nashville at 19, released my first album when I was 23—my first full-length came out when I was 23 but I had to go through a whole re-branding trying to find my voice. I needed life experience. I feel like I’m so much more interesting because I have more conviction in what I’m saying now than I did before. I’ve had the time to ask those questions that I feel like every artist should ask of themselves.

As difficult as that time was for so many… and it was, there are aspects of the pandemic that I am thankful for. It was this thing that took all of those expectations away. It broke the format. It broke the whole template. When it hit, it felt like a big wallop to the stomach. But none of these great things would have happened without it. The universe provides, and it fortifies you for the future.


No One Gets Out Alive, the new album from Maggie Rose, is out now via Big Loud Records. Listen on the platform of your choice here. Maggie Rose and her band will kick off their No One Gets Out Alive tour on April 19th in St. Louis and remain on the road around the country throughout the summer. See below for a full list of dates. For ticketing details, head here.

maggie rose, maggie rose music, maggie rose no one gets out alive, maggie rose interview, maggie rose don hart, maggie rose phish, maggie rose gamehendge

The post Maggie Rose Talks ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, Don Hart, Gamehendge, & Her Triumphant Ham Sandwich [Interview] appeared first on L4LM.

Source: L4LM.com