Val’s Chat with artist Caroline Rose

American singer/songwriter Caroline Rose is one of the reasons I’m heading to Grand Point North music fest in Burlington VT on Sept. 12. I listen to a lot of emerging artists in my work. Few sound like her. And chatting with her in person? Even better. Her authenticity is palpable. She knows what she wants and she’s going to go out and get it. Her music sends the same message, with quick licked lyrics and deep thoughts a la Dylan, Jake Bugg or Brandi Carlile; it’s veritable poetry set to music. And if you listen carefully, she’s sayin’ somethin’ important: “It was then I realized with a lasso ‘round the sky, I’d follow morning so the sun it would be always on the rise…” -America Religious

Q: Tell me about Caroline Rose, the girl. Start at the beginning. How would your parents describe you?

They’d say I was a demon! Ha! I grew up in a small town in New York. I am the oldest child and my parents are artists. It was a small way of life – you didn’t dream big, but you didn’t really have a lot of options if you stayed either.

I had a traditional path all set out for me. I was going to major an architecture. I had a full ride, but I didn’t last there. It all felt like a farce – following professors who want you to follow their own style when there is no right style, no one way. It didn’t feel authentic to me so I left school and hit the road. It was epic.

Now I’m a loner. I write songs a lot. I ask a lot of questions.

Q: You said some of your influences are John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Dylan, the classic greats. Did your parents raise you on this music?

I couldn’t count on one hand the music artists my parents listened to. I taught myself everything I know about music. And I don’t mean theory, I mean really feeling and understanding it. But those are just some of my singer/songwriter influences, though I don’t know how John Prine got in there because I wouldn’t say he was a big influence, I just like him. I listened to a lot of jazz, math rock, hip-hop, alternative bands, hipster shit, growing up. When I first heard a Ryan Adams record was really my first experience with singer/songwriter material. That’s when I found Dylan and Townes and Neil and all them.

Q: You started taking your music career seriously only about 7 months ago after a Kickstarter campaign went well. Tell me about that.

It wasn’t like I didn’t take my music seriously; after all I had been writing poetry and songs since I was 13. The Kickstarter was Jer’s idea, so he helped me put it all together. Everybody tried to talk us out of asking for our goal, my mom told me we should ask for half that because she didn’t think we could do it. We crushed our goal. I think we made a bit over $10,000…Which now that I know more I realize you could spend that money on a single microphone, but it was more about the fact that people cared opened my eyes a bit. I’m grateful for it.

Q: You like to write music about topics that people are a bit uncomfortable with. You say your songs have to have a “fundamental value” — I think you’re spreading wisdom through your perspective.

Yeah I don’t know about that. It’s just that pop music nowadays is so shallow, it sings about nothing. I just write about what I know and what I’m feeling.

Q: You have a diverse sound, your music is eclectic – that’s great for your audience. We’ll never get bored of you. Will your new album be different from the others?

It’s a mix of old and new. I didn’t necessarily intend for that because I hate just throwing songs together to make a record, but there are songs I’ve had that have never had a proper life and I wanted to give them that. I’m more excited about the newer ones because I haven’t been playing them for years and years but I love them all. All my records will sound different. I love the different.

Q: You’ve been tagged as gospel meets country meets blues meets alternative… I could add rockabilly, vintage, Americana, rootsy — all with a badass swagger — you have a rebellious side don’t you?

I hate hate hate genres, they pigeonhole artists, they’re too defining. I don’t want to be predictable, I want to surprise. I want to tell the truth in my songwriting.

Q: Tell us about the song with the intriguing title “Notes Walking Home From Work”

Ha! You know, had I known I’d have been asked about this song so many times I probably would have named it something more memorable. Sometimes I’ll write a really longwinded poem or story and how I’ll remember it is by writing, “Notes From…” at the top, so I can identify it. It’s a good method for me because I’m never in the same place for long. I wrote “Notes Walking Home From Work” when I was working in a little grocery store in New York City. I eventually got fired from it because I don’t think they particularly liked my attitude towards the end and there were some fuck you’s thrown around. I pride myself on being a good worker, but the owner and I did not get along. Thierry, a French guy with great red tennis shoes, he was an awful boss and would come in in the afternoon and berate us for all the things we were doing wrong then would storm out. He would be hardest on the management, but it would trickle down to the floor workers and we would get the brunt of it. I stocked shelves there and swept floors, but I used to work on a farm so I knew about produce and all that, so they also had me ordering all the food coming in. It was essentially 2 jobs in one and I was still being paid a pretty miserable sum. It got to be too much, even for me and I have a pretty boundless energy for work. That song came about when I was thinking of how mistreated all of us were there, and how that must be the daily routine of an immigrant in this country, who even if he has a good boss then has to deal with all the people in America who want him to leave, who don’t care he doesn’t have healthcare or that he has to provide for his family. There were a bunch of Haitian guys that worked with me, and they’d work in the basement preparing food as if they were hidden away down there. I don’t believe in hiding or pretending like problems don’t exist and I sure as hell don’t think there’s enough empathy for immigrants in this country, illegal or not. I think there needs to be more compassion in this world.

Q: Your songs are a lot about putting yourself in another’s shoes. I think you have empathy and compassion. Where did that come from?

I grew up religious but I left it because no one ever questioned anything and it bothered me. I love watching people. It was the best part of my trip. No matter where we were – north, south or Midwest – it’s so cool to observe other human behavior. An old couple holding hands, a kiss goodbye, a hug among friends, you see it all when you actually look.

Q: Are you most comfortable / happiest on stage or in the studio?

I’m happiest in my bedroom. Really when I’m singing and songwriting, it doesn’t actually matter where.

Q: Did you know there’s a fashion designer named Caroline Rose too?

Yeah there are a bunch of Caroline Roses. My label tried to get me to change my name because there are too many of us. I was like, “But it’s my real name, goddamnit!” If I ever make a lot of money, I’d like to invite them over for a huge party.

Q: Are you excited about the GPN fest?

I just hope it’s not raining. Ha! I’m so excited and honored to be on the bill. Burlington is so great – the people, the scene. I can’t think of a more beautiful place for a concert.

Read more of Val’s artist interviews

Val’s Chat with artist Anders Parker

Val’s Chat with artists Dwight and Nicole

Val’s Chat with artist Lowell Thompson

Val’s Chat with artist Rayland Baxter