Kait Rose, a musician based out of Kalamazoo who performs throughout the state of Michigan, has a dilemma not unlike many artists. It involves the tension between being a performing musician and also trying to raise a family and make a living. Eight years ago while she was in the thick of raising a family and trying to perform, she wrote a song called “Bad Mother” that not only resonated with women but with men as well. So when she had the opportunity recently to choose one song out of her large collection to produce a music video, “Bad Mother” seemed to be the clear choice.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about why [I chose] that song,” Rose says. “I could visualize a storyline. The thing about ‘Bad Mother’ is that it really struck a chord with a lot of people. People would come up after shows wanting to talk about that song. The subject matter was not something they felt the courage to admit.”
The storyline is simple but carries great complexities: A woman wrestles with the guilt and shame of wanting to pursue her dreams while trying to raise her children. Rose sings, “Am I a bad mother to say that I want out if it/A bad woman to say I’d rather be/in Nashville, New York, Hollywood or Austin?/I’d rather be on my way? Am I a bad mother to be the one to leave?/A bad mother for wanting to be free?” The video was directed by Stephen Norregaard, a filmmaker and photographer based out of Grand Rapids, and when Rose saw it for the first time, she was blown away with how great it looked and she couldn’t help but cry.
Rose has been playing music since 2001 and mostly solo until 2014 when she started playing with The Band of Thorns. Rose has been heavily influenced by some of the great folk/rock artists, including Neil Young, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and James Taylor.
“I characterize myself like an original folk singer and songwriter, and I start there. Then when you add band members, it infuses a lot of different styles, so right now we are using this general term of Americana music, which is kind of like everything. We have folk; we have a little blues; we have Delta folk blues style, and a little bit of rock and roll.”
As a solo artist, she has produced five albums and has one live album in 2015 with The Band of Thorns. Last August they released a new album, fittingly titled “Balance.” Rose reflected on her many years as a solo artist and how she began opening up to the idea of playing with other people.
“I started out exclusively by myself and performed alone from 2002 to 2014 and then slowly started playing with other people,” says Rose. “I’m a self-taught musician, so I was insecure about playing with other people who were really good and seemed to know what they were doing. Luckily, I’ve been able to play with other musicians who were not egotistical. I got to play with some of my mom’s friends who were gathering together to just have a dinner party that turned into a jam.”
For most of her life she has been playing in bars and small venues, doing everything it took to keep playing. Her perseverance has paid off as she, along with The Band of Thorns, has been busy. After the release of “Balance,” the band toured around Michigan, introducing audiences to the new album and playing one special show just dedicated to Fleetwood Mac songs. Though the show took place before the death of Christie McVie, it was a huge success and the band plans on adding new Fleetwood Mac tribute shows in 2023.
“We started doing that four years ago,” says Rose. “We had no idea it was going to be so popular. The people who come to these shows are really big Fleetwood Mac fans. It’s been extraordinary. It’s special to see people so emotional.”
As a musician in the West Michigan area for so long, Rose has always been in awe of the amount of support the music community has for each other. Recently Rose attended a dinner hosted by local musician Brie Stoner that was just for female musicians. They not only had a good time and lovely dinner but also networked and bounced ideas off of each other.
“We have a really supportive network and we have something special here in southwest Michigan and all of Michigan really,” says Rose. “Every musician in Michigan is held up by each other for our individual talents. There’s no competition. It’s a beautiful thing. A lot of collaboration happens in this area. If you ever want to play with another musician, just ask.”
Another very important part of the music community are the bars, restaurants, and local venues that host these musicians. Rose could not say enough about all of the venues, especially the ones that show the utmost professionalism and respect for the performers — places such as Belle’s Back Room in Kalamazoo, The Livery in Benton Harbor, and The Listening Room in Grand Rapids.
Recently, Rose has taken a break from performing, so she could spend time with her family over the holidays, but music is always on her mind. For 2023 Rose and The Band of Thorns have a few projects lined up that include playing some larger music festivals, one being the Buttermilk Jamboree in her hometown of Delton. They will be playing a lot at The Mill in Vicksburg and also be performing six Fleetwood Mac tribute concerts this year. Also, she was excited to share some news about an entirely new project that she will begin with a new band: A Tribute to Shania Twain. They will begin rehearsing in March with the goal of performing the songs at the end of May.
Now twenty-two years into her career, Rose still grapples with the tension of being an artist and a mother but through it all, she found a way to do both. At the core, it has to do with being authentic to herself and producing music in the way she wants and not appeasing others.
“I have to still like myself at the end of the day,” says Rose. “There’s this balance between what we give and receive when we are on stage. You are really putting yourself out there. When you get a response from something you’re always surprised. When I am raw and honest then that is how I am best received as well. … That has become more of my prerogative than popularity, or success, or writing a hit song, or getting awards, or whatever. I guess that is why I am going to keep performing, because that is where it all happens — in a room, live.”
Find out more about Rose and her music, including the music video of “Bad Mother” on her website kaitrosemusic.com