Caroline Rose Discusses Their New Album, “The Art of Forgetting”

“I realized that this was really chronicling this mini-epoch of my life.”

Caroline Rose

As a writing instructor, I often can’t help but look at other art through a literary lens, suggesting to my students to “read like a writer,” but also to listen like a writer. And when I first got hold of art-pop singer-songwriter Caroline Rose’s The Art of Forgetting (New West), I thought, this listens like a memoir.

“I’d never thought of it like that before,” Rose tells WW, going on to explain that the album’s narrative didn’t actually take shape until pretty late in the process. When it did, two major themes emerged: grief and memory.

“Usually when I’m making an album I’ll think about everything at the same time,” Rose explains. This time, the process happened differently. Rose’s album Superstar was released in March 2020, but they weren’t able to celebrate its release with the tour they’d been looking forward to. During that same time, Rose was reeling from a terrible heartbreak, while also navigating their grandmother’s dementia.

“Everything happened at once,” Rose says in a you-know-how-that-goes tone. “And I was just sort of writing about what I was going through as I was going through it.”

They didn’t recognize it when they were in the thick of it, but Rose understood later that they had gone through a transformative time that would profoundly influence The Art of Forgetting. “I realized that this was really chronicling this mini-epoch of my life…and maybe that [realization] point was when I was starting to get through it,” Rose says. “And I was like, it feels like I kind of have a story to tell here.”

In the wake of that realization, Rose began sonically experimenting, looking for ways that audio could enhance the story. One such layer: voicemails that their grandmother, whom they call Mee Maw, would leave almost daily.

Rose describes these voice clips between songs as “a really grounding part of the narrative,” adding that because “so much of this album is about me being in my head and having a really hard time moving on—and facing myself and loving myself.”

Rose explains how Mee Maw would call every single day, often just to say she was thinking of them or to ask if they’d eaten: “They just care so much. And that’s a really stabilizing thought, to know that no matter what’s going on, my grandma will always check in on me…and whatever I’m going through? It’s OK. It’s fine.”

Mee Maw has since passed away, which Rose says adds another layer of memory around the album. In assembling the songs, Rose recognized the painful duality of two very different types of memory loss: Rose trying to forget their heartbreak, while “meanwhile, my Mee Maw is losing her memory involuntarily and would love to hold onto her memories.”

As far as the album’s structure, Rose describes it as zigzaggy. “When I was going through this time, somebody told me about grief and how as you move through grief it’s kind of like climbing a mountain; some days you’ll be going up and some days you’re going to be going down,” Rose says. “But overall, you’re making your way to the top…so some days I’m stuck in the past, then some days I have this ‘I have to lift myself up and drag myself forward’ kinda feeling.”

SEE IT: Caroline Rose plays the Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., 503-284-8686, 9 pm Saturday, April 29. Sold out. 21+.

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