Maggie Rose has spent the better part of the past decade playing music professionally, her days filled with writing, recording, touring and collaborating. She released her debut album Cut to Impress in 2013. Packed with genre-defying songs Rose had co-written with highly respected songwriters including Shelly Fairchild, Brandy Clark and Cam, it received critical acclaim and earned a spot on the Billboard charts.
Since then, Rose has toured with Sheryl Crow, sung with Outkast’s Big Boi and been dubbed a “Country It Girl” by Vogue magazine. And she even gave dinosaur — er, I mean radio consultant — Keith Hill a jab in the ribs by founding Tomato Tuesdays in response to Hill’s comments about women in country music. (He called female country musicians the “tomatoes” of the genre, and male performers like Luke Bryan and Keith Urban the more substantial “lettuce.”)
Rose’s career has been something of a creative whirlwind. But when COVID-19 shattered the music industry, her routine and livelihood were shattered too. To cope with that sudden isolation, Rose teamed up with Osiris Media to create Salute the Songbird, a podcast that continues Rose’s efforts to celebrate and elevate women’s voices.
“I think, not to sound totally dramatic, but it definitely rescued me during a time that was really tough,” Rose tells the Scene. “I’m used to going through the course of my day — this personality and this meeting in the morning, then I go to a session with a bunch of exciting creative people with a bunch of personalities [and] we write a song — and all of that disappears. In addition to touring, which is a physical, emotional outpouring, and that’s just shut off!”
In Season 1 of Salute the Songbird, which wrapped up March 30, Rose has in-depth conversations with women holding space in all facets of the music industry. In one episode, she talks with CMT’s senior vice president of music strategy Leslie Fram about how the country music industry is changing. In another, she discusses self-acceptance with singer and This Is Us star Chrissy Metz. There have been chats with Nashville’s own Ruby Amanfu, Martina McBride and Mickey Guyton, as well as veterans Nancy Wilson of Heart and Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s.
“[In 2020] I missed the opportunity to meet amazing artists, and typically I would probably have run into a lot of my guests from Season 1 backstage at a show or even in the audience,” says Rose. “I know how isolating this time has been, and I thought it was an important time to amplify voices of women I really admire, [who] I want more people to know about, and also celebrate established artists who inspired me to get into the game and persevere and stay in it, especially when it’s even more challenging than it normally is because of the times that we’re in. It’s a way to feel connected and also to listen.”
Rose’s conversations come off less like interviews and more like invitations for her guests to tell their stories. As any good interviewer should, Rose does her homework, but she also allows her guests to open up by offering a comfortable, empathetic space — one that’s informed by Rose’s significant experience in the industry.
Her discussion with singer-songwriter Jillette Johnson is especially poignant, as Johnson speaks openly about the predatory men she was introduced to as a teenager in the music industry. “They all ended up being some damn crooks, let me tell you!” she says.
“She’s a friend of mine, and it was cool to feel like after that interview I knew more about her than I had known up until that point,” says Rose. “She really got to download her whole story and share it with me in a way that I had never heard.”
On April 28 at City Winery, Rose and some of her previous Salute the Songbird guests will come together for the first time for an in-the-round style performance called Salute the Songbirds and featuring Johnson, Elizabeth Cook, Kalie Shorr, Nicole Atkins and Nicki Bluhm. There will also be some special surprise guests.
“There will be some guests who will be there in spirit, but also virtually, who I think you — in particular — will be really excited about,” Rose teases. (Earlier in our interview I gushed over both Kathy Valentine and Nancy Wilson. I was born in the Pacific Northwest in 1980. Heart is in my blood.)
“This audience will have heard so much about each of these women’s individual journeys, to do a deeper dive into their music will be cool. And what a cool opportunity for me to actually have some of these women meet each other because of this show. It’s not just about showing the audience who they are, but it’s about connecting women that I love in the industry with one another too.
“And just getting a show together after this year feels like a triumph,” Rose adds with a laugh. “That we can even plan something at City Winery, and gather safely, in a way it feels symbolic of what we’ve all collectively gone through together.”
Check out the rest of the Pod Goals series about Versify, Cocaine & Rhinestones: The History of Country Music, Mirror Mirror, Something’s Not Right, The Promise, Nashville Sounding Board, My Fantasy Funeral, Off Ice and Ladyland