With an upcoming performance at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room, Local Spins writer Enrique Olmos profiles Kalamazoo singer-songwriter Kaitlin Rose and her ‘honest, healing’ music.
TICKET GIVEAWAY: The first two readers who email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘KAITLIN ROSE’ in the message field will win a pair of tickets to Saturday’s Listening Room show. Scroll down for a photo gallery and to listen to Rose’s music.
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Arriving at Kaitlin Rose and Aaron Stinson’s home on the outskirts of Kalamazoo feels a bit like waking up in a fairytale.
An assortment of intricate wood-carved creatures twist and arch their backs toward the evening sky. A big red barn, housing Stinson’s woodshop, keeps watch over the property.
Rose steps outside to say hello while Stinson stands in the doorway in a flowing kimono. His lanky, silk-laden frame is a familiar sight for fans of Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, the Lansing band he toured with for years and still performs alongside regionally as a saxophonist.
We aren’t inside for more than five minutes before he offers a selection of kimonos to myself and photographer Loren Johnson to wear for the evening.
After giving her guests first pick, Rose picks out her own elegant, traditional Japanese robe. It’s midnight black with threads of red and gold that trace her silhouette. Artistic detail is important to Rose, who’s been writing songs since 2001.
“I was a journaler. That’s all I did. That was my way to process things,” she says. “I started transferring journal entries into songs. Over time, what I learned as a songwriter is how we can still be true to a feeling or an experience, but broaden it enough that it can become someone else’s story, too, and not just our own.”
Rose is currently in the process of writing and recording her upcoming record, “Acoustic Heart.” She’ll hit Grand Rapids’ Local Legend Studio in March to work with owner/engineer Josh Kaufman.
Studio musicians include co-producer David Vandervelde on guitar and keys and Elijah Thomson on bass (both of whom have recorded with Father John Misty and Aaron Lee Tasjan).
Other players include Ryan Demeniuk on percussion, Bob Wallis on keys, Aaron Stinson on flute and saxophone, Jim Beebe on electric guitar, Greg Orr on bass and Traci Seuss and Patti McNulty on backing vocals. The album will be released with a show at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo on August 12.
PLAYING LISTENING ROOM ON SATURDAY: ‘I LOVE THIS PLACE’
Rose performs at Grand Rapids’ Listening Room on Saturday (March 5). She joins Grace Theisen, Katie Pederson and Bronte Fall for the concert. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and available online here. (Rose and The Band of Thorns also are part of Saturday’s virtual Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival, taking place online only. Rose and her band will be featured in a pre-recorded session as part of the day’s live-streamed festival.)
“Walking into the room and seeing how it’s laid out with the stage and the bar, I was like, ‘OK, I love this place. I would like to be here often,’” she says about Saturday’s Listening Room performance.
“I’m really looking forward to the show and we’re gonna try to do more. Those ladies and I really hit it off. I’m excited to see how our style translates to the Listening Room environment.”
VIDEO: Kaitlin Rose, “Bad Mother” (Dogtown Studio)
Further completing a scene fit for a Norman Rockwell painting, Stinson builds a fire, kneeling at the hearth to spark kindling.
Their dog, Darling, a Husky/Shepard mix, picks a spot near the heat. It’s an inviting space, filled with natural light, more wood carvings and an upright piano; a conducive habitat for two artists who are visibly in love.
“Kaitlin doesn’t hide anything behind a veil. Her songs are so honest that they often pain her to sing because she has to go back to the place where the song lives. There is a lot of trauma in those places but she lets her traumas out into plain view in hopes that someone can connect,” Stinson says.
“Sometimes connection is the first step in healing, the knowing that someone else has been through and come out on the other side is often the inspiration needed to take the first step. And besides her songwriting, her delivery is spot on. It is fierce but also soft, perhaps something only a mama can achieve.”
INSPIRED BY KACEY MUSGRAVES: ‘I CRIED MY EYES OUT’
The couple is newly engaged and will be married in September. Rose and Stinson began dating in 2019. They struck up a conversation at a show and went out for drinks a few days later.
“By the end of that date, I was like ‘Oh no. I kind of want to see him when he’s 40.’ You know, like, I can envision that he’s gonna be so handsome,” Rose says fondly about her partner. “And then I was like, ‘Why am I thinking about him when he’s 40!? Shoot.’ Oh well.”
We eventually transition to the kitchen for homemade pizza and a bottle of dry red wine. The table is beautifully set and the pizza is a glorious vegetarian pie with golden crust. We crank the volume on the Kacey Musgraves’ album, “Golden Hour.” Rose recounts the time she and Stinson saw Musgraves perform in Chicago.
“Seeing Kacey Musgraves happened at the perfect time. I cried my eyes out when she sang a song by herself, and I thought, ‘This gal f—ing did it. Look at her,’” Rose says.
“Now, I’m not trying to get international, I’m just shooting for regional recognition, but to see someone in the flesh who has gone all the way was just really motivating for me as a step up to the plate to record another album.”
Rose released her first full-length studio album, “The Other Side,” in 2015 and has since released live recordings, EPs and singles.
As the evening grows later, gentle snowflakes tap the window from outside. The same wooden creatures in the yard are now frosted with a winter icing.
Back in the living room, Rose performs one of her songs with the sole accompaniment of a still-crackling fire.
It’s an arrestingly beautiful piece, showcasing her haunting falsetto and so fittingly titled, “The End.”
LISTEN: Kaitlin Rose (wsg Jordan Hamilton), “Nothing to Fear”
PHOTO GALLERY: Kaitlin Rose
Photos by Loren Johnson