Whitney Rose on Leaving No Granola Bar Behind and Why Ignorance Is Bliss

October 6, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?

Our current rig is a Ford E-350 Super Duty…a 15 passenger van. It’s only got 165,000 miles on it but the van we very recently retired had over 500,000 miles on it. We got that one from the Sadies though, so a lot of those miles belong to them.

I’ve got a few van trouble stories, but the best one is probably when I borrowed my label mate Devin Cuddy’s van to travel to the east coast for a NYE gig. We were driving through rural Quebec (very limited English) and heard a sound then noticed smoke coming from the passenger side. We pulled over to check it out and the right front wheel was at a pretty dramatic slant. We coasted into the nearest town (which luckily was very close) and found a mechanic who informed us that the wheel had lost its bearing completely and the wheel was about to fall off at any moment. We were on the highway so driving pretty fast, which could have been very, very bad. But the tour Gods were with us that day and it was just a matter of a few hours in rural Quebec and a ding to the ol bank account.

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

A great trick is really taking advantage of what the venues we play at offers the band. We call it “chappying the rider”. Leave no bottle of water or granola bar behind! Buying snacks and drinks on the road can really add up so that’s a big help. Staying at hotels that offer continental breakfasts helps too…although my guitar player and I are usually the only ones who get to take advantage of that one because that tends to end early (in musician time) and everyone else likes to sleep in.

Oh and I’ve got to hand it to the States- fast food joints and chains usually list caloric info on menus. Some of the info is shocking, and again, helpful.

And finally: Jar of peanut butter in my bag at all times. A lot of places don’t have it (gasp) and it’s crucial to my overall happiness.

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

Would you believe I’ve never broken a string? I change them every few months anyway because they tend to lose life. My guitar (Aggie) is pretty old so keeping her healthy is a much larger expense.

Where do you rehearse?

We come from a little bar in Toronto called the Cameron House and we rehearse in the basement there. It’s great because there are posters of our friends all over the walls and it very much feels like home.

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

That’s a tough one because when I started writing I was fiddling around with a lot of ideas and melodies so writing a bunch of songs at the same time. One of those though is called ‘Go Lightly’. I kind of forget it but I have it in a notebook somewhere…I do remember the first lines of the second verse:

I’m spending every day on the roof top
With my shirt off, and a boy who don’t care

Go Lightly never saw the light of day at a show or in the studio but my business name is Golightly Productions…in an early, forgotten song’s honor.

Describe your first gig.

I’ve been singing my whole life but I guess my first real public performance was my kindergarten graduation. I was asked to perform at the ceremony and I was allowed to choose whatever song I wanted. I chose a heart felt a cappella version of “Chantilly Lace” by the Big Bopper. My mother gifted me with that performance on DVD last year. It’s…something.

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

My schedule these days doesn’t really allow for a day job, but in the past I’ve served in bars and nannied. I liked both but nannying was probably my favourite. Although the two are somewhat similar…

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?


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

I wish I didn’t know what I know now. Ignorance is bliss. It really, really is.

Whitney Rose can’t recall when she started singing Hank Williams tunes because she was so young, her memories don’t stretch that far back. But she knows where her love of classic country took hold: in her grandparents’ bar on Prince Edward Island, where she also heard country-influenced genre-blenders like The Mavericks. Her introduction to old-school pop came in first-grade gym class, where her teacher played the Ronettes and other greats.

Though Rose began writing songs only five years ago and didn’t front her first band until a year later, her devotion to those styles quickly evolved into an Americana-rooted form she calls “vintage-pop-infused neo-traditional-country” — a sound so beguiling it earned her opening slots on two Mavericks tours and enticed lead singer Raul Malo to produce her new album, Heartbreaker of the Year. The Cameron House Records release drops stateside on Aug. 21 via Redeye Worldwide.

Recorded in four days at Toronto’s Revolution Studios, Rose’s sophomore effort contains eight originals and two well-chosen covers: Williams’ “There’s a Tear in My Beer” and the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” on which she and Malo share a sultry duet so sublime, it could turn the song into a hit all over again. Malo contributes vocals, guitar and percussion throughout, accompanied by Mavericks Jerry Dale McFadden (keyboards), Paul Deakin (drums) and Jay Weaver (bass), as well as Burke Carroll (steel guitar, dobro, lap steel) and Drew Jurecka (strings), plus Rose’s main wingman, guitarist/mandolinist Nichol Robertson.
Rose attributes her rapport with the Mavericks to their shared admiration for time-tested country and pop. “I’m very attracted to the simplicity of older music,” she explains. “It’s straightforward: here’s a story, here’s a feeling … three chords and the truth.”

You can find Whitney Rose online and on the road.