Nashville singer sheds country music trappings on independent, genre-jumping ‘Change the Whole Thing’

More than five years ago, the label Maggie Rose co-owned, RPM Records, shut down. At the time, it felt like a tragic blow to her country music career.

“I moved to Nashville when I was so young, and I had a major label deal, and I was put on this trajectory that was unrealistic. When you're a teenager and you have this huge machine around you, it makes you more pliable to what they think is best for you,” said Rose, who felt pressure from “Music Row and country radio, and the expectations put on me and women in general.”

But RPM's demise turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “Once the dust settled from that, I realized that, OK, I don't need to try and go to the writing room to make a song that's going to be a viable country radio single,” Rose said. “Let's just go make music, and instead of making an album full of singles and ear candy for radio so that they might play you, how about making a cohesive album from start to finish?”

Rose's 2018 album, Change the Whole Thing, began with a three-song recording session, tracked live with a 13-piece band, including members of Them Vibes, the Brothers Osborne and musicians from Kelly Clarkson's band (Rose recently opened select dates on Clarkson's arena tour). “I didn't know I was going to make an LP,” she said, “but we got in the studio, and those three songs were recorded, and it just was so successful, and we all were so in love with it.”

Change the Whole Thing hints at Rose's country past, but the album comfortably jumps around from soul and funk to gospel and rock, all led by Rose's powerhouse vocals, which could run circles around most of the singers on country and pop radio today.

It's a positive-minded record, too, filled with way more pick-me-ups than put-downs, like the hook of the title track: “You ain't gotta change the whole thing/You just gotta leave it a little better.”

“Enough had been in the rearview mirror with my history with country music and the injustices that it dealt me. The bitterness of that had subsided, and I was happy and in love, and happy to not be hungry and still making music,” Rose said. “This last record, I did it all on my own dime with my own little independent team. And the ownership I feel in that is just so powerful. It's positively reinforcing me to keep doing it that way.”