CAITLIN ROSE is not quite the damaged debutante, but the 23-year-old Nashville singer can most certainly hang with the boys in the bands and the bleary-eyed patrons hunched over the wooden lips of bars. She's wise beyond her years, well recorded and road weary at a tender age, yet Rose's pristine voice remains untouched by a young life lost in plumes of cigarette smoke and long drives to small shows.
If anything, Rose's pedigree might be the ideal cultivation for a fiercely independent artist. Bred in Music City, her father has witnessed the soulless cogs of the music industry spin as a longtime record label employee at various major labels (MCA, DreamWorks, Capitol, etc.), while her mother has teamed with her own flesh and blood's antithesis—the country-pop robot programmed to answer to the name Taylor Swift—and written three of the pop starlet's biggest singles. Perhaps such dichotomy begins at home, as Rose struck out on her own early on, releasing the EP Dead Flowers in 2008, right around the time she was garnering countless "future of country" tags, none of which were quite deserved; more so they acted as a futures bet on the then-21-year-old's sheer, untarnished potential. Her once squeaky voice has since settled—quite nicely, in fact—but on Dead Flowers Rose was like a child dressed in adult garb, a compact country singer drowning in the ruffles of Loretta Lynn's frilliest dresses.
Despite all this, Rose's wondrous follow-up and debut LP, Own Side Now, sat dormant domestically for a year without a release date. Yet across the pond—where Own Side Now found a timely release and a showering of critical praise—Rose became such a household name one might assume she hailed from Nottingham instead of Nashville. "It's hard to be disappointed," explains Rose when discussing the album's delayed and now tiered release. "All it's done is provide a nice foundation for the US release. The only thing that could be potentially frustrating is the stigma of having toured all of Europe without ever having even played in California."
The warm and inviting Own Side Now is crafted around Rose's voice, which shimmers with '70s radio gloss (like a dial stuck between a station playing Stevie Nicks and another playing Linda Ronstadt) and just enough down-South charm to distance her little sliver of indie-soul from the pack. Even at her most vulnerable ("No I never wore your wedding ring/I regret I never could," from "Things Change") or remorseful ("This will never be right/And I will never let go," from "Shanghai Cigarettes"), Rose is calloused and cool, never willing to admit too much or show her hand.
And no matter which direction Rose heads, her roots always seem to pull her right back home. "Both of my parents are involved with the business of mainstream country music. When I was young it was something I was constantly exposed to and absorbed, as kids do, but in my early to later teens I became quite adept at avoiding it altogether and rebelled (as teens do)." She continues, "At some point though, I fell heavily in love with old country music thanks to a Mountain Goats cover of a Merle Haggard song and found it to be quite the lovable genre... the music you grow up listening to on your parents' stereos will always come back to haunt or inspire you."