Whitney Rose opens up about her inspiration behind Rule 62 and reveals her pre-show ritual
There can be many mantras to live by as an artist, but for the energetic Americana singer Whitney Rose, there’s one that stands out—Rule 62. The guiding principle comes from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and translates to “Don’t take yourself too damn seriously.”
After Rose learned this, she found the name for her newest album, and an ethos she continues to structure her personal and professional life around.
“Someone who was working on the album with me in Nashville was a recovered addict and instead of taking a lunch he would go to a meeting or sponsor someone,” Rose says over a phone in Memphis. “He came back one day wearing a pin that said Rule 62. So I asked him what it was and I learned the main saying of AA. I was like: ‘Holy shit,’ that fits perfectly. That’s the name of my album.’”
The doctrine struck a chord with Rose’s countrypolitan/Americana sound perfectly as well as the theme she was going for on Rule 62.
“One of the biggest themes is taking seemingly shitty situations, like divorce or infidelity, and putting a light-hearted, almost comedic twist on it,” she says.
This kind of tongue-and-cheek songwriting style has followed Rose since she first started writing songs. At a very young age, she discovered outlaw country artists like Hank Williams and Keith Whitley and became enthralled with their amusing sounds.
“The first song I learned all the way through was “Tear in my Beer” by Hank Williams. My other favourite was “Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Keith Whitley, which is about having sex with someone and envisioning it as someone else. So I was singing those songs as a two or three-year-old. I don’t hold it against my family, but I definitely have issues now,” she laughs.
Those influences also sparked Rose’s natural storytelling ability. A standout track on Rule 62 is “Trucker’s Funeral,” a lo-fi acoustic country ditty in the same style as Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin,” which tells the story of a Father’s family meeting his other family at his own funeral.
“The song is based on a true story,” Rose says. “When I moved to Austin I was at the Bank of America setting up my new bank account and the teller spontaneously started telling me this story about his grandfather who was a trucker in Texas. When he and his family went to his grandfather’s funeral, a completely separate family from California showed up.”
The catch is neither family had any idea the other existed.
“So here I am, feverishly writing lyrics down on my banking contract,” she laughs. “I could not believe this man was telling me this story and I still don’t know to this day why he felt compelled to tell me that story.”
Rose’s music, while deeply rooted in country, also contains somewhat of a ‘60s pop influence that harkens back to retro girl groups like The Ronettes or The Crystals.
She embraces this influence entirely during the song “Can’t Stop Shaking,” which started off as a few lines Rose would sing to herself before a big show.
“I would sing that line when I was really anxious before a show as I danced around my dressing room like an idiot,” she laughs. “The song encompasses a lot of things, but it’s about anxiety. Like, every second person is doing meditation for anxiety or depression—it can become physically debilitating.”
One day Rose told her friend Raul Malo of the Americana swing group The Mavericks about her little pre-show ritual.
“He was like: ‘What’s all this shit that makes you so anxious?’ and I started listing it, and it basically wrote the song,” Rose says.
It’s a catchy little number with a swing doo-wop vibe led by Rose’s pure and calming voice. To throw a little context on the song, it was recorded on January 20, 2017, the day Donald Trump took office as the President of the United States of America.
Perhaps this is one of the aspects that gave Rose anxiety while she sings “Someone turn off the news,” and “I ain’t gonna let him win.” Sometimes it’s best not to dwell on these things, but either way, Rose has passed on an anxiety-shielding anthem.
Sun., Feb. 18 (7 pm)
The Empress Ale House
$23 at Blackbyrd Myoozik or Empress