Singer/songwriter Caroline Rose has no official home, but her music has found a permanent place in the hearts of her fans.
Rose will perform at the Vermont Arts Exchange in a co-presentation with Billsville House Concerts.
The road, at least for now, is Rose’s most consistent home, and it’s the source of her inspiration. Her recent album, “American Religious,” was recorded with musical partner Jer Coons following one six-month journey that saw the singer planting herself here and there in order to find get to know other people’s lives better.
“I did odd jobs here and there,” Rose said. “If I stayed with somebody, I’d end up working with them for awhile. I was just looking for some excitement. I travel a lot just to keep my adventurous spirit satisfied, and also it’s good for me. I know a lot of people say that being in one place for too long, it starts to nag at you a bit, but I can’t seem to stay in one place for more than six months, and at that point I’m just chomping at the bit to go somewhere else. That’s the way that it’s always been for me.”
Her experiences effect the songs that come out of her, sometimes directly, while others the journeys flavor the music. Rose says that her imagination is key to filling out what isn’t directly gleaned from the experience.
“A lot of the songs stem from little things that I’ve seen or people that I’ve talked to,” said Rose. “Of course, some of it is just my imagination, but I wouldn’t say that very much of it is autobiographical. There are some songs that are more autobiographical than others. The more you experience, the more things a person does, the more colorful your life is going to be. My whole M.O. is that whatever art that I’m making is just a reflection of the way that I’m living my life, so if these songs sound like traveling songs, then it’s probably because I’m always traveling.”
But as important as places and experiences are, it’s people that add the biggest value to traveling.
“I think meeting people is totally key and just broadens your scope of everything,” Rose said. “Not just art, but the way that you think about everything — politics or religion or art, across the board. I spent some time in Lancaster County working with a guy, who was a big commercial farmer, who had started out running a small farm. He took me around and introduced me to a bunch of Mennonites and some Amish people who lived in the community around there.”
“It’s stuff like that, when you get a little glimpse into their daily lives that you never would have just passing through or being a tourist. Stuff like that happens all the time when you travel and meet people, and especially the way that I like to travel. It’s one thing to see something new, but it’s a totally different experience to go out and put yourself in a situation that is maybe outside your comfort zone, but that throws you knee-deep into someone else’s life.”
By the time they found their way onto Rose’s album, the people and places that she experienced found their many voices and visions brought together in a unified perspective meant to represent more than one story or place.
“They’re vignettes of American stories blended together,” said Rose. “A lot of it is just trying to be empathetic or putting yourself into somebody else’s shoes, and a lot of it is stuff that I actually experienced, blended into one, from the perspective of one narrator.”
Rose is originally from Long Island, N.Y., where she was walking a more conventional route going to school and studying to be an architect. She had a restless soul, though, and wasn’t satisfied with any other prospective jobs that came her way.
“I actually didn’t plan on making music professionally until really, really recently,” she said. “About seven months ago, I started doing this professionally. Professionally. I say that in air quotes because I don’t know how professional I am yet.”
“It’s looking like it’s going to be a career, which is a nice thing. I tried basically everything under the sun. I guess I was trying to find anything other than music. I knew I wanted to do something creative and something that was alternative, not a generic office job, which is fine, but not for me.”
Rose got her architecture degree — she says begrudgingly — but felt dissuaded from ever pursuing any sort of career in that field. Music always had the bigger lure, but Rose worked to keep it on the side because she didn’t want something she loved to become a grind.
“My friend and I would go out and street busk,” Rose said. “I realized pretty early on that I was making more money doing that than waiting tables or anything else along those lines. I did that for years and then started playing gigs and writing music, but it was never my sole source of income. I never took it that seriously.”
It was a successful Kickstarter campaign that really opened Rose’s eyes to the possibilities of a musical career.
“We had a bit of a lofty goal and surpassed it by quite a bit,” she said. “That was eye-opening for me because I didn’t think that anybody really cared all that much. After that, I started trying harder. I was like, well, maybe I can continue to love this and make money as well, without foregoing the love part.”
Rose says that things have been going very well since her decision, even the business part, which has thrown challenges at her — ones she enjoys living up to.
“I’m not in debt, but I also don’t have any money,” said Rose, “so I have to be really smart about how I spend what little money I have, and I have to be really smart about how I’m going to continue to make money and keep the business going at the same time. So now I’m learning all the ins and outs of the business path of the industry, just as a survival mechanism. I’m completely reliant on my common sense and reading up on basically everything I can get my hands on.”
It’s a career choice that matches the lifestyle she has embraced — one of self sufficiency — and the surprise for Rose has been that taking responsibility for your own career can move a lot of people to want to help out.
“I like doing things by myself and not being reliant on someone,” Rose said. “I don’t like being in debt. I don’t like asking for money. I don’t want to have to do any of that, but knowing that people are there to help and offering help, it changes your perspective on things, that sometimes it is a good thing, asking for help when people are willing to give it.”
“And that’s a beautiful thing, because it makes it more interdependent, because I’m making something that other people could potentially gravitate towards and benefit from in some way or another, and I’m dependent upon people gravitating towards it, so it’s a symbiotic system, and when you take a step back and look at how that system works, it’s a really lovely thing, and when it works, it works beautifully.”
House concerts, in particular, work well with Rose’s life choices, providing a direct connection with her listeners and helping her music career fulfill some of the criteria of the way she has always lived her life — a chance to travel and enter other people’s lives.
“This last tour that we just did, half of the shows were house concerts. We’re just getting started, and when you go to somebody’s house and play for them and their friends, and then you stay with them, you eat with them, they take you out and show you their favorite bars or their favorite parks to go to, you see a little inside glimpse of a person’s life.”
“It’s a much better experience and much more satisfying that going club to club in all these cities that you don’t get to see because you’re just staying at a Motel 6 somewhere and then you’re rushing to get to the next gig. I think what we’ve done so far has been really amazing, because it allows me to see how this could be a really beneficial way of learning about how other people live.”
Rose can be found online at carolinerosemusic.com.