In high school, Caroline Rose didn’t have many friends she could share deep and heartbreaking struggles with. So she started writing songs.
“It was an emotional outlet where, if I didn’t express myself creatively, I would have exploded or started using heavy drugs or something,” Rose said in a recent phone call.
When the pandemic hit, Rose found herself in a similar headspace. “It reminded me a lot of when I started making music, when I was a teenager, and I had all these really raw emotions that I didn’t know what to do with,” she said. “It took me back to a place where I was so desperate for some kind of creative outlet that all I did was sit and play guitar for many, many months. And I hadn’t done that in years. I was so sick of writing guitar music and playing acoustic guitar that I hadn’t touched it in years. But I felt the excitement of approaching an instrument and saying to myself, ‘This is my ship. This is going to save my life right now.'”
For Rose’s career, the lockdowns couldn’t have come at a worse time. she just went out Super starhis New West Records sequel to the 2018 album Solitary, and was heading for a tour that included a canceled local show at Skully’s — a venue Rose would eventually visit two years later on Sunday, March 13. “Turns out March 6, 2020 was a bad time to release an album,” she said. “I was kind of going through a nervous breakdown. I definitely wasn’t in the best place, and it was extremely stressful…doing the record and then getting ready for the tour. …I also went through a really tough breakup at the start of the pandemic, so it was like a double punch that just felt good to me.
While the pandemic isolation has led to bouts of deep loneliness, it has also allowed Rose to catch her breath after never taking a break between album cycles. “American culture is so work-oriented. the [so-called] American Dream is built on your hard work and your value is tied to your hard work,” she said. “There’s no point where anyone thinks, oh, maybe we should calculate the value of getting out in the garden and watching things grow and spending time with our kids. … There’s a whole other part of life that is downright neglected. I certainly was neglecting it.
Of course, battling long-simmering mental and emotional issues isn’t always a comfortable process. “When you start taking the time to look within and look at your past, it turns out that you will uncover a whole lot of trauma,” she said. “It was like a house of cards had completely collapsed, and it was like, how am I going to rebuild this? I want to know, structurally, how to build rebuild this so that it’s stronger.”
Going through this therapeutic exercise can be difficult at any time, but it is especially difficult to do so during a pandemic with a staggering death toll, and especially for someone who has long struggled with the implications of mortality. “All my life I’ve had this anxiety about time passing and how I want to spend my time, because you can’t get it back,” Rose said. Living in 2018. “When I was 5 years old, my house burned down. We could all have died. Years after that incident, I developed all these crazy anxiety issues.
Over the past two years, Rose has managed to change her mind about the inevitability of death and its implications for her daily life. “It’s always been less of a fear of dying than a fear of how I use the time I have, and forever it was always like, ‘My job is my legacy. I don’t want to kids. I just want to do a bunch of stuff. And it’s really changed,” she said. “I feel like I’ve changed my life in such a way that when I think about my own mortality now, I find it really empowering and liberating. … All my life I was told that if you died at a certain age, your life was cut short. And now I think the exact opposite of that. I tell myself, no, every day is a gift. There is no guarantee that you will live after tomorrow. And that makes me really grateful to be alive.
Now, finally, Rose is able to perform the brilliant synth-pop songs of Super star for the public. And though the material on the record feels like a distant past, Rose still came close Super star through a role-playing lens, channeling facets of her personality to chronicle the rise and fall of a fictional pop star. “I was playing myself as the role, and it was kind of an experience,” said Rose, who described playing the songs now as “carrying a version of myself that was from another era. But it still amuses me. …You’ll have fun if it’s a good song. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed.
For the next record, Rose played with DJ gear and experimented in the studio with cassettes and reel-to-reel tape. “The next album is going to sound totally different from the last, and totally different from all the others,” she said. “It’s always going to be like that for me. Everyone just needs to get used to it.