Maggie Rose Picks Her 5 Favorite Songs on New Album, ‘No One Gets Out Alive’

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On No One Gets Out Alive, singer-songwriter Maggie Rose is sending a message.

“The theme of this record is using this finite amount of time well while we have it,” she says of the recently released project. She was in a reflective mood as she wrote and recorded the dynamic work, having gone through the pandemic, seen some friendships come to their natural conclusion and lost her best friend’s dad to cancer. “All these things that made me feel connected to my community were gone,” she says.

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With its folk-pop-soul, acoustic production and Rose’s expressive, smoky vocals, the album recalls works from Bonnie Raitt, Yola and Dusty Springfield.

Rose says she doesn’t necessarily think about what listeners will learn about her from hearing to the album, but instead what they will learn about themselves: “I think I have a really strong belief in myself and what I’m doing,” she says. “[It’s] not as much as I want them to learn about me, but hopefully that they will draw from this.”

Produced by Ben Tanner, the album guitarist Sadler Vaden and drummer Chad Gamble from Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit, keyboardist Peter Levin (Amanda Shires, Gregg Allman), bassist Zac Cockrell (Alabama Shakes) and keyboardist Kaitlyn Connor and guitarist Kyle Lewis from Rose’s own band. “I believed in this Field of Dreams idea of build it and they will come,” she says, of assembling the players.

Rose, who released her first album in 2009, delivered the completed project to Big Loud Records, which didn’t change a thing, including the sequencing. “I am not by any means jaded, but it wasn’t what I was expecting a label on Music Row to deliver for me and fully embrace what I was doing,” she says. “I think that just is a testament to Big Loud and how progressive and artist forward they are. But all the tentativeness that I had just from having operated around Music Row for so long, that all went away just because I felt like I was really understood. This is the partnership I’ve been waiting for.”

Rose has played the Grand Ole Opry 106 times, and if mainstream country music gatekeepers have yet to embrace her, she feels totally accepted on that vaunted stage. “I think it speaks to all the different iterations of what the Nashville music scene is,” she says. “The fact that the Grand Ole Opry has been around for almost 100 years is probably due to the fact that they are malleable and they’re trying to adapt, and also be progressive and cast a little bit of a wider net than maybe our friends at country radio are doing. I don’t know that my music is like a bullseye for what you would typically expect to hear at the Grand Ole Opry, but I feel very much part of a community that I want to see go on for another 100 years.”

Below, Rose picks her five favorite tracks from the new album — though she admits her top selections can change on any given day — with explanations in her own words for each pick.

“No One Gets Out Alive”

The title by itself: If you just hear ‘No one gets out alive,’ it sounds really ominous and dark. When you hear the song in its entirety, it’s anything but. It’s really hopeful. I’d had this title just kind of rolling around in my head. I knew the day that I wrote this song with Sunny Sweeney and Natalie Hemby, that most likely I would end up naming the album that — just because I’d already written some other songs that were about moving on with only what you need and taking advantage of the time that you have. It was me letting go of some emotions that were holding me back creatively and keeping me from living to my full potential and extracting all the joy I can from what we’re doing.

I wanted this really dramatic ending, and I even got kind of scared of it. I said to Ben Tanner, “People are going to think I’m being too dramatic or over the top with this.” And he’s like, “You deserve to step into that theater and drama. That’s what the song is about.” There’s urgency. It’s demanding people live in the present right now.

“Mad Love” (feat. John Paul White)

“Mad Love” and “No One Gets Out Alive” are a little like twin songs. Every song has its little counterpart that it belongs with. “Mad Love” has that same kind of cinematic, Tarantino soundtrack feel as “Alive.” It was almost like I was trying to manifest this character that was a little braver than I was at the time. I’m like, this is Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill and pretending to step into this role. And maybe if I write this story and create this person in this persona, I’ll able to fulfill it and live up to it. I love performing that song. It just gives me like [Lee] Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra, spaghetti western vibes. And it’s also goes with the theme of relationships running their course, and of owning a little bit of that anger and moving on from it.

I love John Paul White. He’s got the haunting melody/ harmony thing down. I was like, “What better voice than John Paul’s to have on a song like ‘Mad Love’?” And I didn’t even tell him what parts to sing. He’s just doing his own thing. It truly just adds this ghostly beauty to the song that I love.

“Fake Flowers”

I wrote it with Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly, who have become really good friends of mine. It was maybe one of the first songs that I had written when I started to realize there’s an album that’s starting to galvanize here. Chuck and Claude are  known for writing these huge, diva pop melodies, and have written for Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Whitney Houston and Britney Spears. We probably made nine efforts, just the three of us, for songs to be contenders for this record and “Fake Flowers” was one of them.

I felt like I owned my anger, which is not necessarily something women are always encouraged to do. It’s one that I really look forward to during the live show, because it’s so dynamic and it has [these] kind of spooky, intimate verses and then this explosive Motown chorus, where it kind of mimics raging out. I love when music and the sentiment of a song can really marry together so well like that. I have a fondness in thinking about writing that with them and knowing that the three of us really had something special.

“Too Young”

The song I wrote with Natalie Hemby is about ageism. Natalie and I both were drawing from our similar experiences of moving to Nashville when we were teenagers. Knowing that we were talented, knowing that we have good people or established people around us and things going for us, but we were kind of undermined in thinking that we didn’t know what was best for ourselves and our careers. We wrote the song based on that. Knowing that I’ve been in Nashville for 16 years and was feeling like, “OK, I’m 35 and making another record.”

I wanted to include at the end that you’re never too old to chase your dreams. No one is. I think ageism is a really tough subject to write about, but I feel like Natalie and I did a good job. And it was such an intimate day of us laughing and crying and going down memory lane of different things that we had experienced throughout our careers. There was a lot of beauty to it, too, and anticipation for what’s to come.

We have to push against that stigma within our industry. It’s ridiculous. I love hearing from artists who have lived experiences and who can draw from wisdom. I feel more rooted in what I have to say now than I ever have.

“Under the Sun”

I love the groove of it. It has this fun Fleetwood Mac feel, but the lyrics are this really strong juxtaposition of sadness and the idea that we’ve exhausted every effort to reconcile and it’s not going to happen. There’s a little sarcasm to it as well: I guess there’s nothing out there for us that will bring us back together. I just like when you are grooving along to a song and you think it’s like this happy bop and it reveals itself to you as “Oh, this is actually pretty introspective and kind of sad.” It’s one that I really look forward to playing live. The production’s kind of fun and it adds a cool element to collection of songs that makes it really well rounded.

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