Caroline Rose Takes Her Indie Rock Show on the Road

BURLINGTON, Vt. — “I don’t mind walking in the rain,” Caroline Rose said on a recent afternoon, looking through the window of Crow Bookshop.

It was about 40 degrees outside and pouring. Ms. Rose wasn’t dressed for the weather, but at least she was wearing a hat, with a camouflage pattern and the words “Buck Fever” across the front. Burlington, she said, was much nicer in the summer.

Ms. Rose, an indie rocker who grew up on Long Island and lives mostly in Austin, Texas, had spent about seven months in this city writing the songs that appear on her new album, “The Art of Forgetting,” which chronicles a difficult breakup. She was back in Burlington to play the fourth show of an international tour that will keep her on the road into August.

Standing in the “Psychology” section of the bookstore, Ms. Rose, 33, referred to the breakup that had inspired her new record. “I didn’t even really plan on splitting with my partner,” she said. “I thought we were going to work on it. But at a certain point I was like, I have so much I need to work on myself. It just felt irreconcilable for me. It makes me emotional to think about.”

Her manager, Ari Fouriezos, whose hair had recently been bleached blond like Ms. Rose’s, lingered by the door.

“I hadn’t done a kind thing for myself in a long time,” Ms. Rose continued, her voice wobbling. “Investing time in myself, it felt like the first nice thing I had done for myself in a really long time. And then, after that, it was like a deeper and deeper dive into my own head.”

“The Art of Forgetting” is a departure from her previous albums, in which the singer, leaning into her theater-kid background, had often assumed alternate Caroline Rose-like personas. This time around she is simply, frighteningly, herself.

She pulled down a book from a shelf: “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk, a 2014 New York Times best seller about the physical and mental effects of trauma.

“It changed my life, reading this,” she said. “It has to do with memory and the way our bodies might hold onto memories, even though our brain might forget. After reading this book, I realized there was a lot of stuff in my own life that my mind has just buried.”

Outside the store, in the cold rain, Ms. Rose said she wanted to see if her favorite Burlington bar, Light Club Lamp Shop, was open. True to its name, lamp shades were strewn on the windowsill, but inside it was dark was empty.

We kept walking — away from the restaurants and outdoor gear shops of the town center and onto the tree-lined streets of a residential neighborhood, dodging puddles and enduring several comically dreary splashes from passing cars.

Outside a drab Victorian-style house with Halloween decorations on one of the front doors, Ms. Rose pointed to a window on the first floor.

“That was my little room,” she said. Ms. Rose’s sound engineer, Jon Januhowski, had invited her to crash with him when her relationship in Austin was coming undone. It was April 2020, and Ms. Rose spent the quiet lockdown days messing around on her guitar and recording snippets of songs on her phone. A black and white cat named Rosie kept her company.

“I felt very honored, because I didn’t learn how to pet a cat until I was 26,” she said.

Someone else was living in the house now. Warm yellow light peeked through a gap in the curtains.

Ms. Rose walked back to the town center, checking once more to see if Light Club Lamp Shop had opened. No luck, although it was after 4 p.m. The owners kept odd hours, she said, adding that it seemed like a nice way to live, to come and go as you please.

To some, it may seem as if the life of an itinerant musician assumes this shape. But Ms. Rose said she often longs for a simpler way of life. While making “The Art of Forgetting,” she said she unexpectedly fell in love with a woman whom she had met through mutual friends. She added that they’ll probably settle down in Los Angeles for a bit after the tour, which will take her to more than two dozen cities in the North America before stops in Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“I want to live my life and take a break after this,” she said. “I don’t know what that will look like. But it’s the not-knowing part that excites me the most.”

Ms. Fouriezos, her manager, reminded her that she was due at the club for soundcheck in about an hour. Ms. Rose suggested a quick bite first and started heading toward a small cafe, Stone Soup. Earlier that day, she said, she’d had breakfast there with her parents, who had driven up from Center Moriches, N.Y., with their dog, Paco, an 11-year-old mutt.

At this hour, only Stone Soup’s buffet was available. We piled our plates with rice, sweet potatoes, salad and tofu. There was a silence as we ate. We were damp and cold.

“So, how’s everyone feeling?” Ms. Rose said cheerily.

Ms. Fouriezos was behind the wheel of a 2015 Subaru Forester, with Ms. Rose riding shotgun, as they pulled up to Higher Ground, a onetime movie theater that had been gutted and made into a music venue. A few people were sweeping rainwater off the roof. In the parking lot, Mark Balderston, Ms. Rose’s affable tour manager, told her that the club had sprung a leak.

“It’s not dangerous or anything,” he added.

Inside, a table had been laid with merch, including a pack of tissues that read, “I cried at the Caroline Rose show.” During soundcheck, she played two songs: “Miami,” which starts softly before building into an edgy power ballad, and “Jill Says,” which is named for her therapist. Then Ms. Rose stepped down from the stage and practiced getting up and down from a trunk in the middle of the concert floor for a stunt that was meant to be a high point of the show.

“Caroline loves antics,” Ms. Fouriezos said.

In a narrow hallway backstage, a table wedged into a corner was laden with chili and cookies. Ms. Rose’s bandmates Riley Geare, Michael Dondero, Glenn Van Dyke and Lena Simon fixed tea, made drinks with the tequila and seltzer on the dressing table, and changed their outfits. Ms. Rose put on a red and white two-piece set with a spear-point collar.

In the greenroom, Abbie Morin, the lead singer of the band opening, Hammydown, emphasized the importance of stretching before a performance to prevent a “bang-over” — a neck condition that can arise from headbanging during a show.

Mr. Balderston, a tall man dressed in black, popped in and out of the room as the hall filled with about 450 people. Ms. Rose sipped from a hot toddy made with mezcal, her usual preshow drink. Then she dropped beads of various tinctures under her tongue. “Touring involves a lot of tinctures,” she said.

At around 8, Mr. Balderston gave the two-minute warning, and the band pulled into a group hug, chanting, “Let’s have fun! Let’s have fun!”

The crowd was rapt during the show, quiet for the quiet songs and loud for the loud ones. The concert was more stylized than the usual club show, with the singer separated from her bandmates by a scrim that cast their silhouettes against bright colors, creating a kind of Pop Art tableau.

Ms. Rose had come up with the concept, and Ms. Van Dyke executed her vision with the help of a lighting director, John Foresman, who has worked with indie rock stalwarts like Car Seat Headrest and Mitski. The result, Ms. Rose said onstage, was “the most high-tech form of D.I.Y. you can imagine.”

There were a few hitches. Ms. Rose asked to begin “Miami” again, after a false start; and there was an unplanned interlude before “Jill Says,” when her keyboard briefly stopped working. She made light of the snags, saying, “My ultimate goal for my career is to make music A.I. can’t reproduce. What you’re experiencing is a human performance.”

When it came time for “The Kiss,” a song about yearning “for the kiss of someone new,” Ms. Rose descended from the stage and wandered into the crowd. Her voice seemed to be floating, and the audience members undulated to make way for her. She stepped up onto the trunk.

“We’re going to do a trust fall,” Ms. Rose told the room. “Get close.”

As the music shimmered, she let herself drop, closing her eyes. Audience members caught her and gingerly passed her to the front of the hall.

“Send me around again!” she said. “Send me around again!”