An Interview with Portland Musician Rose Gerber

We recently spotlighted Rose Gerber’s song: The Fall. We let Rose know, and she kindly agreed to an interview, which we’ll just dive right into here.

But, before we do, some info on her new shows coming up.

See Rose Gerber and the Yellow Birds:
Starday Tavern on Saturday 12/4 at 7 pm.
Steeplejack Brewing on Thursday, 12/30 at 6 pm.

An Interview with Rose Gerber – Portland Musician

Bridgeliner: What has Portland meant to your music?

Rose Gerber: Since I moved to Portland 14 years ago, I have met and played with such a great and talented pool of musicians. Those musicians have shaped my music to be what it is today. Past and current bandmates have lent their style and sound to the songs, taught me how to structure and compose better songs, and have committed their time and energy to making music. I am always so impressed with the quality of the musicians drawn to Portland and the richness of the music scene here. It is a supportive community of musicians and venues and it fosters good music. There are so many bands worthy of national attention in this city. I am lucky to be part of the music ecosystem here.

Bridgeliner: If you could go to one spot in Portland and write a song, where would that be and why?

Rose Gerber: I like songs that tell a story and get people to think. There are a lot of homeless folks in Portland that are people whose stories are lost to time and circumstance. They are people who have led lives like the rest of us. I don’t know how I would approach someone cold to learn their story, but I’d want to go to a place where I could listen to them share it. Maybe a shelter or kitchen. I’d want to share their story to give a human face to those we pass on the street every day here. Maybe stir up some compassion and political action. When I was a kid, one of the songs that moved me most was Streets of London by Ralph McTell. That song made me want to help people then and I think is why I ended up working for nonprofits for so many years.

Bridgeliner: If you could play with another Portland band you haven’t yet played with, what band would it be and why?

Rose Gerber: If it were a co-bill situation or even getting a chance to join in on a song, Blitzen Trapper would be my choice. They’ve always had a sound I can’t get enough of. Their songwriting is such a great meeting of so many American sounds and I just love the lead singer, Eric Earley’s, voice. I’d mostly just want to sit on the side of the stage and drink them in.

Bridgeliner: Other than the obvious, how has COVID affected your music?

Rose Gerber: I think COVID times has made us musicians realize that playing together in a physical shared space or for an audience is a privilege that is not always guaranteed to be there. It’s made my bandmates and I so grateful to play when we can and I think it comes through in the music. There is a joy and urgency in it that wasn’t there before. With less gigging, we have also found more time to create. We have written more as a band and have honed in a remote recording process that has us relying on studio timeless. We’re more productive and careful with how we spend our time and energy. We just released a new EP last June and plan to record another this winter.

I’ve definitely written more songs in the last year and a half than I have at any other time. Don’t know if it’s more time in my head to think about things or the firestorm that is the world, but I find myself itching to write and get it all out in cathartic song form.

Bridgeliner: Climate change, homelessness, the 1%ers, how has that influenced your music?

Rose Gerber: I’d say it weaves into a good deal of my songs but in subtle ways. These days I don’t like to write protest songs that are on the nose or obvious soapboxing in lyrics form. My song Black Sunday, is about the dust bowl, but I think of it as a parable for modern human-caused climate change. I’ve written a few songs over the years about class and capitalism. “Broken Down” and “Livable Cage” of my 2001 album “Vicious Creatures” were definitely in that vein.

Bridgeliner: What’s a mistake you’ve made that turned out to be great for your music?

Rose Gerber: It’s not a mistake I made, but a mistake someone else made. Some friends were throwing a goodbye party for me in 2008 as I was headed off from Vermont to go live in Portland. A woman came in the door with a stack full of CDs and asked if this was the goodbye party for Rose. I’d never seen her in my life. Turns out, another woman named Rose was moving away as well and she somehow found out about mine and got mixed up.
Well, those CDs were a homemade 10 disk killer compilation of old-school Country music. I never had listened to or appreciated Country much before. She figured I might as well take it since she thought the other Rose was probably already long gone. I listened to those CDs the whole trip out and came out the other end a devoted Classic Country music lover and couldn’t wait to start writing in the genre.

Bridgeliner: Name some of the people who have made big influences on your music.

Rose Gerber: Oy veh, This is always the tough one because there are so many. Top ten:

The Jayhawks

Bruce Springstein

Tom Petty

Patti Griffin

Lucinda Williams

Paul Simon

David Gray

Ryan Adams

Aimee Mann


Bridgeliner: What’s the worst and best thing someone has said about your music?

Rose Gerber: Someone once said our band sounded like the Doors and Bob Seager had a baby. That made me pretty darn happy. On the flip side, some have called my music Folk music. I know there’s nothing wrong with Folk and I listen to a ton of it. But I tend to bristle at it when it comes to a label for what I do, because I think in my heart of hearts I want to be a rocker. Maybe Folk Rock is more the reality though.

Bridgeliner: Let’s bring it back home…where’s your favorite place to eat in Portland and what do you order?

Rose Gerber: My current favorite place to eat in Portland is Toki. It’s a Korean joint that makes some smack you in the mouth chicken wings and other on point Korean dishes with a modern elevated take. I could eat there every day for the rest of my life and not be sad about it.

Bridgeliner: What’s something you just want people to know?

Rose Gerber: I have been a vivid dreamer since I was a little kid and write a good deal of my songs based on dreams I have. For a while I had a podcast about dreams and facilitated dream workshops.


By Bridgeliner Creative Studio
The Bridgeliner Creative Studio helps clients big and small engage locals, through campaigns that use creative marketing, storytelling, events, and activations to build community, conversation, and impact.