Now two records deep into what is shaping up to be an impressive career, Prince Edward Island native Whitney Rose is proud to hold the country music torch high. Make no mistake, however: The 28-year-old Rose isn’t aspiring to be the next Taylor Swift, although she would be well deserving of such success.
Rose’s roots in country music run much deeper, to a time when country music was, well, country music.
Her voice has earned comparisons to Patsy Cline, arguably one of the finest vocalists of the last century. The reference certainly isn’t without merit, although it is Rose’s whole musical aesthetic that harkens back to simpler times.
Slowly but surely, audiences are tuning in to Rose’s formidable talent. Her performance as part of the Town of Riverview’s Summer Concert series earlier this summer earned her a standing ovation from those in attendance.
Speaking in advance of her return to Moncton this Wednesday night when she performs as the special guest of Canadian country music superstars Dean Brody and Paul Brandt, Rose shares that she was set onto the country music path by her grandparents.
“Both of my grandparents grew up in Mount Stewart, P.E.I., where they would often hold kitchen parties. They ended up moving to Charlottetown when they were still fairly young and started running a bar and chose to keep the country theme going,” Rose explains.
“So right from the get-go, as long as I can remember, country music was a part of my life.”
Even in the earliest part of her musical journey, Rose was finding encouragement at virtually every turn. At the age of three, Rose shares that friends of Rose’s grandparents put a loonie in her hand with the request she sing a Hank Williams song. Rose says she happily complied. Then, when she was five years old, Rose was asked to sing at her kindergarten graduation ceremony.
“I sang the Big Bopper’s ‘Chantilly Lace,’ and was actually recently gifted with footage of that performance,” she laughs.
Rose continued singing as she got older but, aside from stints in musical theatre, she didn’t give much thought to music being a full-time occupation. As she wound her way through a variety of university programs across the country, performing whenever the opportunity was presented, it was her return to the East Coast that would help light the fuse on her musical career.
“I ended up living in South Hampton, Nova Scotia, for the better part of a year and wrote the bulk of the material for my debut record. After that, I ended up moving to Toronto and began regularly playing shows at [Toronto venue] The Cameron House.”
It was through Toronto musician Joanne Mackell that Rose would meet her current guitarist Nichol Robertson, as well as Mackell’s drummer, former Blue Rodeo time-keeper Cleave Anderson, who ended up taking a keen interest in her music.
Anderson rounded up Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan, along with renowned Toronto players including David Baxter, Justin Rutledge and fiddler Kendel Carson, among others, all of whom would appear on Rose’s self-titled debut, which was released in 2012.
“Looking back over the last few years, it feels like I have hit the jackpot. I have been beyond fortunate to not only be constantly surrounded by some of our country’s best talent, but to also have a label that is willing to work with me and for me,” Rose says.
It was in November 2013 and the spring of 2014, when she supported acclaimed act The Mavericks for a series of shows, that the stars would align to provide Rose her next big opportunity.
Having successfully hit it off with dynamic Mavericks vocalist Raul Malo, Rose worked up the nerve to ask the singer if he would be interested in helping bring her sophomore record to life. Malo and many other members of the Mavericks quickly jumped on board.
“The whole recording process for [second album] Heartbreaker Of The Year ended up being totally serendipitous as there was a window of five days off from the tour during which the group had just planned to go home. Instead, they joined me in the studio, which ended up proving to be a fascinating learning experience for me. I knew that I was in good hands with those guys in my corner,” Rose says.
Having recently returned from a successful first jaunt south of the border where Heartbreaker Of The Year was released in August, Rose earned press from major media outlets including Rolling Stone.
Given the vast musical differences between what Rose does from night to night and the music that her tour mates Dean Brody and Paul Brandt play, she acknowledges that the shows will give her the opportunity to perform before audiences that may very well have no prior relationship with her music.
Always up for a challenge, Rose realizes the potential that lies before her.
“It is definitely a different scene than what I am accustomed to, but I am excited to be immersed in it a little more than I have been. I’ve never secured much in the way of commercial radio airplay, so it will be exciting to play for an audience that isn’t as familiar with me as they are Dean [Brody] and Paul [Brandt].”
What: Whitney Rose, special guest of Dean Brody and Paul Brandt
When: Wednesday Oct. 21, 7 p.m.
Where: Moncton Coliseum, 377 Killam Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $44.50 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Coliseum Box Office, by phone (506) 857-4100 and online at tickets.moncton.ca.