Chelle Rose Talks About Tossing Todd Snider Out of her Rehearsal Space and the Benefit of “Just Enough”

August 9, 2016

Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable break-down stories?

I’ve had more of a one-off experience with performing due to my momma gig. My only lengthy tour has been many moons ago in the U.K. I’m pretty sure that 3 weeks in a minivan with the (ex)husband/manager, bestie/merchie and a 5 year old might compare to a break-down? Yes, yes… I absolutely recall a full-on break-down in the middle of Heathrow Airport [laughing, kinda]. Sergio Webb and I travel light for duo gigs.. as long as he can pull his hat down over his eyes and catch a few winks.. he’s a happy feller. We rent Sprinters for band gigs. Luckily, no notable break-down stories.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

Well I learned to like tuna fish and cucumber sandwiches on that UK tour. I lost 10 pounds and while I don’t mind baggy jeans, it’s an energy issue. After a 2 year health scare, a big part of my day is making an effort to eat lots of organic fruit, veggies and no fluoridated water. I depend on a Berkey Water System at home, traveling.. you can never get enough clean water. A Blender (shake) Bottle filled with Vega plant-based protein mix, Amazing Grass Green Superfood is a lifesaver. Coconut Water is pure luxury. People usually make comments about the green concoction looking gross.. but it actually doesn’t taste that bad and it’s worth it. It makes a huge difference in my energy. Wait a minute.. you said cheap? That’s impossible.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

Strings can pop on me at home due to rushing a change. Each guitar needs it’s own little finesse and if I don’t give it that extra lil’ love.. then I might have to deal with a popped string.. but I’ve never broken a string while performing. I definitely don’t change strings before every show like many musicians do.. I tend to like a little grit and grime on them. I always check for signs of wear before a show and then I’ll do the deed if necessary. As for cost, I’m lucky to still be using strings provided by D’Addario. Medium strings at home make my ears happy.. but more than a couple of gigs and I’m needing a lighter gauge.

Where do you rehearse?

Sergio and I love to hash through songs in his kitchen for duo but for band we rent what I’ve always called The Purple Building. A vibin lil’ joint at 5-Points in East Nashville. The former purple exterior goes through artistic transformation on occasion. The latest being a full on mural for Hard Working American’s new album ‘Rest In Chaos’. I think Mo, the owner has changed the name to Performing Artist Co-Op or something fancy like that.

Yes, I’d say peculiar is a good way to describe a rehearsal back in 2012 for the ‘Ghost of Browder Holler’ release. If you enter through the back door, you’re literally on stage. In the middle of a song, I look up and Todd Snider is standing there grinnin at me. His entourage, including a dude from Rolling Stone plopped down out front.. not necessarily to see me.. just chillin. I was struggling to get my feet underneath me and feeling a bit like a raw nerve. Todd’s energy seemed to make the air vibrate ha! so I totally threw them out! (with love). True story.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

‘A Little Angel’s Lullaby’ for my niece, Georgiana born premature in the early 90’s. Just as they were about to release her to go home with a heart monitor, she contracted salmonella and gave us all a good scare. I felt so helpless, but went home and wrote a very simple lyric in E minor. It calmed my spirit to whisper-sing a song for her that night.

lay down your head little angel child
close your eyes and drift away
dream of bright sunshine and flowers
and rainbows that never fade

Describe your first gig.

I was releasing my debut ‘Nanahally River’ (2000) but had never played a gig. Always the cart before the horse with me : ) Of course, I didn’t tell Mac Hill that when he agreed to book me at the Radio Cafe where I went to see many of my songwriting heroes. The character running sound that evening was none other than the legendary Skip Litz. He took one look at me and mumbled something like “Great, another blonde girl singer wearing a mini-skirt.” haha At the end of the night, he overheard someone say that it was my first ever gig. He came up to ask me if that was true and then gave me a compliment that I will always cherish. He and I became fast buddies. We smoked a peace pipe through our love for his old buddy, Townes Van Zandt. I had to get my feet underneath me fast playing my first gigs in Nashville.. it always felt like jumping into a frying pan. The greatest part about it has been getting my tail busted.. because every night of the week there are writers on top of their game playing all over town. It’ll either make you step up to the plate and work hard or send ya home to your mammy.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

I worked in accounting for years before moving to Nashville in 1996. My favorite position was with Whittle Communications in Knoxville, Tennessee. Chris Whittle was publisher of Esquire Magazine before heading up Whittle Communications and founding EdisonLearning (formerly Edison Schools). We were one of America’s top 100 media companies and I got to witness lots of progressive upstarts. I mostly worked with Channel One News.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

It changed when I signed with Little Brother Music who pitches to tv/film. As a single mom, I’m not able to get out there and tour enough to make that dough. TV/film placements help.

In 5-10 years I hope to have my catalog built up and touring career in place. I certainly don’t have any grandiose notions that I’ll be getting rich on this journey. I hope to have, as my friend Marcia Campbell says [stolen from her friend the late, Dawn Sears] “Just enough”.. just enough love. just enough food, water.. income to pay the bills. It truly is ALL we need.. ‘just enough’. I really love that.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

It has been my experience, that no one wants to help you make the pie, but everyone wants to help eat it when things are going well. An ugly truth. I have traveled this musical journey thus far without management, labels, publishers, booking agents. It can be overwhelming, because I wear a whole lot of hats these days. But I am grateful for this journey and most everyone I know and love.. I have met through music. That’s beautiful to me. I have also been reminded lately, that it’s my nature to cheerlead for other artists.. I’ve always been that girl. But when you are putting your own work out there.. they sort of scatter ha! It’s just the cold, hard truth. You have to have a very thick skin and laugh about it. No regrets, I will always yell it from the mountaintops in praise of great art. I probably would’ve made a great publicist in another life : )

Peace, Soul and Appalachian Rock N Roll, CR


Singer and songwriter Chelle Rose (her first name is pronounced “Shelly”) didn’t pick up a guitar until she was 25 years old, but blessed with a sharp sense of character and narrative, and writing out of her childhood growing up in Appalachia (she was raised in Lenoir City in east Tennessee), she developed an intelligent, Southern gothic style that is somewhat reminiscent of Bobbie Gentry crossed with Lucinda Williams. Moving to Nashville in 1996, Rose further honed her considerable songwriting skills watching and listening to that city’s many fine songwriters and singers. She released a debut album, Nanahally River, in 2000, but it would be nearly a dozen years before she released a follow-up, 2012’s Ghost of Browder Holler, which was produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and issued on Lil’ Damsel Records.

Blue Ridge Blood, her latest album, was released on August 5, 2016 via her own Lil’ Damsel Records.  Connect with Rose online and on the road.