Rooted in music

Rose Guerin gets by with the help of her friends.

Rose Guerin and her Vandaveer bandmate Mark Charles Heidinger.—Vivian Wang

Home isn’t always an easy place to define. Maybe it’s a little slice of land surrounded by water off the coast of Massachusetts. Or a city in a mid-Atlantic state you decide to check out in your 20s. Maybe it’s the inside of a van, touring the country with a group of five musicians who become brothers. Or maybe home is a concept rooted in passion. For Rose Guerin, home is music.

Rose was raised on Martha’s Vineyard, and grew up in Chilmark with a musical family. “It was our form of entertainment,” Rose said. “Music is what we did to be joyful.”

The Island tends to push and pull people to and from, and Rose moved off in her 20s. She followed the beat of life down to Washington, D.C., where she tended bar and connected with like-minded musicians. She explored, she wrote, and performed with serendipitous circles of creators. She found family on the road, and home in her music, and in 2007, she found Vandaveer.

Vandaveer hit the ground as an indie-folk, alternative rock band founded by Mark Charles Heidinger in 2006. Rose became a permanent vocal fixture in 2007, alongside collaborators Robby Cosenza, Justin Craig, and J. Tom Hnatow. They toured the country, and even Europe, performing more than 1,200 shows to date. Vandaveer has released five LPs and three EPs.

“It’s a big community of musicians in the indie-rock scene,” she said. “But it also tends to be small. You’re not going to meet someone out there doing the same circuit that doesn’t know the same people you do.”

Teams of publishers, booking agents, managers, and PR strategists intermingle with singer-songwriters from all walks of life, and somewhere down the road those lines can cross in just the right way. That’s what put Vandaveer on Ringo Starr’s radar.

“On his birthday every year, he puts on a show for the public and his friends outside the Capitol Records building on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles,” Rose said. “Bands lay down a couple of songs for him. It’s a reminder to everybody that all you need is love.”

In 2015, Vandaveer was invited to play.

“He’s one of those people that if he likes something, he doesn’t care who does it,” Rose said. “We played these countrified versions of a couple of his songs. It wasn’t our typical lineup. We just had a harmonica and an acoustic guitar. He loved it and asked if we would record our versions in his keys. He ended up using two of them on his album.”

Ringo Starr’s newest album, “Give More Love,” was released in September 2017. Guerin’s vocals are featured on track 12, “Don’t Pass Me By,” and track 14, “Photograph.”

“It was surreal,” Rose said, “singing with Ringo. It’s an interesting thing to have in your back pocket.”

After about 10 years, Vandaveer went on hiatus, and Rose moved back home. “It’s sort of sad,” she said. “I miss it, and I long for the road. But at the same time there are parts of me that need to be here.”

She took a break from writing and performing, and only picked it up again about a year ago. “I got a new guitar and a creative explosion,” she said.

Rose Guerin performs at the Ritz. —Susan Safford

Rose worked hard in 2017. She bartends just about every night at the Ritz, and jumps onstage on Thursdays with the “Edbury Allstars,” and on Saturdays for her own show, “Rosie’s Ritzy Review.” Both are collaborative groups with shifting musicians.

“I always wanted to be one of those people in a collaborative process rather than an egocentric group. I find that gets old fast,” Rose said. “For me, the more the merrier.”

She’s also been writing again, and is working on her first solo record in 15 years. She plans to tie together friends from the road and on-Island for the album.

“I write furiously, and wait for something to fall out,” she said. “I’ll write on every piece of paper, every window and mirror in my house, and something will fall out of it. Sometimes it takes days, and sometimes it takes minutes.”

At the core of Rose’s work is honesty. You’ll never see her performing without giving it her all. “I think that’s why I connect with people, because I don’t hide anything,” Rose said. “I’m a highly emotional being. I try to rock a bit, a little country, some blues. If I’m giving 150 percent I’m usually happy with it.”

She dabbles in guitar, but said it’s more of a writing tool. “I can hold down a rhythm, but I’ve never taken a lesson,” she said.

In the past year, music has been a tool for community engagement. Between bartending, performing, and writing at a nonstop pace, Rose realized she could bring something meaningful to the community. With Rose’s ideas at the helm, the Ritz has hosted a number of community fundraisers, bringing together music, people, and thousands of dollars in donations.

Ladyfest was a highlight, according to Rose. The night was dedicated to local women musicians, and proceeds benefited Martha’s Vineyard Community Services Connect to End Violence program. The Ritz also hosted a holiday party where proceeds benefited the Island Food Pantry. Rose hopes to host more events like this to support animal shelters and schools on-Island. “I like that we’re finally making some noise about being a community place,” Rose said.

In 2018, Rose is looking forward to another year of writing, organizing events, and making headway on her solo record. Like many others on Martha’s Vineyard, home isn’t easy. Home is a shuffle. But when you have your community and your passions, home is right where you are.