So who do you think has missed live music more than the fans? Answer: the musicians who play the shows. That goes for many artists headed to Newport next week, including singer-songwriter Maggie Rose who I spoke to recently.

The Nashville-based performer will lead the charge at the Newport Playhouse on Friday, July 23rd, when she and supporting acts Them Vibes, Dylan Hartigan and Ali McGuirk play Live @the Playhouse. Rose and Co. will be playing an outdoor concert, under a tent, the evening after the first day of “Folk On,” this year’s version of the Newport Folk Festival.

Rose is mindful of the timing.

“It’ll be so cool to be there,” she noted of Newport during Festival week. “It’s going to be a great party and all week there’s going to be tremendous music. I’ll be headlining the evening with my buddies Then Vibes. They’re going to play a set and they’re also my backing band. Dylan Hartigan will be there, there will be comedians, DJs, cabaret dancers and some very, very special guests who we’re excited to reveal to the audience.”

Rose couldn’t divulge who those guests might be, other than to suggest we review the official Newport Folk line-up.

“We can allude to the fact that there’s a lot going on in Newport that weekend and a lot of great musicians in the area,” she hinted. “This is a reason to celebrate – we’ve all missed each other so much during the pandemic. It’s going to be a celebration and we’re excited to kick it off and bring the music back!”

Rose, who has toured with Heart, Joan Jett and Kelly Clarkson, is about to release a new album, one she recorded just before the pandemic hit. The album showcases her songwriting and highlights a thematic shift toward a more soulful direction.  

“It’s called Have a Seat, it’s about sitting at the table together – it’s a collaborative effort, its about joining other people,” explained Rose.

“I think that the themes we wrote about before we recorded this project at Fame (studios) in 2019 are still relevant, perhaps even more so now. It’s about inclusivity, being an individual and listening to each other. And about being compassionate and empathic, but also trying to do the right thing, make the world a better place,” she continued. “After what we’ve been through I couldn’t feel more behind these songs and the sentiments they express.”

Like many performers, Rose struggled at the beginning of the pandemic.

“For a while, it was a little painful to even listen to it. I was so invested in this project, I had 80 dates on the books with my band who I love. It was devastating to them as well to have these disappear overnight.”

But she’s hopeful things are improving.

“People are ready to be out there together enjoying music. We still have to support each other in this time and this tour feels like a great way to do that. We also need to get our venues back up and running and help all the people who put the shows together, it really takes a village behind the scenes.”

In recent years, Rose has taken more control over her music and her career. The songs on her upcoming release certainly make a statement.

“It’s part of the reason I named the album Have a Seat, because of where I land on the musical spectrum. I finally feel, that on this album, this is my seat, this is where I belong. A lot of it has to do with just being in the industry for a long time. When I moved to Nashville, I was very much thrown into the machine of the country industry, I was lucky with the opportunity that I got, but I also know about the challenges of having an identity crisis there. Them not playing women on the radio as much catalyzed me to explore my music more, and that led to me really figuring out, oh I’m a folk singer, I’m a soul singer, I’m an R&B singer. These are all elements that I grew up listening to and I’m going to incorporate them into my music.”

“It’s just the natural process of growing up and figuring out who you are. I moved to Nashville very young and green and impressionable and did what I was told – there’s some deprogramming that happens and I think that’s what’s yielded this music. I still owe so much to Nashville for being my training ground and also to the challenges of the industry for pushing me to say ‘screw that, I’m gonna go do it my way.’”

During the pandemic, Rose worked on other projects including a new podcast.

“I have a really cool podcast called ‘Salute the Songbird’ that goes in line with the themes we are talking about like inclusivity. All my guests are women in the industry and I started it during the pandemic because the absence of touring created such a void for me. We’ve had Amythst Kiah, Nancy Wilson, Kathy Valentine and others.”

For more on Maggie Rose, click here. For complete information on the Newport Playhouse show, click here. (Note: The Newport Playhouse concert is not affiliated with the Newport Folk Festival.)

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Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.