by Trevor Christian
Texas seems to be working for Whitney Rose. Before writing and recording her latest EP, South Texas Suite, the Canadian country songstress moved from her native Canada to Austin, a city that seems more suited to her brand of music.
Her brand of music has moved closer to Austin, too. Her last album, which was produced by Raul Malo, leaned as heavily on vintage pop as it did traditional country. This time around, the pop is almost gone. Rose explained that her year and a half in Texas had more of an effect on her that just a chance to experience some warmer weather.
“It’s probably a reflection of living in Austin for the last little while,” Rose said of her sound during an interview for Country Pocket.
Rose’s lyrics have also been heavily influenced by her time in Texas. “Lookin’ Back on Luckenbach” plays on the name of a quirky town famous for its dance hall in order to wax nostalgic. “Three Minute Love Affair” is also based on something uniquely Texan.
“That was one of the first songs that I wrote after moving to Austin and that was because I fell in love very quickly with watching people two step,” Rose said. “It was just so nice to see. It was kind of like going back in time. I’m an unapologetic romantic so that really struck me away.”
Rose learned the dance from locals and came up with a unique way of describing the experience.
“If you go out anywhere in Texas and there’s a band playing, there’s a 99 percent chance you’re going to get asked to dance,” Rose said. “It occurred to me one night that the world stops when you’re this person’s partner and it kind of becomes this little love affair that’s completely innocent. It’s like a little moment in time.”
Rose also features Texas songwriting stalwart Brennen Leigh’s work in “Analog.” Rose is the first to record this tune and it fits remarkably well with the rest of the album’s songwriting structure. Rose agreed with the message, even if she doesn’t live a completely analog life.
“I’m just as guilty as the next person of checking my phone all the time,” Rose said, “but I do subscribe to a lot of things in the song. I much prefer to listen to music on vinyl. I like to read books. I like the smell of a book so I’ll always keep those in my life.”
The EP finds its high point when Rose shows both a feisty and humorous side on “My Boots,” easily the best song she has written to date. It’s written from the point of a girlfriend who refuses to put on a high society act for her boyfriend’s parents, instead preferring to wear boots and drink whiskey around them.
A song on this topic would have been weaker if it was too self-righteous, but Rose expertly balances the strong independent sentiment with an implicit acknowledgment that she’s ranting. The first few lines are delivered carefully, almost as if the speaker is taking a deep breath in, and then speeds up when she gets to the point. By the end, the music has sped up to an almost manic pace, though it doesn’t undermine Rose’s point. It mostly just adds color and character to her message.
“I’m aware of the silliness of it,” Rose said, “but I really wanted to write a song about how important it is to embrace yourself and not alter yourself when you’re in different crowds and different surroundings.”
Also included on the EP are “Blue Bonnets,” a song about a relationship with someone who travels for work, and a short instrumental to close things out.
This interview aired on Feb 20 on Country Pocket, which airs alternating Mondays from 6-8pm on WUSB.