At Work: Maggie Rose

Raffaela Kenny-Cincotta on January 6, 2022
At Work: Maggie Rose

Maggie Rose is relaxing lakeside in Alabama, at a friend’s house lovingly called “The Vortex.” “Many songs have been written here,” she says excitedly. “Many of the world’s problems have been solved here.” Rose is in the midst of celebrating the August 2021 release of her third LP Have a Seat, which was tracked at one of America’s most hallowed studios.

“From the beginning, I knew I wanted to make it at FAME Studios,” Rose says of the beloved Muscle Shoals space. “I wanted to work with [producer] Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes because he knows that room so well. He knew that I wanted to preserve the urgency of the live vocals and bring in those throwback classic sonic elements, without making a throwback record. We wanted to make it funky and psychedelic and futuristic and a little otherworldly. And that room helped tie it all together.”

In addition to Tanner, Rose brought in skilled musicians/ hired guns like bassist David Hood (The Swampers, Aretha Franklin, Etta James) and guitarist Will McFarlane (Bonnie Raitt, Levon Helm) to surround her solid-gold vocals. And unlike many other 2021 LPs, Have a Seat was written and recorded pre-pandemic, “without the cloud of COVID” hanging overhead.

Yet, Rose ultimately decided to hold off on releasing the LP until she could truly perform its songs live. “I wanted to make sure that I gave it away at a time when it would be received well, and it wouldn’t be too inflammatory and didn’t feel preachy,” Rose says. “And doing that in tandem with the live show just felt right.” Have A Seat was also resequenced, with Rose recasting the unifying ballad “What Are We Fighting For” as the album’s invocation.

As she explains: “You take a song like ‘What Are We Fighting For’—that, sonically, feels like a great climax to the end of an album—and it ends up being the first song because I felt like it opened this conversation after this traumatic thing that we’d all been through. It’s like: ‘Alright, you’re seated at the table. Let’s fucking go and have this conversation now.’ And it turned the songs upside down for me and made me think about this project in a totally renewed way. And as Have a Seat creeps up the charts and into Spotify playlists, Rose is also continuing to focus on another pandemic project, her podcast Salute the Songbird.

Despite returning to the road, Rose is also continuing to focus on another pandemic project, her podcast Salute the Songbird. “[The podcast] was such a conduit for me during lockdown, extending my rolodex and my relationships,” Rose explains. “I felt like the podcast was a way to keep that connection alive, and feel empathy for my peers and hear their stories, and not feel alone during such an isolating time. And, now that some normalcy has resumed, I realize just how big of a gift that work actually is.”