Songs of the South: Caitlin Rose

Caitlin Rose is the new sound of Americana. After seeing her perform at this year’s End of the Road Festival, surrounded by fairy lights in the midst of the September chill, it was clear to see that she possessed something quite magical.

Hailing from Nashville, like a number of successful country musicians, she follows in the footsteps of Johnny Cash.

But with Rose, there is a certain bourbon-soaked edginess, which sets her apart. Certainly at home among the picturesque Dorset gardens which form the backdrop to End of the Road, one can’t help but notice that there is more to her than the typical southern belle.

“That was a great festival,” Rose says of the Dorset bash. “I liked the peacocks. I actually saw one get into a fight with itself. It was standing in front of this mirror for like two hours, just looking at itself. And all of a sudden it started making these threatening noises – it was sort of growling at itself in the mirror, ‘cause it thought it was another peacock. It kept staring for a while and then just attacked itself in the mirror. We were all laughing, because we thought it was hysterical, but then we saw some blood. I hope it’s ok.”

The British music scene is embracing the traditional all-American sound. Another End of the Road act, The Felice Brothers are a country rock band from the Catskill Mountains who have among their repertoire a song entitled ‘Whiskey in my Whiskey.’ Often ambiguously dubbed ‘Americana,’ this style is pure, traditional, starred and striped brilliance. “They have a serious attitude, The Felice Brothers. Those guys are cool,” says Rose. “They made me nervous, they were so cool. The one on the accordion…doesn’t he rap sometimes? That was one of my favourite shows at the festival. Well, Deer Tick was my favourite show, and then The Felice Brothers were a close second.

Moving on from the subject of peacock festivals, where does Rose turn for musical nourishment? And what are the stalwarts of her country music collection? “It’s a very polarising style. I guess all of this kind of music is influenced by everything that’s come before it. I don’t really see myself solely as country; I don’t really see myself as anything. I do enjoy it and I’m influenced by all of it, it’s a great form of music. In particular I love Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn… I love basically anyone who’s ever written a good song.”

Rose keeps her music close to home. “I definitely write a lot of songs about Nashville, just because I love to write songs about myself. Well, myself and people I’ve never met. I like story songs, too.” Did she have a Little House on the Prairie-esque childhood? “I definitely had a good childhood. I enjoyed it, but I don’t really remember much of it. I’m not totally screwed up, so I’m assuming it was ok.”

Something close to Rose’s heart is the idea of the drinking song. Her own ode to alcohol, ‘Answer in One of These Bottles’ has stirred many an audience with its rousing chorus, ending in the line “So I’m gonna drink until I forget the question.” It is certainly well known that drinking songs are one of the cornerstones of British, and particularly Irish folk music, and they cross the transatlantic divide perfectly. “I really like the idea of the Irish pub culture,” says Rose. “I don’t know how big drinking songs are in America, but in mainstream country they’re pretty big and they do get pretty awful. They’ve always sort of been around. I think drinking songs have always had a place over here, ‘cause everybody’s sad…and drunk. One of my favourite things about doing UK shows, is that it’s the only time anybody makes any noise – when I get them to sing that song. And thankfully they do, and I really, really like that.” Her own drink is, fittingly, “a Jameson’s on the rocks, with water.”

The future for Rose is shining, and she is keen not to let her music stagnate as she grows as an artist, looking beyond debut album Own Side Now. “I don’t think country is my final frontier. I really enjoy it, and am influenced a lot by it but it’s definitely not my only thing. I think what’s so strange is that I do feel like I’m heavily influenced by country music, but I don’t see the music I make as being all that country. I think this record was more like a seventies pop record than anything, which is kind of letting my own rip-offs show….I don’t know what I’d call myself. I mean, coming from Nashville you’re automatically pegged as a country artist.”

Returning to the UK this month for a handful of shows, Rose is looking forward to once again visiting our shores. “I really love it there, I love London. In fact, I was so miserable here for the first week I was back that I wanted to just move there.” And I doubt that any Londoners would be complaining if she did.

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