Business Sense of Purpose
Though a deal with Play It Again Music Publishing to produce her next album didn’t materialize in 2014, a far more endearing collaboration was established when Rose met Austin Marshall. She and the company’s executive vice president were married at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Parish in her hometown on 4 June 2016, and it bloomed into a 24/7 relationship after Rose signed with Starstruck Management only two months later.
Managing her career with Starstruck Entertainment founder and owner Narvel Blackstock, Marshall provides a voice of reason and shoulder to lean on when Rose is on the road, which is most of the time these days. That included a stop at Busch Stadium on 8 August, when the Missouri native was in the crowd with his parents to see his wife sing the national anthem at a St. Louis Cardinals game for the first time.
“It’s awesome,” she says of their life together. “I don’t recommend it to everybody but one of the reasons that I think I was able to keep things going during the pandemic was because I have someone to share this with. He’s such a motivator of mine and we own this together. He’s really looking out for my best interests.
“Sometimes we have like the most brilliant, creative meetings at 11 at night just because that’s when the idea falls out. It’s really nice to have someone who wants me to do things the way I see fit and nurture those ideas and be a sounding board, and someone who’s genuinely honest with me. … And I love him.”
Though Marshall is also a musician who plays drums and sings (he and Rose performed “River Road” at their wedding reception), it’s not likely they’ll share the stage as band performers any time soon.
“He’s a fantastic drummer but I don’t know if there is a price that I could afford to get him to play with me,” Rose confesses with a laugh. “He’s like, ‘No, we gotta get this thing rolling to this point before we even mess with that at all.’ He feels like he’s got his work cut out for him and he’s wearing enough hats.”
Five years after releasing Cut to Impress, Rose returned with her first full-length project for Starstruck called Change the Whole Thing — 12 songs with a 13-piece band recorded live in the Nashville company’s studio.
Also in 2018, Rose signed the first joint-venture publishing agreement with companies known for two decidedly different genres — country’s Sea Gayle Music and pop’s Prescription Songs.
“To me, it simply mirrors the exciting evolution of both my artistry and of Nashville as a whole,” Rose exclaimed at the time. “I’m grateful to be in an environment where my versatility as a songwriter is valued.”
That feeling might have led her to write “For Your Consideration”, a heartwarming ballad en route to a soaring finish in the tradition of Maren Morris that “is about tolerance and communication and making space for one another,” Rose confides. “I also feel like it’s me demonstrating some rightful frustration with the industry about like, ‘Listen, this is what I’m doing and maybe it hasn’t fit in this box or may not be part of this club, but it deserves to be listened to and acknowledged.”
In that vein, she’s pleased to be moving on to Season 3 as host of her Salute the Songbird podcast through Osiris Media, where she interviews other female artists like Valerie June, Amythyst Kiah and Hall of Fame rockers Nancy Wilson of Heart and Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s about such relevant topics.
Rubbing elbows with women in the industry who “need to be celebrated more,” Rose professes, “Some of them have been around forever and they’re icons, and other people are sticking it out and waiting to still get their due, but this feels like work for the greater good.”
Thankfully, she has support from like-minded influencers such as Prescription Songs executive Katie Fagan, who reacted to Rose’s June 2018 signing by singing her praises: “Though pop music has been [Prescription’s] main focus in Nashville, it has been so exciting starting to work with a writer like Maggie who can be put into any room we need her to be in. She is a perfect example of the evolving music scene occurring in Nashville.”
The Road to Muscle Shoals
Rose was later invited to participate in a music series at historic FAME Recording Studios in northern Alabama called Muscle Shoals to Music Row spearheaded by Halley Phillips, granddaughter of the late Sam Phillips.
“I think she has great taste in music,” asserts Rose, who brought along her musicians that include members of the funky East Nashville-based group Them Vibes. “I could see the energy coming from my band with that performance. And just like the sanctity of that room, it looks like a time capsule, It look like it does in all the pictures when you see Aretha standing in there and the Allman Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge. They’ve kept it aesthetically the same and keep all the speakers sounding really fine-tuned. But it makes you step up your game.”
That sowed the seeds for making her next record there, and “I took [those thoughts] subconsciously with me to the writing room [in Nashville], and that soul was really amplified and the R&B sensibilities that I have are maybe leaned into a little bit more,” proclaims Rose, who shares cowrites on ten of the 11 songs. Five of those were with Larry “Brother Love” Florman and Alex Haddad of Them Vibes, including “What Are We Fighting For” with an inspirational chorus backing the lead singer’s heavenly vocals.
Prescription Songs’ Fagan put her in touch with Ben Tanner, the Alabama Shakes keyboardist and Muscle Shoals-area native, as a possible producer. “Ben and I hit it off and he helped me throughout the entire A&R process and guided me through it,” Rose adds.
Delivering more compliments about Tanner, who also contributed keys on the album, she states, “We reviewed so many songs. He’s incredibly patient and I think that’s what a really good producer does, they help you curate your record. But he listened to dozens and dozens of songs that I was writing that were contenders.” (Other tunes written with ex-Civil Wars member John Paul White “will probably be designated to another project.”)
Besides utilizing brass and string sections in the studio, Rose and Tanner relied on her Them Vibes regulars Florman (background vocals/percussion), Haddad (guitars) and Sarah Tomek (drums), other notables such as bassist David Hood of the legendary Swampers and electric guitarists Will McFarlane (who’s played for Bonnie Raitt, Josh Stone, and Bobby “Blue” Bland) and Joe Ginsburg.
Also making a guest appearance is South Carolina guitarist-frontman Marcus King on “What Makes You Tick”, a song he and Rose co-wrote in early 2019. “He’s so talented. You also forget sometimes that he’s 25 years old. So there’s definitely like a brother-sister relationship there, too, with our dynamic and just looking out for each other,” Rose shares, mentioning that she sang with King for his Grand Ole Opry debut, which “was pretty awesome because he’s pretty unflappable and he’s done a lot of cool shit, and it was cool to see him nervous.”
Gathering the players in one room in 2019 to record the album live, it was tracked and awaiting a release date until COVID-19 altered its course and shut down a concert tour already booked for 80 shows.
While quarantining made it “a little painful to listen to this project,” Rose decided to “step back and look at this body of work and reexamine how I want people to hear this, especially after such a socially and politically contentious time and what we’ve been through.”
So she “totally resequenced” Have a Seat, notably making “What Are We Fighting For” the album opener instead of closer. “I just felt like it was a gentler way to open up the conversation with a question,” Rose divulges. “This whole idea of Have a Seat was really intentional. Like, ‘OK, it’s time for us to gather again.’ This is about inclusivity. This is about making room for everybody. That reinforced that whole idea by having that song be first instead of last.”
Rose also refused to stand still without giving fans a taste of what was on the way, saying, “We had to kind of step out and proclaim that we were going to put this music out with a certain timeline because there was so much ambiguity everywhere else and we released a song almost every month and a half from that point on.”
Also through a video trilogy starting with “What Are We Fighting For” and livestreams benefiting organizations such as Sweet Relief and Women in Music following the 19 February album announcement, “We were able to really guide people through this record and highlight these songs the way that I think they deserve to be,” Rose indicates.