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Not Just Another Pretty Voice: Breaking the Boundaries of Country Music with Maggie Rose

Nov 23, 2016 04:00PM ● Published by Nicole Gould

Photo by Dusty Barker

The chatter of students fills the air as Margaret heads towards her ECON class during her sophomore year at Clemson. With the rush of students left and right, she manages to catch an unfamiliar 10-digit number highlight her phone. With hesitation, she answers. Before you know it, that one phone call has her leaving college behind and heading for a whole new life in Nashville.

The Potomac, Maryland native proves that with confidence, hard work, and perseverance anything is possible. That’s how Margaret Durante went from your average person to music sensation Maggie Rose.

Although most people would label her as a country girl, Maggie Rose combines all elements of Country, Hip-Hop, R&B, and Rock, making her one of the most diverse and creative artists in the industry.

In her latest single, "Love Me More," Maggie strips it down to a single piano, allowing listeners to focus on the true meaning of the lyrics rather than the melody. The video, which was released back in September, has already reached over 45,000 views.

“I think the song resonates with women so much because we are always putting other people first and we find ourselves stuck in places we should have gotten out of a long time ago.”
Maggie Rose

What makes Maggie different you ask? She takes life into her own hands, not allowing the music industry to consume her and label her just another “pretty voice.”

Maggie Rose will be performing at Bethesda Blues & Jazz with The Morrison Brothers Band Friday, December 2nd, 8 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are $35.


 

What was the experience like attending Clemson University and then, before you know it, you were moving to Nashville, Tennessee? At what point did you realize that you not only wanted to sing, but pursue this as a career?


I was kind of simultaneously pursuing a music career, but also fulfilling my role as a college student. I was studying vocal performance as a music major. I intended to double major and declare a second major in management.

I actually got this unique opportunity through Tommy Mottola, who is a huge music executive and worked with Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, The Dixie Chicks, etc. He called me when I was on my way to my ECON class, which was part of my life during the week, and performing with a Bruce Springsteen Tribute Band on the weekend. He got my original songs that I sent him, liked it, and asked me to come sing for him.

With his help, I was able to put a realistic plan together to move to Nashville. Not soon after, did I get a record deal with Universal and it was the beginning of a very, very long road. It was hard because the area I grew up in, there aren’t a lot people who want to pursue the career I want to pursue. There’s nothing I could have learned at a university that I could apply to what I’m doing now in Nashville.

I had the college fun freshman year and the half of sophomore year. I think having that experience was helpful with my transition in Nashville, it eased me with being away from home and on my own.

What’s life like living in Nashville compared to back home in Potomac?


Nashville has changed so much since I’ve been here. It’ll be nine years in January. It’s evolved now to the place where it’s such a melting pot. I’ve been encouraged because of the environment not to just write country music and make country music, but make whatever kind of music I want to at this point because the resources and the people to collaborate with are here. There’s no place like Nashville with a community of people that nurture the way it does. Even with all the growth, it’s still like a little big town. It’s smaller than what I’m used to at home.

What’s it like when you hear one of your songs on the radio or see covers of your songs performed by other people? Did you ever think your career would get to the point it’s at now?


I think it’s still surreal even at this point hearing a song on the radio that you wrote or performed. You kind of forget that you’re not the only one hearing it. It’s hard to wrap your head around that there are hundreds of thousands of people who are in their cars listening to the same song. It’s really cool and I love that my music has been heard by other people. It’s more about not wanting your best song to already be written behind you moving forward.

When did you realize that you wanted to not only be a singer, but also a songwriter?


A songwriter is part of the puzzle that definitely came after. I started singing when I was a toddler, my parents couldn’t understand the words I was saying, but the sounds I was making were considered singing. That being such a second nature thing, it was definitely the catalyst for my desire to write songs. I started writing when I was about 12 and there are songs I will never let you hear, but I was proud of them and it was just me beginning to scratch the surface of what song writing is. When I moved to Nashville it was such a natural thing, everyone wrote. It shed a little bit of my security. I was writing four songs a week, learning so much about the process, my style, and what I wanted to say. It was something that I went full force into by the time I was 18 and how conducive the environment is for writing.

You just released a new video for your song, “Love Me More.” There have been a lot of positive reactions to not only the song, but also the video. Where did the inspiration for that song and the video come about?


I wrote it with two other women, Stephanie Smith and Lindsey Lee, both amazing talents. I had gone through a breakup with someone I was with for three and a half years. It wasn’t some big dramatic event. It was little pieces of myself that I was compromising or time I was sacrificing for someone else other than me and I just decided that I needed to take the reins on my life and my career and put myself first. It was also a career song too. It was about finding that bit of self-importance and self-life to make the hard decisions for yourself and cut ties. That’s where “Love Me More” came from.

I think the song resonates with women so much because we are always putting other people first and we find ourselves stuck in places we should have gotten out of a long time ago. 


Photo by Justin Clough

 

What would you say is the hardest part about releasing a new song and/or video?


Music is subjective and I think there’s no way in my business to know what the right move is. It’s a gamble anytime you put something out there. In this industry, there’s never a full proof of knowing that you’re making the right decisions. My husband and I have different music taste sometimes. He has songs he loves that I don’t necessary dig and vice versa. But, that’s also the beauty of it. A song can mean so many different things to people. No matter how brave you have been on stage or writing it, releasing it to the world in a mass way, it’s a little more daunting than getting carried away in the moment and performing it. It’s also exhilarating and that’s why I keep doing it.

You’ve toured all over the place and have performed with countless artists. Who has been your favorite artist to perform with and why?


That’s like asking me what my favorite movie is. Lee Brice, I love him on a professional and personal level. He’s so talented and he writes songs of substance, his voice is stellar, and he’s a great hang. It’s really fun to go out on the road with him. I love Randy Houser. He’s another one personality wise who’s been awesome to know and get to know.

I mean there’s a lot of people who are away from their families all the time doing this job and I think I’ve been lucky to meet some people who keep it in perspective and do it for the right reason.

I am currently working on a Jeep campaign with Craig Morgan, which I’m really excited about. You think you know someone and then you get to know them behind the scenes and everyone I’ve been able to work with is extremely humble. Maybe it’s a Nashville thing.

Your first album, Cut to Impress, and your most recent album, Maggie Rose the Variety Show Volume I, are definitely unique and express different sounds of Maggie Rose. What can you tell us about the transition as an artist from your first album to now?


The first album was a combination of songs I had collected over a few years. Most artists would agree that your first album takes the longest because it’s a whole life’s experience. What was the most notable part of my transition from Cut to Impress to the Variety Show Volume I, was how topical the songs were.

The Variety Show Volume 1 is all over the place because that’s where I was in my career, I was writing pop music for other artists, but also playing new pop country sounds too. The fact that the album was all over the place was a very good representative of where I was at the time.

Cut To Impress was a lifetime of songs put together with different producers along the way. I call it a Frankenstein album. It has a little from here and there and I tried to produce it in a way that tied them all together.

Photo by Heather Cromartie

 

Now, everyone has some down time in between performing and traveling. What type of things to do you like to do during your off time?


I’m always working on a new album or producing someone else’s album. But, when I do get to kind of relax, I like playing tennis, I love golf, and I love cooking. I think I love to cook because we don’t have a kitchen when we’re on the road, so when I get to cook, it means that I’m home.

There are so many great venues in Nashville and there is always live music. Believe it or not we go to a lot of live shows and get inspired. I love hanging out with my dog Grace, she’s pretty awesome. I live a double life. I’m out on the road performing and when I’m home, I’m being a girl in her slippers and bath robe.

What’s one of your favorite part about coming back to your home roots and performing in Maryland?


I have so many good memories from the last couple of times I came home. Austin and I got engaged a few years ago. I think it’s really cool to see how people have been so committed to what I’ve done over the years, and just knowing I don’t see them every day, knowing the support system is there. It’s very motivating.

Sometimes it gets easy to be consumed by the competition here in Nashville, but that kind of simplifies the whole profession when you see friends and family members. People who have been with you forever or people who have just discovered you. It’s really nice to have that team of cheerleaders and it’s very helpful. It lets me return to my visits home and realize how many people are being reached by this.

Your music expresses so many different parts of love, whether it be about finding it or putting it in the past. You got married back in June to Austin, who you met while pursuing your career in Nashville. What’s been the best part about married life with Austin?


We are like a team. He complements my work ethic very well. I think that he’s attracted to the fact that I’m committed to my craft, but it’s also because I love it. He’s such a positive force. There are times when it’s your own product and I need to be vulnerable, I really value his musical opinion, but I feel like his positivity is not blind. He’s really smart how he encourages me. It’s a sincere optimism that I’ve never really gotten to be a benefactor of up until I met him.

Every artist has a favorite drink. What’s your go to?


On stage I keep it simple: Makers and rocks with a little bit of water. But, you can’t have too many of those and have a good show. It gives you a little Irish courage too.

What’s next for Maggie Rose?


I’m currently working on a new album that I’m really excited about making. I’ve gotten to make the record I’ve always wanted to make for the country genre. There’s some pop elements to it. There is subjective matter a lot of women weren’t singing back then and now they can. I was able to collaborate with some of those people I’ve met to date. I’m excited about the product. I’ll be touring a bunch more and working on the Jeep campaign with Craig Morgan, which is going to very exciting and a big part of my 2017.

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